Sunday, May 29, 2005

Corpus Christi

While Thursday was the normal day of the Feast of Corpus Christi, the powers that be decided that in certain places, it would be celebrated on Sunday instead. From what I understand, this is because in most places, people do not have that day off, so they move it in order to allow people the opportunity to celebrate properly.

The origins of the feast are really quite nice (particularly for Thomists). In 1264, following a Eucharistic miracle (a miracle where the consecrated Species take on the accidental properties of flesh and blood) Pope Urban IV asked St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the offices for the feast day, including arraingment of the liturgical readings and hymns, as well as the psalms and prayers for the Liturgy of the Hours. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, "And so it goes..." Now we have a feast to honor the greatest sacrament in the Church, a feast which has a special significance in this Year of the Eucharist. So, for your spiriual and intellectual pleasure, I present to you a meditation on the Eucharist by St. Thomas entitled "O Precious and Wonderful Banquet!" from his Opusculum.

Since it was the will of God's only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming men he might make men gods. Moreover, when he took our flesh he didicated the whole of its substance to our salvation. He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleasnsed from all sin. But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us for ever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.

O precious and wonderful banguet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderul than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.

It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his Passion. It was the fulfillment of ancient figures and the greates of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience teh sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloram+
"To wisdom belongs the intellectual apprehension of things eternal; to knowledge, the rational apprehension of things temporal."
-St. Augustine


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