The Festival of Corpus Christi
By Fr Francis Xavier Weninger, SJ (1805-1888) (Excerpt)
The same reason which caused the Festival of the Holy Trinity, induced the Catholic Church to institute the Feast of Corpus Christi, which we celebrate today. She requires that we shall confess and renew today, the faith which we have in the Blessed Eucharist and that we bestow, all possible honours, upon the Most Holy Sacrament and give due thanks to our Saviour for its institution. In order that this just requirement of the Church may be more fully complied with, we shall here give some explanation of the above reasons.
In regard to the first reason, the following are the facts, which the Church especially desires to call to our memory by this joyous festival. Our dear Saviour, on the same evening when His bitter suffering for the Redemption of man began, instituted the Blessed Eucharist, out of His immeasurable love for us. In it, He is truly and substantially present with Body and Doul, with Flesh and Blood, as God and Man, under the form of bread and wine. Under the form of bread, not only His Holy Body but also, His Holy bBood is present – because a living body cannot exist without blood. Hence he receives it, who partakes of Holy Communion only in th,e form of bread, not less than he who receives it in two forms, as the pPriests, when they say Holy Mass. The latter partake of Holy Communion under two forms, in order that the Passion and Death of our Saviour, during which His Blood flowed from His wounds, might be more vividly represented.
From the moment that the Priest speaks the prescribed holy words, in the name of Christ, over the bread and wine, the Lord is present in the Holy Sacrament. Bread and wine change their substance, miraculously, into the true Body and Blood of the Saviour, in such a manner, that all that remains of the bread and wine, is their form, colour and taste. The Presence of Christ lasts as long as the bread and the wine are unconsumed. It is further to be considered, that our Lord is present in a small host as well as in a large one, as well in a portion of a Host, as in a whole one. Hence, he who receives an entire host, has no more than he who receives only a part of one, the latter has just as much as the former. The same is the case with those, who by inadvertence, receive more than one Host, while others receive only one. It is only to be remarked that in case a Consecrated Host is broken or divided, the Holy Body of the Saviour, is not broken nor divided but, the form of the bread only: even as Christ will not again die, so His Holy Body can neither be broken nor divided. All these points are Articles of Faith in the Catholic Church and are explained in sermons, in religious instructions and in many books and are especially demonstrated, by the Word of God. All true Catholics believe this without any doubt, as the Almighty, Who is Eternal and Infallible Truth, has revealed it and, as that Church assures us, which, on account of the Assistance of the Holy Ghost, promised to her by Christ, cannot err.
Those who are not Catholics teach in many points quite differently. They especially reject the Real Presence of Christ in the form of bread and wine and also, the Transubstantiation of these latter, into the Real Body and Blood of the Lord. They maintain it to be impossible, that bread and wine can be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, or that Christ can be Really Present at the same time, in so many different places, in so small a compass, as the Holy Host. If we ask them why they consider it impossible, they answer: “because we cannot conceive, cannot comprehend, how it can be possible.” But if they believe impossible all which they cannot understand, they must, besides many other Articles of Faith, reject the creation of the world; the Humanity and Resurrection of Christ; the Holy Trinity; because all these are just as inconceivable for the mind of man, as the Transubstantiation of the bread and wine and the substantial Presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It matters not, in Articles of Faith, whether we are able to comprehend them or not, so long as they are revealed by God.
That which the Almighty has revealed must be true, whether I can understand it or not – for He is Omniscient, hence Infallible and cannot be deceived, while our understanding, can as easily be deceived, as our senses. God is Truth, therefore, cannot deceive.
He is Omnipotent, hence, He can do more than the human mind can comprehend.
“With God all things are possible,” said Christ Himself. “Let us admit that God can do more than we are able to fathom,” says St Augustine, while St Cyril of Alexandria writes; “The Lord says by the prophet Isaias: ‘My counsel is not like yours, neither are my ways like your ways: for as the heaven is above the earth, so are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.’
Cannot, therefore, the Works of Him, Who stands so high above us in Wisdom and Power, exceed in their Greatness the limits of our understanding?”
The same is taught by all the Holy Fathers. They also refer to many occurrences in nature, which, although we cannot comprehend them, nevertheless, take place. They speak of the creation of the world and say, if we believe that God created a whole world out of nothing, how can we hesitate to believe that He can change bread and wine, or that He can be Present in that form? The water at Cana was changed into wine – why then should He not possess the Power to transform bread and wine into His Holy Body and Blood? Truly, whoever believes that God is Omnipotent, Infallible and Infinite, cannot doubt this Article of Faith. We Catholics believe so and hence, we cannot doubt any of the abovementioned points of the True Faith. This faith we this day renew and confess publicly. The Catholic Church requires it and has, for this reason, instituted today’s Festival. She further demands that we unanimously, bestow today all possible honour upon the Blessed Sacrament and that we praise and glorify, with all the powers of our soul, the Saviour therein concealed. And is not this justly demanded of us? of us who firmly believe that our Lord is Present in His double nature, as God and as Man, in the Blessed Sacrament? All honour, all praise belongs to the true God! …
Everything connected with this ceremony, is intended to honour our Lord in every possible manner. The Church tries, by this public manifestation, to atone somewhat for the many and great wrongs to which the Blessed Sacrament is so frequently subjected, by heretics as well as by Catholics.
One cannot, without horror, think how this Sacred Mystery has been assailed and dishonoured in Centuries gone by and down to our days. A pious Christian dares not even relate the wrongs done to it, which are great enough to deserve hell! And what does our Saviour, concealed in the Blessed Sacrament, suffer from those who believe in His Presence? The irreverence and levity with which many Catholics conduct themselves, in the Presence of the Blessed Eucharist, tend to dishonour and disgrace our Saviour. The unworthy Communions which unhappily take place, offend Him in a most grievous manner. The misuse of the Body, especially of the tongue and mouth, which are so often sanctified by partaking of the True Body and Blood of Christ, cannot but excite the wrath of the Lord. For these, as well as other wrongs done to the Blessed Sacrament, the Church of Christ seeks to make amends by these Solemn Processions and by all the other pious exercises she has ordained for this festival and during the whole Octave. Hence, every pious Christian should be solicitous, to conform to the ordinances of the Church and not only assist in the Procession and all other devout exercises but also, endeavour to contribute to render them, what the Church desires.
Those who are not Catholics disapprove of everything that we do today in honour of the Blessed Sacrament and accuse us of idolatry, as we, according to them, worship bread. They say also that all that we do in this regard, cannot be agreeable to God because it was not ordained by Him. We, Catholics, are, however, not disturbed by this, for we know that we do not worship bread but Him Whom Three Wise Men worshipped in the Manger, namely, Jesus Christ, true God and Man. We know also, that although what we do this day in honour of the Blessed Sacrament is not, especially and expressly ordained in Holy Writ, still we are assured that a voluntary worship of it, is in accordance with reason and the laws of God, pleasing and agreeable to His Majesty. And this is made clear to us from the above-mentioned example of the three Wise Men and from the acts with which King David honoured the Most High, on the solemn return of the Ark of the Covenant; not to mention that Christ gave us a general Command to worship God, in the words: “The Lord Thy God shalt thou adore and Him only, shalt thou serve.” (Matth. iv.) This Command we fulfil today by our actions, as they all aim at one end, namely, the honour of the Lord, Who is concealed in the Blessed Sacrament. The more we are blamed and derided by the heretics for our adoration of the Holy Eucharist, the more fervent should we become in our zeal. When King David was derided by Michol, on account of his devotion at the return of the Ark of the Covenant, he said: “Before the Lord who chose me . . . . I will both play and make myself meaner than I have done and I will be little in my own eyes.” (II. Kings vi.)
We will still add in a few words, what the True Church further demands of us. We today give humble thanks to the Lord for the institution of the Blessed Eucharist. This is no more than our duty, for if we are obliged to thank God for the smallest benefit He confers upon us, we are surely under much greater obligation, when the benefit is great and of especial importance.
Who can tell, who can comprehend, the greatness of the benefit, which Christ Our Saviour and Lord bestowed upon us by the institution of the Blessed Eucharist. It is as great as it is unfathomable: great as He Who devised it; as Christ our Lord, true God and Man, the King of all Kings, the Lord of all, Who reigns. Great and inconceivable is the miracle by which the substance of bread and wine is changed into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ and the Miraculous Presence of the Lord in the form of bread and wine. St Thomas de Aquin, calls the Blessed Sacrament a miracle and the greatest that Christ ever wrought! Amen Amen Alleluia, Praise be Thee Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed and Life-giving Sacrament!