Corpus Christi

The Feast of Corpus Christi celebrates the Eucharist as the Body of Christ. The name 'Corpus Christi' is Latin for 'the Body of Christ',  This Feast Day proclaims the truth of the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the actual Body of Christ during Mass.

Corpus Christi falls between late May and the middle of June, on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday (60 days after Easter). In some countries this Feast is now celebrated on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday.
The main feature of Corpus Christi celebrations is the liturgical procession. 

During his papacy, Pope John Paul II led an annual Corpus Christi procession from St Peter's Square in the Vatican to the streets of Rome.

The Church states that
...the devout participation of the faithful in the eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly fills with joy those who take part in it.
Redemptionis Sacramentum 143

The structure of the procession is often designed to demonstrate the hierarchy of heaven in that the sacred host is followed in procession by various Church organisations carrying the banners of their patron saints.

Thomas Aquinas also wrote a powerful prayer for the festival, that encompasses many aspects of the doctrine of the Eucharist:

O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament left us a memorial of your Passion: grant, we implore you, that we may so venerate the sacred mysteries of your body and blood, as always to be conscious of the fruit of your redemption.


The Feast Day was inspired by the religious experience of St Juliana (1193-1258), a Belgian nun, who dreamed repeatedly of the Church under a full moon with a black spot.   The dream was interpreted to her in a vision by Christ. The moon, she said, was the Church's calendar of festivals and the black spot was the lack of a festival to celebrate the holiest element of the Church - the Eucharist.  Juliana shared this with her local bishop, who in 1246 issued a decree for such a festival to be celebrated in his territory.

The Feast Day was instituted throughout the Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264. Before that there had been no universal Feast to mark the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Corpus Christi was made an obligatory feast for Roman Catholics by Pope Clement V in 1311 at the Council of Vienne.

In 1551, the Council of Trent described the Feast Day as a 'triumph over heresy'. They meant by this that when Christians celebrated Corpus Christi they affirmed their belief in the doctrine of transubstantiation, and thus the victory of the Church over those heretics who denied that the consecrated wafer became the real body of Christ during the Mass.

From the Middle Ages onwards, special Corpus Christi plays were staged to mark the occasion.

John Paul II on the Eucharist - "Christ, 'the living bread which came down from heaven,' is the only one who can satisfy man's hunger at all times and in all parts of the earth," he said. In the Eucharist, "Christ gives his Body and Blood for the life of humanity. And all those who nourish themselves worthily at his table, become living instruments of his presence of love, mercy and peace,"

1 comment:

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