A reflection on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

The momentous happening we celebrate on the feast of Corpus Christi is our developed understanding of what Christ did at the Last Supper with his disciples, when He took bread and wine and said these incredible words:

“Take this all of you and eat of it for this is my Body which will be given up for you”
Take this all of you and drink from it for this is the chalice of my blood which will be poured out for you
and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in memory of me.”


This wondrous mystery could not be celebrated with the joy and solemnity it merits in the sombre season of Holy Week. It is right and fitting that it be celebrated as the concluding Solemnity of this rich period of the Liturgical Calendar.

Our celebration is the expression of our belief, that when Christ said these words at the ‘Last Supper,’ he meant us to take them literally, so that when our ordained priests pronounce these words of Christ, during the celebration of Mass, the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Jesus, the Christ, the Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. When we take Communion to the sick and housebound, reserve the Sacred Bread in our tabernacles and expose the Sacred Host for adoration we are obeying His instruction; ‘Do this in memory of me’ and continuing a tradition begun in apostolic times.

It is wonderful to remember that this great mystery along with all the other revelations was implicit in God’s Word: “Let there be Light.” This began the process of Creation with what scientists call ‘The big Bang’ or the ‘Original Flaring Forth,’ as Christians prefer to call the event. This massive explosion generated space and time, as well as all the matter and energy the Universe will ever hold. During the last few decades scientists have discovered much about how the Universe evolved and Earth’s Story. We here on earth today, can now reflect on a fascinating 13.7 billion year story that is still emerging.

As the universe expanded and cooled, the dust and the debris from the explosion, under the influence of the force gravity, formed the stars and galaxies. Approximately nine billion years into this process of evolving, a giant star in our galaxy, ‘The Milky Way,’ died in a massive explosion, called a supernova; through the influence of gravity, the dust and debris from this explosion coalesces to give birth to our sun and its nine planets.

 Earth, with its single moon was ideally situated for the future generation of life. Around three billion years ago the planet cooled sufficiently for an atmosphere to develop; over time volcanic eruptions created mountains and hills and other structures. Over hundreds of millions of years, earth gradually prepared for the advent of life with all its wondrous diversity. It is suggested that primitive humans evolved around 600,000 years ago in East Africa and our own more recent ancestors some sixty thousand years ago. This is our story, the Epic of Evolution, which demonstrates that everything that exists is interdependent. All is one and integral to God’s design and plan initiated in those words: “Let there be light.”

Then in the fullness of time the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with the astounding message

 

 “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:31-33

As this familiar story unfolds it is amazing to find all the unnoticed references in both Testaments to God’s intention realised at the Last Supper, that he would remain visibly and tangibly present for ever under the forms of bread and wine to those who have faith in Him. One such reference is:

“Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth.”Gen 14;18-20

Similarly when the Israelites received and ratified the Ten Commandments at the foot of Mount Horeb it was ritualised with blood:
“And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.” Exodus 24:1-11

During his public life Jesus made many references to his future intention. Perhaps the most direct is:
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My Flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

When he was questioned about this seemingly, preposterous statement he simply repeated it more forcibly.

 

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. John 6:51-56

Three of his most striking miracles were notable portents of things to come. In his first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana he changed water into wine. Then we have the two great miracles of the loaves of bread. In the first he fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish; there were twelve baskets left over. Later he fed four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish with seven baskets left over. Possibly, besides dealing with the needs of the people involved he was strengthening the faith of his Apostles and demonstrating his power over material substances. The Apostles would surely remember these events in the days following his death and strengthen them in their work following His Ascension.

 We have evidence that they understood the significance of the event in their last meal with Jesus the night before he died and of their success in promulgating the practice of gathering for ‘The Lord’s Supper.’ The writings of St. Paul provide this evidence. His letters were in circulation long before the Gospels were recorded and promulgated. In his first letter to the believers in Corinth he strongly criticises the way they were behaving at ‘The Lord’s Supper’ and instructs them in the true meaning of what they are doing when they gather for this ritual meal.

"For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves."
1 Cor 11:23-30.

‘The Lord’s Supper’ or as we call it, ‘The Mass,’ or the ‘Holy Eucharist’ is an integral part of God’s plan for his creation. Through his life, passion and death Jesus became the scapegoat for all the sinfulness of the human race. Through His resurrection he was the liberator who restored our relationship with God. When Jesus’ time on earth was ended, he not only sent the Holy Spirit to be an inward source of his love, light, wisdom and energy within us but appreciating our human need to see, hear, feel and touch, he provides for those who believe in him a visible, tangible Sacrament that encapsulates his whole mission on earth.

 

‘We bow before the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.’
Mercy Office Book

Sr. Camilla Hunt