Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
— Matthew 26:26-28
Read the Bible at Mass
First Reading: Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a
Moses said to the people:
“Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.
“Do not forget the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery; who guided you through the vast and terrible desert with its saraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground; who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers.”
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
Second Reading: 1 Cor 10:16-17
Brothers and sisters:
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
Gospel Reading: Jn 6:51-58
Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ”How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
Corpus Christi (Body and Blood of Christ) is a Eucharistic solemnity, or better, the solemn commemoration of the institution of that sacrament. It is, moreover, the Church’s official act of homage and gratitude to Christ, who by instituting the Holy Eucharist gave to the Church her greatest treasure. Holy Thursday, assuredly, marks the anniversary of the institution, but the commemoration of the Lord’s passion that very night suppresses the rejoicing proper to the occasion. Today’s observance, therefore, accents the joyous aspect of Holy Thursday.
The Mass and the Office for the feast was edited or composed by St. Thomas Aquinas upon the request of Pope Urban IV in the year 1264. It is unquestionably a classic piece of liturgical work, wholly in accord with the best liturgical traditions… It is a perfect work of art.
— Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.
In the words of St. Thomas:
“How inestimable a dignity, beloved brethren, divine bounty has bestowed upon us Christians from the treasury of its infinite goodness! For there neither is nor ever has been a people to whom the gods were so nigh as our Lord and God is nigh unto us.
“Desirous that we be made partakers of His divinity, the only-begotten Son of God has taken to Himself our nature so that having become man, He would be enabled to make men gods. Whatever He assumed of our nature He wrought unto our salvation. For on the altar of the Cross He immolated to the Father His own Body as victim for our reconciliation and shed His blood both for our ransom and for our regeneration. Moreover, in order that a remembrance of so great benefits may always be with us, He has left us His Body as food and His Blood as drink under appearances of bread and wine.
“O banquet most precious! O banquet most admirable! O banquet overflowing with every spiritual delicacy! Can anything be more excellent than this repast, in which not the flesh of goats and heifers, as of old, but Christ the true God is given us for nourishment? What more wondrous than this holy sacrament! In it bread and wine are changed substantially, and under the appearance of a little bread and wine is had Christ Jesus, God and perfect Man. In this sacrament sins are purged away, virtues are increased, the soul is satiated with an abundance of every spiritual gift. No other sacrament is so beneficial. Since it was instituted unto the salvation of all, it is offered by Holy Church for the living and for the dead, that all may share in its treasures.
“My dearly beloved, is it not beyond human power to express the ineffable delicacy of this sacrament in which spiritual sweetness is tasted in its very source, in which is brought to mind the remembrance of that all-excelling charity which Christ showed in His sacred passion? Surely it was to impress more profoundly upon the hearts of the faithful the immensity of this charity that our loving Savior instituted this sacrament at the last supper when, having celebrated the Pasch with His disciples. He was about to leave the world and return to the Father. It was to serve as an unending remembrance of His passion, as the fulfillment of ancient types — this the greatest of His miracles. To those who sorrow over His departure He has given a unique solace.”
Symbols: The usual symbol for the Holy Eucharist is a chalice, with a host rising out of it.
The chalice is shown with a hexagonal base, as a rule, symbolizing the Six Attributes of the Deity (power, wisdom, majesty, mercy, justice and love), and with a richly wrought stem of gold, studded with precious stones. The host is shown as the typical circular wafer, upon which may be imprinted the letters I. N. R. I., from which proceed rays of light, symbolical of the Real Presence, the substantial presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine.
An altar, upon which is set a cross, two or more candles in their tall candlesticks, a chalice and a ciborium, is another symbol often seen.
Things to Do:
- The Directory on Popular Piety explains Eucharistic devotion and Eucharistic adoration.
- Encourage your pastor to have a Eucharist Procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi.
- Freshly baked bread would be a key dish at your celebratory Sunday dinner, as bread has always been symbolic for life giving and nourishment, as is the Eucharist. We have also highlighted a Christmas cookie recipe called Lebkuchen (life cake), which is rich in symbolism.
- Two newer church documents to read:
- The fourteenth encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II Ecclesia de Eucharistia(On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church) released on Holy Thursday, April 17, 2003. The focus of the papal encyclical is the celebration of the Eucharist; the Pope reminds us that the Eucharist is the center of Catholic spiritual life.
- Redemptionis Sacramentum (On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist), an Instruction released by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on March 25, 2004.
- For more on this feast see this special section on Corpus Christi.