Musings On The Relevance of the Institution of the Eucharist: The Summary of our Faith
Under the Liturgical Calendar for the month of June, there are 2 important feast days in commemoration of the life of Jesus Christ such as the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (or the Corpus Christi) and the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But this article shall delve on the former, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, which I believe needs more emphasis specifically on the importance of said occasion vis-a-vis the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which is relatively popular and is most widely practiced Catholic observance. This is actually true – almost every Catholic is familiar about the feast of the Sacred Heart. In fact, our family love the Sacred Heart of Jesus. My mother (who is now in Heaven) was a great devotee of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Apart from being a daily mass goer, the First Friday masses were very most special to her. My mother recited the Novena to the Sacred Heart by heart and guess what (!), I learned from her 2 of my favorite religious songs: “O Sacred Heart, O Love Divine” and the “Heart of Jesus Meek and Mild”. We used to sing this together while she was still around, when I was still young (she was doing the 2nd voice). Ahh sweet memories! At present, some of my sisters are likewise devotees and promoters of the Sacred Heart. As for me, the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been a part of my daily prayer, by reciting short prayers (or “ejaculation”) :Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have mercy on us”, followed by the Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Joseph. I learned this during high school days from one of our English teachers, Ms. Maria Alar (may she rest in peace. Amen) who used to emphatically recite this prayer together with the other short prayers before starting class. That was probably one of the requirements of the religious nuns (RVM sisters) for the teachers to say prayers prior to class.
In view of this, I thought I should touch on this equally important feast day, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, known as the Feast of the Corpus Christi. I understand this feast day is mainly to continually honor and remind us about the real presence of the body of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and to be grateful for what Jesus Christ had done for our sake. Remember during the Holy Mass, when the presiding priest utters these words during the Consecration?: “This is my Body… This is my Blood”.
I recall during my younger years, the celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi was very solemn. After the mass, a procession was held through the town’s public main streets, with the officiating priest or the high-ranking prelate vested in white cope and carrying the Blessed Sacrament with some assigned lay ministers holding a rectangular tent-like canopy which serves as a cover and protection. As a sign of respect, the bystanders would kneel down as the Blessed Sacrament passed by. The procession was then followed by an Adoration and Benediction inside the Church with the people joyfully and solemnly singing the “Tantum Ergo” or the “Oh Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine”, which by the way gives me goosebumps up to now whenever I hear this song. Idk, why?
Nowadays, this religious tradition is seldom observed especially in the cities for certain reasons (even before the pandemic) such as logistics, traffic situation, and the like. Obviously, since this Covid-19 virus is still hounding some parts of the globe, the Church is unable to celebrate this, in fact some people are still not able to go to Church. Although, there are still parishes which strive to celebrate the feast just like the old days. However, considering the aforesaid circumstances, most of the Church parishes especially in urban places prefer to conduct the procession of the Blessed Sacrament around the parish grounds or just inside the Church. It has been noted though that some churchgoers no longer kneel down or even bow their heads as a form of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament.
The feast of Corpus Christi is such a very important occasion for Catholics as it basically involves the Institution of the Eucharist. Some theologians mentioned that the Holy Mass is a complete form of prayer. This is why recitation of Novena, the Holy Rosary & other forms of verbal prayers during the Mass is being discouraged. Rather, the churchgoers are encouraged to participate during the mass from start to finish. The Holy Mass is a package deal. Everything we want to pray to God is already there. We get the opportunity to acknowledge God’s presence through the Readings, we praise and glorify Him through the Alleluia, the Gospel and the Creed, we lift up our petitions to God and offer Him our gifts, we commemorate the dead, Angels and Saints in Heaven, & get to celebrate the paschal mystery of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We also recite the Lord’s prayer, offer peace to everyone and thank God for everything. But the most crucial part is the transformation of the host (bread) and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ which will then be partaken by the parishioners during the Holy Communion. This is the substance of the Holy Mass in the Catholic Church; the Eucharist is the core of a Catholic’s life. As mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “ the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.”
The Gospel of St. Mark (14:12-16,22-26) yesterday, the 1st Sunday of June, (the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ) states the following: “While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many”. Because of His love for mankind, our Lord God gave up His own flesh and blood to save us all. As such, He is reminding us again that we should be in communion with Him, as in we must obey His commandments and be connected with our brothers and sisters by taking action in sharing what we have to those in dire need so as to gain the gift of eternal life.
The Holy Eucharist makes us all one in Christ, regardless of status in life. As the Holy Scripture says: We are all the same and equal in the eyes of God. As Catholics, it is important to attend the Holy Mass everyday, as much as possible, as doing so would make us recognize its importance, i.e, to have a deeper relationship with God. Even during this pandemic we can do more than that. If we are unable to be present in Church for the Holy Mass, there are live and recorded online Holy Masses offered by various religious organizations which we can avail of on a daily basis. However, if we’re hearing the Holy Mass via online, we have to recite the Spiritual Communion with respect, humility and sincerity. The Holy Eucharist is such a very important Sacrament, it’s a grace from God and so we should not take this matter for granted. St. Thomas Aquinas stated: “What more wondrous than this Holy Sacrament! No other sacrament is so beneficial: sins are purged away, virtues are increased, the soul is satiated with an abundance of every spiritual gift.
The “Institution of the Eucharist” is truly relevant in our faith journey. Because of its importance it has been made part of the Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary to remind us that Jesus Christ offers His body and blood for us. When we receive the Holy Communion, it’s like receiving Jesus in our hearts. We take part in the celebration with the Church community with reverence and prayer, sharing and eating together the one Bread and the one Cup. Remember the song, One Bread, One Body…..One Lord of all? And the verse continues to state: “One cup of blessing which we bless. And we though many, throughout the earth, We are one body in this one Lord.” Ahh, missing the choir…..
Pope Francis once mentioned that participation in the Eucharist will move us always to follow the Lord every day, to be instruments of communion, to share with Him and with our neighbor who we are, so that our lives will be truly fruitful. Amen.
*Also published in a catholic magazine in the U.S. (by the same author) but with a slightly different caption.