Corpus Christi

18 Jun

The feast is now called’… of the Body and Blood of Christ.’

I am old enough to remember when all the services were entirely in Latin which no one could understand, with the result that those in church at the service just got on with their own silent prayers or thoughts while the priest (with his back to the people) mumbled on as quickly as possible with all the ‘necessary’ texts, away from us on the sanctuary before the altar. I also remember that there were two masses on a Sunday at the early one of which people could ‘take communion’ – receive on one’s tongue the host from the priest – the host in which Christ was actually (really) present (a doctrine of the Roam Catholic Church).

The memory of this old Latin title, Corpus Christi, and its new title make me think of the mysteriousness in Catholic services but also the idea of Jesus’ death on the cross being a sacrifice putting us ‘right’ with God.

If I learnt anything as a child from going to Sunday school, it was that I needed to be a good boy – or else! But also I got the idea that God was very remote (mysterious) but became a human like us in Jesus who died on the cross to atone for all the sins that people commit. The sacrifice of the mass, as it was also called, was the re-enactment of Jesus’ death in some way which saved us from God’s wrath against all our sins.

The change, that has now taken place, to the longer title in the people’s own language, indicates that the Church now wishes to make sense to people and have them participate more in the services (and activities) of the local church – as indeed they do. I think the change of title may also have been influenced by the fact that nowadays people usually ‘take communion’ at every mass they attend (whether they have fasted or not); and that they are now able to drink also from the chalice.  But I do worry that it makes it seem that the host is His ‘physical’ body and the wine ‘His blood.’  Possibly also we might still think that God is ‘cross’ with us and we need to appease Him, and that we must go to mass every Sunday celebrating our salvation from sin and from the wrath of God.  But, you know, it is Jesus’ life here on earth and now in heaven from which we benefit, especially if and when we try to live as He did.

This feast also raises the question of the Real Presence as it is sometimes called. I do not deny this at all, but – and this seems very important to me – the presence of God (Father, Son and Spirit) is present, real and active in the whole of creation, in every one and every thing except sin. Every human being that I encounter, shares in the humanity that Jesus also possesses, and we must treat people as we would treat Him. With the stress nowadays on climate change and the environment, we should also try to be aware that encountering and dealing with our world is meeting and treating with God the creator. I want to take what I celebrate from the service of the mass out into the reality of the world in which I live and move and have my being, especially with all the people that I encounter.

I think we all have treasured things which remind us of important and exciting events or even of people whom we have known and perhaps are no longer with us on earth. These treasured tokens mean more to us than they really are in themselves. The priest says in the central part of the mass “Make holy these gifts … that they may become for us…” just as special things can become more for us than what they are. In a similar way, although God is present in everything except sin, the token food and drink we share at mass from the host and the chalice are special because we recognise this very special person Jesus really present in this token meal – we acknowledge this presence in a very special way – though we don’t always recognise it in all we encounter in our lives outside of mass – but perhaps that is what we should try to do – wherever you are “the Lord be with you!” or as I remember it ‘Dominus vobiscum.’

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Fr Benedict last Sunday quoted “Nisi Dominus frustra” I knew it meant to me something then found this.

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