Today is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ also known as the Feast of Corpus Christi! In a vision, St. Juliana of Liege, a Belgian nun who lived in the 1200s, was told by a heavenly voice that the Church at that time was missing a feast in the liturgical calendar in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ. She told the Archdeacon of Liege who later became Pope Urban IV. In the meantime, the Bishop of Liege celebrated a Feast in honor of the Most Blessed Sacrament in his diocese for the first time on June 5, 1249. Pope Urban IV soon extended this Feast to the universal church.
The Holy Eucharist, the Most Blessed Sacrament, and Holy Communion, are all terms that refer to the true Presence of Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in consecrated Communion Hosts. God works through priests during the Holy Mass to change bread and wine into the fullness of Himself. Bread and wine are changed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
The roots of the Holy Eucharist can be found in the Old Testament. For example, in the Book of Exodus, God tells Moses to lead the people of Israel to freedom after hundreds of years of enslavement in Egypt. Since the pharaoh did not listen to Moses, God told Moses that He Himself would pass over the land of Egypt in punishment for the pharaoh’s refusal to free the Israelites. God told Moses that each of the Israelite families should take a spotless young male lamb (or goat), kill it, put its blood on their doorposts, and then eat the lamb. The lamb was killed and then eaten by the people. This prefigures or foreshadows the Holy Eucharist.
“But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.”(Exodus 12)
Jesus: The Lamb of God
In the New Testament, Jesus comes as the new spotless male Passover Lamb to be killed–but this time for the forgiveness of sins.
Like the Passover lamb’s blood on the doorposts, His blood shed on the cross brought us salvation from the destructive effects of sin. “For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).” When Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized, John the Baptist cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”
For this reason, before Holy Communion during every Mass, we pray or sing, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us …” or in Latin, “Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi … .” Then we kneel and the priest raises the Consecrated Host while he says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
Passover and the Holy Eucharist
How fitting that as Jesus celebrated the Passover Supper (the Last Supper) with His disciples, He simultaneously offered the first Holy Mass and thus instituted the Holy Eucharist.
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My Body.” 27 And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; 28 for this is My Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” ~Matthew 26:26–28,30
“19 And He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My Blood.”~Luke 22:19–20
In keeping with Jesus’ command at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of Me,” the Holy Mass is offered around the world and during the Consecration, the above words are said by the priest. It is important to recognize that during the Consecration, through the priest, Jesus Himself offers His Sacrifice of death on the cross to God the Father for the forgiveness of sins. Though Jesus rose again from the dead after three days, as God, Jesus is not limited by the constraints of time, and so through the Holy Mass, His Sacrifice once for all time is always present before God the Father.
Furthermore, precisely because of His Sacrifice, He then gives Himself to us in Holy Communion. The passover lamb had to be killed before it could be eaten. Similarly, Jesus had to come and die on the cross once and for all time for the forgiveness of sins so that we could be united once more with God.
Holy Communion is simply God’s chosen means for giving us the opportunity for complete union with Him. Through Holy Communion, God gives us food for our souls. Who other than God Himself can feed our souls? As the Israelites traveled in the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land, God gave them manna, the bread He sent from heaven. In the New Testament, Jesus gives us Himself, the Living Bread, in Holy Communion to sustain us on our journey to Heaven.
51 I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this Bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My Flesh.”… 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My Flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”~ John 6:51,53–58
He wants to be united to us through Holy Communion because of His great love for humanity, His beloved children. It is because of this great love that He desires that each of us may be saved and so have eternal life. Each time we receive Holy Communion, God gives us more graces to be holy and to grow closer to Him. In other words, because of the union of our souls to God through Holy Communion, God transforms our souls.
Devotion to the Holy Eucharist
First of all, we must stand in awe before the great lengths God has taken to reach out to humanity and bring it back to Himself. God’s love is so great that He gives us the fullness of Himself!
Secondly, we should prepare ourselves before attending each Holy Mass so that we can attend each Holy Mass with great devotion. For example, we should arrive early to Mass, open our hearts and minds to hear God’s Word in the Mass readings and the priest’s homily (i.e. avoiding conversations and any distractions during the Mass), pray the Mass prayers with devotion, and prepare well to receive Holy Communion.
**It is important to receive Holy Communion only when one is in a state of grace (not conscious of any mortal sins). By receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, one commits the sin of sacrilege. If you realize that you have committed a mortal sin, you must go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion.
Since Jesus came to the world through the Blessed Virgin Mary, we should ask Her and also our guardian angel to help us to receive Jesus with love, devotion, and reverence in Holy Communion. After receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, we should devote at least 15 minutes for thanksgiving to God.
Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament (Eucharistic Adoration)
Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament is an extension of the Holy Mass. Untold graces come to souls through Eucharistic Adoration. The word ‘adoration’ comes from the word ‘adore’ which means love or worship. In Adoration, we worship God who is present in the Holy Eucharist. We imitate the three wise men who came to adore (worship and honor) the Infant Jesus and we imitate the angels who unceasingly worship God before His throne in Heaven.
Furthermore, throughout time and even in recent times, there have been countless miracles of the Eucharist which have confirmed the true Presence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist.
For example, in the year 750 in Lanziano Italy, after the Consecration during the Holy Mass, the Consecrated Host and Wine became visible as actual Flesh and Blood which are still intact to this day! On May 5, 2001 in Chirattakonam, India during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration, an image of the face of Christ appeared and remained for some time in the Host in the Monstrance in the plain view of those present! Photographers were even able to take pictures of this Eucharistic miracle. The priest at the Chirattakonam church, Fr. Johnson Karoor, noted that the Gospel reading for that day was the passage in which the resurrected Jesus shows Himself to doubting Thomas and says, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless, but believing.”(John 20:27) and Thomas says, “My Lord and My God!”
With faith, let us thank our Lord and God for the infinite treasure of the Holy Eucharist! Through the Holy Mass, Jesus offers His Sacrifice and then gives us Himself in Holy Communion. In Holy Communion, God, the Creator of the Universe and the Author of Life abides in us and we in Him. Furthermore, through Jesus’ Presence in the Holy Eucharist, He has kept His promise, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20)
Corpus Christi Hymn by St.Thomas Aquinas : Pange Lingua Gloriosi
For more information on the Holy Mass, the Most Holy Eucharist, and Eucharistic Miracles:
- The Holy Eucharist–page on the Holy Rosary site
- Most Holy Eucharist–past blog post on the Holy Rosary site
- “Jesus My Eucharistic Love” by Father Stefano Manelli
- “The Mass and Calvary” by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
- The Holy Mass explained to Catalina Rivas
- Film: “The Greatest Miracle” by Dos Corazones Films
- www.the realpresence.org (Eucharistic Miracles of the World website)
- “The Eucharistic Miracles of the World” (Book)
- Manual for Eucharistic Adoration ~ by the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration