Corpus Christi 2022
Today is Corpus Christi—Body of Christ—Sunday,
the Body of Christ experienced in a special way in the Eucharist.
Sure, “the Eucharist is celebrated solemnly every Sunday,”
as notes Pope Urban IV, who, however, declared, in 1264,
we deem it fitting that at least once per year
it be celebrated with greater honor and a solemn commemoration.
Voila: Corpus Christi Sunday, which highlights our raison d’etre.
The Eucharist is the reason that we are here.
Sure, fellowship and formation and fearless service.
At the heart of, feeding this, however…
We are most deeply here because God took a human body, was made flesh,
and that body (inseparable from His whole Person, of course,
and from the other Divine Persons, the Father and the Holy Spirit!)
is shared, is communicated, in a special way, in the Eucharist, Communion.
The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world, today’s gospel.
The Eucharist, the gift we cannot give to ourselves at home,
communicates the love that makes of us Sisters and Brothers.
As Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber, the heavily tattooed Lutheran minister, says,
What unites us isn’t a doctrine, it’s a table — a table open to all, in which we receive this Bread of Life come down from heaven. The Body and Blood of Christ is what unites us and makes us a church. Hopefully not in a prideful see-how-inclusive-we-are way, but in a Lord-to-whom-shall-we-go? way, in as You-have-the-words-of eternal-life way.
As you know, this does not necessarily resonate with all Christians.
I’ve previously mentioned a visit, 4-5 years ago,
to a very large church, across the river, in Virginia.
Power music. Power preaching. Power coffee shop!
In its own way, inspiring—until, with the best of intentions,
so to keep the Christian life simple for everyone,
the preacher said, “the sacraments are a perversion of the gospel”.
Ouch! My heart sank.
And I left, discreetly—not shaking the dust from my feet.
A statement, however, understandable—to a point.
“The Jews disputed among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
So it seems—outside of love, the Resurrection, and a little theology!
Jesus’ own disciples will say, two verses (60) after this passage,
This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?
Symbol? sure. Real Presence? not so much.
Jesus responds powerfully and clearly:
Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you. (verse 53)
Why would Jesus venture such a controversial gift?
Because He is adamant about loving us
and there is something uniquely loving about this gift
—such that He prefers to risk it not being understood or even welcomed.
Jesus is adamant because God is love, and God, although complete
and perfectly fine unto Himself, wants us with Him forever.
The one who eats this bread will live forever. (John 6:58)
What more could we want?
Is there anything better to do on a Sunday morning
than to receive sacred bread that communicates eternal life?!?
[We need to spread the word!]
Jesus invents this tangible and accessible food for the journey,
whereby He gives us, in silence, His heart.
Unleavened, tasteless bread, designed to help us
to be childlike, unafraid (really, bread is usually harmless!).
The unconditional gift of his Resurrected (spiritualized but real) body
(which, by the way, means not cannibalism!),
no longer bound by time and place,
which is why we can celebrate the Eucharist here
as it is being celebrated all around the world.
In the early 5th century, St. John Chrysostom, said:
“How many of you say: I wish I could see his face. You do see him. You do touch him. You eat him. He gives himself to you, that you may see him, and that he may be your food.”
But, there is something different about consuming this food.
St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274) tells us,
“Material food changes into the one who eats it (your breakfast is becoming you…). Spiritual food, on the other hand, changes the person who eats it into itself. Thus the effect proper to this Sacrament is the conversion of a person into Christ, so that Christ live in him.” (Commentary on Book IV of the Sentences, d.12, q.2, a.11)
Saint Augustine, 5th century like John Chrysostom, says,
No one partakes of this Flesh before he or she has adored it.
Before we partake, we shall adore.
We will have an extended pause before receiving Communion, quiet,
to enjoy the Real Presence and to ask that we be readied for encounter.
A consecrated host will be displayed in what we call a monstrance
(from the Latin verb monstrare, “to show”).
Your time to say, “This teaching is difficult”, “I believe, help my unbelief”
“Lord, to whom shall we go?”, “I love you” or…
Your time to abide.
Then, we shall partake.