Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi is the name of a college of Cambridge University and it is the name of a city in Texas where a cyclone hit the coast a year or so ago. The words are the Latin for the ‘Body of Christ’ and it originated in a feast in the Middle Ages in honour of Jesus present in the Eucharist.

It has a special place in Catholic devotion and elaborate processions are traditionally held each year after the celebration of the Eucharist on this feast. As a child in Ireland I remember the whole town where our school was coming to a halt as virtually everyone walked in the procession in their Sunday best or their school uniform to the sound of bands playing and choirs singing.

Today it is given less prominence even in predominantly Catholic countries but the purpose of the celebration remains: to call to mind that Jesus left us a living memorial of his passion, death and resurrection to nourish us on our journey to God.  There can be nothing more real than flesh and blood, the very substance of which we are made, and we talk of family and relations in these terms.  So when Jesus chose these elements he saw them as signs of his intimate relationship with us; God made human, “fleshed” as we are.

The celebration of Corpus Christi goes further; it reminds us that it is in the body that we suffer and die, and when we “lay down our life for our friends” we shed our blood.  When Jesus took on the burden of our humanity he also took on the implication of enduring a confrontation with evil. The Evil One would have “his hour” and crush Jesus in his body – and his blood would flow.  But that would not be the end of it.  Because of who he was he broke free of the grip of evil, signified by his resurrection, and drew us with him in his triumph.

But before entering this battle Jesus took some bread and wine which he shared with us at a farewell meal in which he said, “this is me; this is my body and blood, given for you.”  The disciples can have had no idea at the time what the significance of all this was and we today struggle to understand the full meaning. He knew that but, all the same, he left it with us as a memorial. “You will understand later.”  And we try to do that every time we venerate the “corpus Christi”.  A newly married couple, like Harry and Meghan, exchange rings as “tokens of my love.”  Jesus gave us a token of his love and each year we have a moment when we celebrate this in a special way.

Corpus Christi                                                      3 June 2018

Exodus 24:3-8                                                     Hebrews 9:11-15                                 Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

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