Throughout the years preceding the establishment of the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) many had written about the need to name a day solely focused on God’s tremendous gift to us in the Eucharist. Therefore, Pope Urban IV established this feast on Sept. 8, 1254. Yes, Holy Thursday is the day of the Last Supper, but it is filled with so many other events in those 24 hours that our attention is not focused solely on God’s gift of himself in the Eucharist.
Since the feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated on June 7, I wanted to encourage you to take time during the Easter season to ponder specifically what God’s great gift of the Eucharist means for us as a people, and for each of us personally.
This is a day to thank God for giving himself so totally to his people; it is a feast to ask for an increase of faith to believe in the lavish love of God. It is a feast to ask that more and more Catholics might come to true faith in the Eucharist – that they may see how great is our God; how great his love that he would give himself to us so personally, so intimately.
Ponder these two excerpts:
Pope St. John Paul II wrote often and well on the Eucharist. He called it “a taste of eternity in time.” During a General Audience on Oct. 25, 2000, he said, “The communion with Christ that we enjoy now while we are pilgrims and wayfarers on the paths of history anticipates that supreme encounter on the day when ‘we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.’” (1 Jn 3: 2)
Similarly, a great theologian of the Armenian Church, Gregory of Narek (10th century) wrote this: “It is not for his gifts, but for the Giver that I always long. It is not glory to which I aspire, but the Glorified One whom I desire to embrace. ... It is not rest that I seek, but the face of the One who gives rest that I implore. It is not for the wedding feast, but for desire of the Bridegroom that I languish.” (XII Prayer) May such a prayer be ours as well.
Look at what God has given you in Christ. God desires union with each of his people. As we feed on his body and blood, if we receive it in faith, we can become more and more like him, actually grow in union with the source of all love.
Some practical advice: When you prepare to go to Mass, it might be helpful to look at one or more of these preparation steps that I have suggested below. We are not an audience at Mass. We are participants by faith, by our gratitude and by genuinely seeking deeper union with Christ. It saddens me to see so many coming to church with not a thought of the Lord before or after receiving him. So take a long look at these questions, and begin to develop a good habit in at least one of these areas. When you have one step pretty much part of your preparation and participation, then take a second step. Honestly, if you do, you will be amazed at how God will honor your desire to draw closer to him.
Preparing for Mass:
- For what person (s), for what situation or for what need do I want to offer this Mass?
- Do I offer my thanks during Mass to God for something he has done for me? When do I thank him for answered prayers?
- Look over the readings, before Mass if at all possible. What is God offering; what is he telling me about himself; what is he teaching me?
- Look over the opening and closing prayers in the missal for Mass — see what is being offered; see what is being asked and unite yourself with those promises, pledges and hopes. When you do this, you will find there is grace there for the challenges of daily life.
- At the consecration, I pray in thanksgiving that God gave me himself; I pray in thanksgiving that he died for me.
- Elevation of the host — I thank you Lord for giving me life here and life eternal; I give my life to you in return.
- Elevation of the chalice — Thank you for your death on my behalf. I give you my death that it may glorify you!
Prayer after Communion
Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
Body of Christ, save me;
Blood of Christ, inebriate me;
Water from the side of Christ, wash me;
Passion of Christ, strengthen me;
O good Jesus, hear me;
Within Thy wounds, hide me;
Permit me not to be separated from Thee;
From the wicked foe, defend me;
In the hour of my death, call me,
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints I may praise Thee,
For ever and ever. Amen.
Anima Christi, From the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola (1522-1524)