In the 13th century a priest on pilgrimage to Rome was suffering doubts about the Eucharist. During a Mass his Host become flesh and bled upon the linen corporal. Hearing about this, Pope Urban IV desired that a feast of the Body and Blood of Christ should be celebrated everywhere to honour this Eucharistic miracle. St Thomas Aquinas (d 1274) composed the Mass and Office texts. Nowadays, the feast’s celebration is often transferred from its Thursday to the following Sunday. The Collect, assumed unchanged into all editions of the Missale Romanum, is magnificent:
Deus, qui nobis sub sacramento mirabili passionis tuae memoriam reliquisti, tribue, quaesumus, ita nos Corporis et Sanguinis tui sacra mysteria venerari, ut redemptionis tuae fructum in nobis iugiter sentiamus.
Current ICEL translation (2011): “God, who in this wonderful Sacrament have left us a memorial of your Passion, grant us, we pray, so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood that we may always experience in ourselves the fruits of your redemption.”
The adverb iugiter, from iugum, “a yoke or collar for horses”, “a cross-beam”, means “continuously”, as if one moment in time is being yoked together with the next. The yoke was also the ancient symbol of “subjugation”. Speaking of yokes, our Saviour’s is light and sweet.
For centuries Corpus Christi was observed with extravagant processions through main streets of towns and in our neighbourhoods. We grew strong in our lavish public displays of affection, gazing at the Blessed Sacrament out and about even in the byways of our daily lives. We reveled in showing everyone that Our Saviour is truly with us in every Host, every tabernacle. And the world noticed.
After the Second Vatican Council, many liturgists asserted that, because modern man is all grown up now, we mustn’t crawl in subjugation before God in archaic triumphalistic processions or kneel as if before some king. Forfend! We aren’t child-like peasants below a father or feudal master! We don’t kneel to receive – we stand and take!
How that pernicious lie from hell damaged our Catholic identity!
Happily, younger people are no longer burdened with that insidious baggage. They desire the good things of their Catholic patrimony. They resist passé attempts to make Jesus “smaller”.
We need these devotions. They help us to be better Catholic Christians through emotional contact with Christ and through public witness to our faith. And the watching world notices.