As a young person, I remember thinking that my belief in Christ would be stronger if I could encounter him in the flesh. This is probably a thought that many Christians have, and yet, the reality is that we do encounter the Lord Jesus. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus tells the disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples… and behold, I am with you always.” We know that he is with us through the Holy Spirit that we celebrate receiving on Pentecost. We know that he is with us in the “mystical body” of Christ, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the “true body,” the Eucharist. We celebrate this “true body,” this “real presence,” of Christ in the Eucharist on Corpus Christi- the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
In the 13th Century, Saint Juliana of Mount Cornillon, an Augustinian Nun, had a recurring vision of the full moon, crossed by a dark stripe. This vision recurred several times in Eucharistic Adoration, and the Lord revealed to her the meaning of this vision: the moon symbolized the life of the church on earth, and the line, the absence of the liturgical feast we know as Corpus Christi. The Lord called Juliana to plead for the institution of this Solemnity, which would be celebrated in honor of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and increase the faith of believers and their devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. In the Middle Ages, it was uncommon for women, regardless of their vocation, to be able to advocate for liturgical changes, especially one of this scale. While she faced many trials, she was steadfast to the path the Lord lay before her. So in 1964, Pope Urban IV instituted the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.1
A part of this centuries-old tradition is the Eucharistic Procession. OLP has carried out such a procession and will do so again this year after the 10 am Corpus Christi Mass on June 11. The procession quite literally brings the presence of Christ into our neighborhood and is both a joyous and solemn occurrence.
Today, this Solemnity is needed as much or perhaps even more than it was in the Middle Ages; a 2019 Pew study showed that more than half of Catholics do not believe (or understand) that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ. Let us pray this year on the Feast of Corpus Christi that the Lord will grant us eyes of faith, that we may look beyond the “accidents” of bread and wine, to see that we are truly receiving him, and in so doing that we each bring his presence out into our community and the world having been transformed into his sacred vessel through the reception of the Eucharist.
Director of Music and Liturgy
1 For the full story, you can find Pope Benedict’s General Audience from November 17, 2010 entitled Saint Juliana of Cornillon on the Vatican Website. vatican.va