Corpus Christi: the irruption of eternal life into ourown

On the Thursday after the Sunday of the Most Holy Trinity, the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, also known as Corpus Christi. This feast inevitably recalls Holy Thursday, when the Eucharist was established. In Jerusalem the celebrations started on the Wednesday with the traditional entrance of the Latin Patriarch in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, followed by vespers and the procession around the edicule of the resurrection.

This year the movement of the processions inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre was inevitably reduced due to the restoration work on the floor of the whole church. As a consequence, the participation was also slightly affected, with a slight drop in the number of religious and faithful present at the liturgies, which are generally very well attended.

In the night between Wednesday and Thursday, the feast really got under way with the Office of the Vigil: in front of the empty tomb, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton presided the Office, which opened with the words of Psalm 66: "Let us adore Christ the Lord, the bread of life.” On this solemnity, we celebrate the only food that fills, that gives real life and that appears visibly in the mystery of the Eucharist. The words of St Thomas, which are proclaimed during the Office, exalt the tenderness of this sacrament: “The Eucharist is the memorial of the passion, the accomplishment of the figures of the Ancient Alliance, the greatest of all the wonders performed by Christ, the admirable document of his immense love for men.”

The following morning, after the entrance and the morning lauds at the Holy Sepulchre, the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, celebrated a solemn Holy Mass and the procession of the Most Holy Sacrament. In the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the liturgy of this day is structured in various parts: the morning lauds and the Solemn Mass in front of the empty tomb, the procession in the area of the Anastasis and of the stone of unction and, at the end of the celebration, the recital of the Magnificat at the altar of St May Magdalen.

"The celebration of this solemnity, which takes place every year here at the Holy Sepulchre, brings us back to the heart of the Church’s mission  and the priestly life of each of us,", said the Patriarch at the start of his homily. "With today’s solemnity, the Church reminds us of a great truth which we must never forget and which is the heart of our mission: without Jesus, the world will always be hungry, for He is the true and only source of refreshment.” The archbishop then added that it is food that can be experienced through the ineffable gift of the Eucharist, in which we celebrate “his presence among us, the gift of His very life and His death and resurrection. In the Eucharist we have the irruption of eternal life into our own. We have the answer to man’s true and deep hunger. And only that answer will be able to sustain, with strength, constancy and courage, our action for justice, for peace, for the right of every man to a worthy life that lives up to his vocation as a person created in the image and likeness of God.”Through this declination of the Eucharistic mystery in daily life, the archbishop added, "The life of our Church must always be centred on the Eucharistic mystery, both in the celebration of the mystery itself and in everyday life, making herself close to every person. It must continually become a gift of self for the life of the world.”

At the end of the Mass, the Patriarch guided the ritual procession holding in his hands the ostensory containing the Most Holy Sacrament and symbolically going three times around the Empty Tomb, the centre of the mystery and of the glory of the resurrection.

The procession came to an end with the entrance of the Holy Eucharist inside the Tomb. Afterwards, the Magnificat was sung opposite the adjacent chapel of St Mary Magdalen.

On Sunday 19 June, the solemnity of Corus Christi will be celebrated in many countries around the world and by the Franciscans of the Holy Land in St Francis’s convent at the Cenacle, near the holy place where the Lord himself, during the Last Supper with the Apostles, established the Eucharist. The celebration will be presided by the Custos of the Holy Land.

 

Filippo De Grazia