This feast day represents the Church’s official act of homage and
gratitude to Christ for instituting the Holy Eucharist, in which He gave the Church her greatest treasure. It celebrates the fact that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present in the Eucharist. The Second Vatican Council proclaimed the following regarding the Eucharistic sacrifice:
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life. For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ Himself, our Passover and living bread.”
To those who sorrow over His departure, He has given a unique solace. – St. Thomas Aquinas.
Did you know that…
Today we celebrate the feast of The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ? This great feast day was previously observed as the feast of Corpus Christi, which is Latin for Body of Christ. (And you thought Corpus Christi was just a city in South Texas!) On this day, we celebrate the Institution of the Holy Eucharist which Jesus gave to us on Holy Thursday.
If Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, then why do we celebrate this feast today, so many weeks after Easter?
Great question! On Holy Thursday, so many other events are commemorated, such as Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet, the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the institution of the priesthood, that the institution of the Eucharist was unintentionally overshadowed. The emphasis on Christ’s Passion in the Holy Thursday celebration created the need for another day to focus entirely on the Eucharist itself.
The Thursday after Trinity Sunday was chosen for the date of the Corpus Christi feast because it is a Thursday (the same day that Christ instituted the Eucharist) and it is the first free Thursday after the Easter Season (the Thursday after Pentecost was originally a part of the ancient octave of Pentecost). In the United States, the celebration is transferred to the following Sunday, as the actual feast day is not a Holy Day of Obligation.
How did the Feast Day come about in the first place?
The appearance of the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ has been attributed to the petitions of a thirteenth–century Augustinian nun, Juliana of Liege. From her early youth, Juliana had a great veneration for the Blessed Sacrament, and always longed for a special feast in its honour. Her desire was increased by a vision she had of the Church under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which signified the absence of such a solemnity. In 1208 she reported her first vision of Christ in which she was instructed to plead for the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi. Sadly, she died in 1258, and did not live to see the institution of this great solemnity in 1264, although we have her vision, prayerful dedication and faith to thank for this beautiful feast in which we celebrate the incomparable gift of His precious Body and Blood, with which Christ left us.
What more wondrous than this Holy Sacrament! In it, bread and wine are changed substantially, and under the appearance of a little bread and wine is had Christ Jesus, God and perfect Man. In this sacrament, sins are purged away, virtues are increased, the soul is satiated with an abundance of every spiritual gift. No other sacrament is so beneficial. Since it was instituted unto the salvation of all, it is offered by Holy Church for the living and for the dead, that all may share in its treasures. – St Thomas Aquinas