EXD 24:3-8/PS 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18/ 2 HEB 9:11-15/ MARK 14:12-16, 22-26
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Fr Galadima Bitrus, (OSA)
THE EUCHARIST AS A GRACE-FILLING MEMORIAL
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, also called “Corpus Christi,” is a celebration of the mystery of the Eucharist which Jesus instituted during his Last Supper or Passover meal and asked his disciples to celebrate in his memory, “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24; cf. Mk 14:22-25).
The Eucharistic mystery has three basic aspects: 1) The passion of Jesus is recalled (this is the memorial aspect, also called the “Eucharistic anamnesis”); 2) There is a real presence of Jesus that the Eucharist effects, for which grace fills the hearts of those who partake in it; 3) In the Eucharist, we receive a pledge of future glory, a foretaste of the fruits of redemption (cf. A.G. Martimort et al., The Liturgy and Time 1986, p.105). As Jesus declared during the Last Supper, “I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mk 14:25), thus echoing the Messianic banquet Isaiah prophesied saying, “The Lord of hosts will make on this mount for all the peoples a banquet of rich viands, a banquet of choice wines…” (Isa 25:6).
A BRIEF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE SOLEMNITY
The annual celebration of the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ owes its origins to the vision of the nun, Juliana of Mont-Cornillon in 1208, in which the Lord made her to understand the need for such annual feast to honour the sacrament of the altar, a vision which gradually found acceptance in the sight of the bishop of Liège who celebrated it for the first time in 1247 and by Archdeacon James Pantaleon, who later became Pope Urban IV in 1961.
Encouraged by a Eucharistic miracle that took place at Bolsena near Viterbo in Italy, where the Pope then lived, Pope Urban IV in 1264 promulgated it as a new solemnity for the Church, with the Papal Bull, Transiturus. But since Urban IV died two months later, the actual implementation of the new feast in the universal Church was achieved by his successors, Popes Clement V (1311-1312) and John XXII (1317) (ibid., pp.103-104).
REFLECTION ON THE BIBLICAL READINGS
The 1st Reading (Exod 24:3-8) is the account of the conclusion of the covenant between God and Israel on Mount Sinai. The Lord asked Moses, Aaron and his two sons (Nadab and Abihu) and 70 elders of Israel to go up the mountain but Moses alone was invited to go closer to the Lord while the people remained at the foot of the mountain (24:1-2). Then Moses came down and repeated to the people all the commandments that the Lord had given and the people assented to them (24:3-4). The next day is characterized by burnt offerings and sacrifices of bulls, part of the blood of which Moses poured on the altar and the other part he poured on the people (24:5-7), saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord now makes with you” (24:8).
In the Bible, blood is life and it is sacred, that is, it belongs to God’s exclusive list: only God can bring about life and can take it. The pouring of blood on the altar and the reading of the book by Moses, represent the life God is offering or proposing to the people, a holy or sacred life, life with God. The pouring of the blood on the people confirms their acceptance of this divine proposal; they become a holy and consecrated people, a people of God (see Exod 19:3-6).
The words which accompanied the pouring of the blood on the people will be taken up by Jesus in the Last Supper or the Institution of the Eucharist, which is the subject matter of the Gospel Reading (Mk 14:12-16.22-26; cf. Mt 26:28; Lk 22;20; 1 Cor 11:25). Mark situates the Institution of the Eucharist within the context of the Jewish Passover meal. As we read in v.12, “On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples asked him, ‘where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
Jesus directed his disciples to go into the city where they will encounter a man carrying a jar of water; they were to follow the man to a house and ask the master of the house about the guest room where the teacher could eat the Passover with his disciples (v.13). The house apparently belonged to a rich man. He is described as the “house-master” (Gk, “oikodespótē”). In addition, he lives in a city and the room Jesus was asking for is described as “a large furnished room upstairs” (“anágaion mḗga estromḗnon”; v.15). Also, the man carrying the jar of water was apparently a servant of the house-master, which reminds us of the servants at the wedding feast at Cana in John 2, whom Jesus asked to fill the six stone water jars meant for the Jewish rites of purification, which resulted in Jesus’ first miracle of making water become wine, at the request of his mother, Mary.
The Jewish purification rite consists of a ritual washing of hands before meal. The water this servant had gone to fetch may have been for the purification rite of Jesus and his disciples, who, as practicing Jews, needed to wash their hands before any meal, and indeed before the Passover meal. Like in the triumphal entry into Jerusalem where Jesus rode on a borrowed donkey (see Mk 11:1-7), Jesus had his Passover meal in a borrowed dining room.
It was in this context that Jesus took a loaf of bread, recited the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body”. Then taking the cup, he recited the thanksgiving prayer, gave it to his disciples, and all of them drank from it. And then he said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (vv.22-24). By referring to his blood as the blood of the covenant, Jesus evokes the memory of the Sinai covenant which Moses ratified with the blood of goats and calves, as we heard in the 1st Reading (see Exod 24:8). Some traditions qualify the covenant of Jesus’ blood as “new” (see 1 Cor 11:25 and Heb 8:13; 9:15), thus considering it a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy: “Behold, a time is coming – declares the Lord – when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah” (Jer 31:31).
Clearly, therefore, the institution of the Eucharist is presented by Mark as well situated within the matrix of both Jewish law and Jewish prophetic traditions. Its origins in the context of the Passover meal reveal its character as a memorial of God’s salvific intervention. Its identification as a covenant ratified in the blood of Christ shows its character as a new event that binds us in a renewed relationship with God.
The 2nd Reading (Heb 9:11-15) develops the theme of the new covenant ratified by Christ’s blood, juxtaposing it with the Sinai covenant both in matter and form, and so making evident the originality and depth of the new covenant. With regard to the material, whereas the Sinai covenant was accompanied by sacrifices made by the people through the priests and ratified by animal blood, the new covenant has Christ himself as once the Priest and the victim willingly pouring out his blood to ratify the covenant (9:11-12).
With regard to the form or the grace obtained, whereas the blood of goats and calves used in the Sinai covenant effected purification from bodily defilement, the blood of Christ “purifies our conscience from dead works to worship the living God” (9:13-14); in other words, the blood of Christ which ratifies the new covenant confers “the promised eternal inheritance” and “redeems from transgressions” (9:15; cf. v.12c).
May the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ which we celebrate and receive at every mass, keep us ever nourished and ever renewed in the soul-cleansing blood of the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Amen!
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
The Eucharist and you
Today’s celebration affords us the opportunity to reflect on the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, together with his Soul and Divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine. The Eucharist is not a symbol of Christ presence; but his actual presence. The Catechism of the Catholic Church strongly asserts the “Real Presence” of Jesus’ body in the Eucharist. Thus, we are not dealing with symbol, we are not gathered together because of a symbol, Jesus did not give them symbol, a symbol is a sign, shape or object which is used to represent something else. He gave them is body and blood. The Lord Himself said: ‘This is my body’; not ‘a symbol or foreshadowing of my body’ but ‘my body,’ and not ‘a foreshadowing of my blood’ but ‘my blood’ and the bible says they all ate and were satisfied. Symbol could not have satisfied them. Can the symbol of a car satisfy you as the car itself? The symbol takes you nowhere but the car takes you somewhere.
The Holy Eucharist is the sacrifice of the New Covenant. The readings of today help us to understand this further. The first reading speaks of the enactment of the Mosaic Covenant. This is the covenant God established with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai after he led them out of Egypt. With it, God supplies the Law that is meant to govern and shape the people of Israel in the Promised Land. “I will give you all these blessings if you will obey my Law.” Israel said yes to this covenant. They were sprinkled with the blood of bull to seal this covenant. However, Israel failed, yet the blood of bull could not gain them absolute purification. The second reading speaks about the blood of Christ which purifies us and brings eternal life. This is the New Covenant that is superior to the old covenant. The New Covenant of his blood purifies the heart of man, eliminating the eternal effects of sin and purging the conscience of the guilt and shame that results from sin. A guilty conscience is a terrible weight to carry; but the New Covenant purifies us.
The New Covenant was instituted at the Last Supper the first Eucharistic celebration. Jesus said in the Gospel of today “…Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” This covenant is sealed not by sprinkling but by our participation. Therefore, when we take the body and blood of Jesus Christ we are in communion with the Divine (1 Cor. 10:16). One who is united with the Divine must keep the terms and conditions of that unity (covenant). Beloved, if we must gain our inheritance we must keep the laws of the new covenant.
Some are receiving the Eucharist unworthily. We ought to receive Holy Eucharist worthily. To prepare ourselves to receive Holy Communion worthily, “St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: 1Cor.11:29 “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself’ (1 Cor. 11:27-29). Therefore, anyone conscious of a grave sin must go to confession before coming to communion.” (CCC 1385)
We are to prepare for the worthy reception of Holy Communion. These preparations are “Remote” and “Proximate”. Remote preparation for Communion includes “regular prayer and reading of Scripture, the faithful and loving fulfillment of the daily responsibilities of our state in life, and regular participation in the Sacrament of Penance, including daily repentance of sin by an examination of conscience and recitation of the Act of Contrition.” On the other hand, proximate preparation includes; prayerful recollection as we come to Mass (Not noise and marketing). Others are; fasting from food and drink for at least one hour prior to receiving Holy Communion but as our health and age permit; modest and decent dressing; active participation throughout the Eucharistic celebration (not being distracted, nervous and unduly busy). These preparations dispose our hearts for worthy reception and corresponding graces. Beloved, let us resolve to receive the Holy Eucharist worthily and well. Let us resolve to receive the Holy Eucharist not just once in a year but possibly on Sundays and feast days, or more often still, even daily (CCC 1389).
Fr. Paul Oredipe
HOLY EUCHARIST – Center of the Church
In 1264, Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of “Corpus Christi” for the whole Church, a special feast day to recognize and to promote the great gift of the Blessed Sacrament. He commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to compose a Mass and an Office for the Liturgy of the Hours honoring the Holy Eucharist. St. Thomas Aquinas composed all the prayers and the beautiful Eucharistic hymns “Panis Angelicus,” “Pange Lingua,” “O Salutaris Hostia” and “Tantum Ergo.”
This Celebration developed as a Procession feast in addition to coming together to celebrate Mass in Church. It was what you might call an action feast and they acted on the truth of the Blessed Sacrament. And so they carried the Blessed Sacrament around their whole village; through the town, wherever they lived, their homes, their workplaces and so on, to dramatize the conviction they had that God journeys with us wherever we go.
God is always with us and we have the Blessed Sacrament as the clear sacramental sign of God’s presence. They would carry the tools of their craft with them. They would visit all of the special places they wanted God to be with them; hospitals or places where there were sick people, or places where there were hungry people and so on. God was journeying with them in their everyday life. And that is a part of the celebration that we need to think about — how God is with us.
In fact, Corpus Christi is the first feast whose object is not just an event of the life of Christ, but a truth of faith – His real presence in the Eucharist. It responds to a need: to solemnly proclaim such faith.
Corpus Christi holds out to us an invitation and a challenge.
As Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us: “No sacrament contributes more to our salvation than this; for it purges away our sins, increases our virtues and nourishes our minds with an abundance of all the spiritual gifts. It is truly the sacrament above all others whereby Christ’s kingdom of justice, love and peace is made visible and incarnate within the Christian family and in the world.” (STh, II, 65,3)
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it: quoting Lumen Gentium, no 11, “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.”(CCC, 1324) “In this organic whole, the Eucharist occupies a unique place as the ‘Sacrament of sacraments’, all the other sacraments are ordered to it as to their end.” (CCC, 1211)
Manna, bread (flesh) and wine (blood) are words abundantly used this Sunday when we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Jesus says in the Gospel of today: “Take; this is my body.” “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” What He means by that is that just as that manna was symbolic of God’s word, so now Jesus clearly is the word of God. Everything that Jesus is, what He says, what He teaches, is what will nourish us spiritually and give us spirit life — if we take it in and follow Him. But this is what can be so challenging.
With the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, we received as a gift a miraculous food for eternal life. After the resurrection, the disciples came to recognize that the multiplication of loaves was a sign of the Eucharistic gift bestowed at the Last Supper.
Today’s Solemnity of Corpus Christi was born precisely to help Christians be aware of this presence of Christ among us, to keep alive what Pope St. John Paul II called “Eucharistic wonder.”
Today, we give thanks not only for this supernatural bread from heaven on which we feed in Holy Communion, but also for the abiding presence of Christ in the tabernacle. As the Holy Eucharist is the center of the Church, so must it be the center of our being Christians and of our priestly and religious life. The Lord gives Himself to us. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:56).
Communion means exchange, sharing. Now, this is the fundamental rule of sharing: that which is mine is yours and what is yours is mine. Applying this rule to Eucharistic communion illustrates its greatness. What do I have that is truly “mine”? Misery, sin. This alone belongs to me exclusively. What does Jesus have that is “his” if not holiness, the perfection of all the virtues?
So, communion consists in the fact that I give Jesus my sin and my poverty, and He gives me holiness. As the action of the Holy Spirit makes holy the bread and wine, so the action of the Holy Spirit seeks to effect the same in each one of us. In this the “admirabile commercium,” or “wonderful exchange,” as the liturgy defines it, is realized. This is the most intimate of communions, even if the most mysterious.
In the natural world, in regard to nourishment, the stronger vital principle assimilates the weaker one. The vegetable assimilates the mineral; the animal assimilates the vegetable.
Even in the relationship between Christ and man this law is at work. It is Christ who assimilates us to Himself. We are transformed into Him. He is not transformed into us. We transform ordinary food into our own bodies, but the food of the Eucharist transforms us into the body of Christ. Unlike the material food we eat, which after being digested and assimilated becomes part of us, when we receive the Risen Lord, we become part of Him.
A famous atheist materialist, Ludwig Feuerbach, said: “Man is what he eats.” This statement that we become what we eat is never more true than in the Eucharistic experience. Without knowing it, he gave a perfect definition of the Eucharist. Thanks to the Eucharist, man truly becomes what he eats: the body of Christ. By eating the body and drinking the blood of the Lord, a marvelous union takes place between ourselves and Jesus Christ, and also between ourselves and every other member of the Church throughout the world and throughout time.
This union is brought about because together we are taken into the perfect offering of Jesus and because we take into ourselves his real presence. What we eat and drink becomes part of us and in the Eucharist we become part of the body of Christ both by joining ourselves with the worship and by the intimate action of sharing the meal. The Risen One enters into me and wants to transform me and make me enter into profound communion with Him.
In this way, He also opens me to all others: we, the many, are one bread and one body, says St. Paul: “Because there is one bread, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:17). The Eucharist effects what it symbolizes. It brings about the unity of which it is a sign. We cannot be in communion with Christ if we are divided among ourselves, if we hate each other, if we are not ready to be reconciled.
Yes, the Eucharist that we celebrate commemorates the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The Eucharist makes new the mysteries we celebrate; if we participate in it faithfully and intently. The Eucharist signifies and ferments a bond of unity among all who take part in it. Above all, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist has the power to transform us. It has the power to purify us, and the power to strengthen us, and the power to gradually make us more and more like Jesus.
But what is the Eucharist for us? And what is the witness that we give as individuals and community to the real and transcendent presence of Jesus? What is our Eucharistic experience and story?
Today, more than ever before, we need EUCHARISTIC WITNESSES, not just Eucharistic ministers. It is our witnessing that gives sure basis to our ministry. We cannot be true ministers if we are not primarily authentic witnesses to what we celebrate – witnesses to the great faith in the reality of the Lord in our midst. “It is the virtue that the Church needs today, assailed as she is by so many forces that aim at defeating her, indeed weakening and destroying her firmness in faith.” We have great examples.
What is your own experience and example? What is mine?
The Eucharist is the source, cause, expression and effect of our unity. It is the supreme sacramental manifestation of communion in the Church. Indeed, the Eucharist creates communion and fosters communion. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 40) The Eucharist brings about the Church’s unity through the Lord’s sacrifice and by communion in His body and blood.
We all “eat” the same person, not only the same thing. We all are in this way taken out of our closed individual persons and placed inside another, greater one. We all are assimilated into Christ and so by means of communion with Christ, united among ourselves, rendered the same, one sole thing in Him, members of one another. To communicate with Christ is essentially also to communicate with one another. We are no longer each alone, each separate from the other; we are now each part of the other; each of those who receive communion is “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Gn 2,23).
The Eucharist is a meal of the community, but it is far more than just a meal of fellowship. Each person who receives communion receives the Body of Christ within them as individuals. In this way each person is united together to the total Mystical Body of Christ. Our union is far more than fellowship. We are the branches united to the vine and sustained by the life force of the Eucharist. The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is a good opportunity for us to reflect on the depth of God’s gift to us.
This is the exact same prayer that Jesus prayed. I can only implore you: let us pray it; let us celebrate it; and most especially, let us live it and witness it as a visible sign to the world so that, as Jesus says, their unity may be complete. We are all one body, wrote the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 4:4).
Unity does not just happen; we have to work at it. Instead of concentrating on what divides us, we should remember what unites us: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.
Have you learned to appreciate people who are different from you? Can you see how their differing gifts and viewpoints can help … as it does God’s work? Learn to enjoy the ways we members of Christ’s body complement one another.
This celebration reminds us that when we receive communion, we do not just perform a symbolic liturgical action, we receive Jesus Christ himself.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
LOOK BEYOND THE BREAD YOU EAT, SEE YOUR SAVIOUR AND YOUR LORD.
LOOK BEYOND THE CUP YOU DRINK, SEE HIS LOVE POURED OUT AS BLOOD.
Fr. Evaristus Okeke
THE GIVER IS THE GIFT!
“ …I am the living bread which came down from heaven ” (John 6:51)
On this day, we are opportune to reflect on the greatest gift the world has ever and can ever know; the gift of Christ himself. The giving of this gift becomes the best demonstration of love because the giver is the gift. No one is capable of loving to the extent of giving himself or herself as gift to another. But like every other gift, Christ’s gift of himself to us in the Eucharist can either be rejected or neglected knowingly or unknowingly. If the value of a gift is not known, there will be little or no appreciation for it. Our reflection this day is on the fact that Christ is our life without whom we can do nothing. Therefore, Christ becomes that gift without which we cannot live life in the real sense of the word.
In the first reading of today, we see a covenantal relationship between God and man. The goal of the covenant was to establish a permanent union between God and the people of Israel. The basis of the covenant is that the Israelites will keep the ordinances of the Lord and the Lord will remain their God. As a sign, blood was sprinkled on the people. Just as the blood at their doorpost saved them from the angel of death while they were still in Egypt, so will this blood now sprinkled on them, mark them out as God’s people and assure them of God’s protection. However binding this covenant was, it was not perfect in the sense that it did not perfectly capture the bond God wanted to establish with his people.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us in the second reading, that the blood of Christ is capable of saving us far more than the blood of goats and calves. In the gospel reading, Jesus established the New Covenant with his disciples. When he took the bread, he called it his body and asked the disciples to eat. He took the wine, called it his blood and asked the disciples to drink. While the blood was simply sprinkled on the people in the Old Covenant, the blood of the New Covenant is to be drank. This means that the Lord does not simply want to mark us out as his own; he further wants to feed us with himself. We derive more effect from Christ’s blood when we drink it than when it covers us. Covering ensues protection but drinking brings about nourishment and fortification. More than living with us, the Lord wants to live in us. And so, the New Covenant perfectly actualized the goal of the Old Covenant; namely that, it is when we internalize the life of Christ within us that we are truly be marked out as his own.
The Eucharist is from the greek word “Eucharistia” meaning “thanksgiving”. We give thanks to God for this greatest act of love; an act that no other is capable of demonstrating towards us. We give thanks to God not just for what he has done for us but also for the confidence the Eucharist gives to us. The Eucharist assures us that God will not withdraw any favour from us. The one who has gratuitously given us his body and blood as food, which is a basic need of man, will not refuse us other graces we ask of him in prayer.
The Eucharist is our pledge of eternal life. It assures us that heaven is a reality and that we can belong there. Each time we assemble for Eucharistic celebration, we participate in the heavenly liturgy; it is like an excursion to heaven. The goal of this excursion is to motivate us to live worthy lives so that we can always receive him sacramentally here on earth and so belong permanently to that heavenly worship.
Let us reflect briefly on Transubstantiation. It is the process whereby the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus at Mass when the words of consecration are pronounced by a validly ordained priest. Transubstantiation is not the sacrament; it is only a process. What changes into Christ’s body is the substance of the bread; and what changes into Christ’s blood is the substance of the wine. The form of bread and the form of wine remains. Thus, the accidentals of bread and those of wine remains such as size, colour, shape, taste, and so on. But they do not become the accidentals of Christ. The whole Christ is contained under each specie and under every part or quantity of each specie. Christ body is not measured or sized according to the measurement or quantity of the species of bread and wine.
When Jesus first presented himself to the people as food in John chapter 6, some persons turned away from him and considered it a hard teaching to accept. Today, we can testify to the intense struggle it takes to remain in the state of grace in order to receive the Eucharist worthily. Some have stopped struggling and so no longer approach the Lord to feed them; some may have convinced themselves that they can be fed by the Lord through other spiritual exercise. If we can continue to struggle every day to work so as to put food on our tables; food that merely sustains us for each day; even more should we struggle for the food of eternal life.
While we do not undermine the efficacy of other forms of prayers, we unequivocally reiterate the emphasis of Jesus that unless we eat his body and drink his blood, we will not have life in us. Parents and guidance, you will be failing in your responsibility if you do not constantly encourage your children to participate in the Eucharistic banquet. In vain do you feed and cater for your children/ward unless the Lord feeds them too.
Beloved, in the Eucharist, Christ is really, truly and substantially present. Pope Paul VI says that the Eucharistic presence is called “real” not because other forms of Christ’s presence are not real, but because in the Eucharist, He is real per excellence. In “Mane Nobiscum Domine”, Pope St. John Paul II calls it “a mystery of Presence” because it is the prefect fulfilment of God’s promise to remain with us until the end of time.
This truth, should encourage us to make it a habit of visiting the Blessed Sacrament often; that is where real visions happen. Let the presence of Christ trill us. The difference between praying anywhere else and praying before the Blessed Sacrament is the difference between talking to a friend on phone and talking with the friend physically. There is communication is both instances but it is evidently more profound in the latter. Fervent prayer is visiting the Blessed Sacrament. God Bless You!