Corpus Christi: celebrating the presence of the Lord among us

By: Cécile Leca/ lpj.org - Published: June 16 Thu, 2022

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JERUSALEM - Every Thursday after Trinity Sunday, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi, which celebrates the true presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. In the Holy Land, this Solemnity takes place at the Holy Sepulchre, during which the celebrant carries the Blessed Sacrament under a canopy in a procession around the Aedicule. 

This year, after the Vespers the day before, His Beatitude Mgr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, celebrated the traditional solemnity along with Mgr Ilario Antoniazzi, Archbishop of Tunis, Mgr William Shomali, General Vicar, Rafic Nahra, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, and Fr. Nikodemus Schnabel, OSB, Patriarchal vicar for Migrants and Asylum Seekers. Also present was Mgr Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, bishop emeritus of the Latin Patriarchate, who gave a speech of thanks and congratulations after Lauds and before the Mass, especially regarding the priestly jubilees celebrated this year. The celebration then continued until the traditional procession around the Aedicule, one of the most famous in the Holy Land.

It was at the request of Pope Urban IV that St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, in 1264, the entire Office and Mass for this Solemnity, including the famous Latin sequence Lauda Sion, a poetic summary of his treatise Summa Theologica, Part III, question 75, "The Change of Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Christ”. We also owe him most of the motets that enrich the repertoire of salvation in the Blessed Sacrament: Panis Angelicus, O salutaris Hostia, and Tantum ergo.

In Catholic countries, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi gives rise to magnificent processions where the first communicants are often honored, and where cities are adorned with beautiful finery; lights, garlands, carpets of flowers... Everything is done to help the faithful become aware of the constantly renewed miracle of the incarnation and transubstantiation (transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ).

"This celebration is one of my favorites," said one of the faithful present in the assembly – a resident of Jerusalem. "I attend it every year because, besides its beauty, it embodies for me the most important aspect of the Christian religion; the presence of our Lord in us and with us."

"I didn't know about this feast before coming here," reveals another, a young woman of French nationality, who is visiting. "With my family, we celebrate the great traditional feasts; Easter, Pentecost, Christmas... But I had never heard of Corpus Christi before. It is a beautiful discovery... Especially by living it here, in the Holy Land, where Christ lived and taught."

Corpus Christi is far from over, however. Next week, Bishop William Shomali will celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Bethlehem, in the Salesian church of the city. After a Mass, the Vicar General of the Latin Patriarchate will, in turn, carry the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of Bethlehem to the Basilica of the Nativity, allowing the faithful to contemplate and honor with their prayers the real presence of God in the world.