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The Last Word - May 2016

Celebrating Corpus Christi

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is the name of the feast people my age grew up with.  Today, it is known as the "Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ."  The feast was traditionally celebrated on the Thursday after the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  But, in this part of the world, it has been transferred to the following Sunday.  So this year, it is being celebrated on May 29.

The origin of the feast is to be found in the celebration of the Mass of the Lord's Supper, which we keep on Holy Thursday during Holy Week.  But Holy Thursday is so packed with meaning that, starting in the thirteenth century, there was great desire for a new feast that would focus exclusively on the Mystery of the Eucharist.  It became a feast celebrated throughout the Church after promulgation by Pope John XXII in 1317.

The day has often been celebrated with Eucharistic processions, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and benediction.  And these are all good.  But I would like to suggest, if not an alternative, at least something more this year.  The suggestion, I confess, is not originally mine.  Indeed, as old as I am (!), the suggestion is much older, older in fact than the feast itself.

It comes from Saint John Chrysostom.  Saint John is one of the great doctors, that is, one of the great teachers, in the history of the Church. He was the Patriarch of Constantinople, the center of the Church in the East, in the fourth century.  He is regarded as one of the greatest preachers in Church history.  The name "Chrysostom" means "golden mouth."

Saint John made the following suggestion:  "Do you wish to honor the body of Christ?  Do not ignore Him when He is naked.  Do not pay Him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect Him outside where He is cold and ill-clad.  He who said: ‘This is my body’ is the same who said: ‘You saw me hungry and you gave me no food,’ and ‘Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me’...  What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger?  Start by satisfying his hunger, and then with what is left, you may adorn the altar as well."

I am not sufficiently eloquent to add anything to that, except to point out that the holy man's suggestion could not be more appropriate in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Henchal