More Thoughts on Corpus Christi

 I came across this poem in my archives this morning. 

Rising in Perilous Hope

What can I hold in my hands this morning
that will not flow through my fingers?

What words can I say that will catch
in your mind like burrs, chiggers that burrow?

If my touch could heal, I would lay my hands
on your bent head and bellow prayers.

If my words could change the weather
or the government or the way the world

twists and guts us, fast or slow,
what could I do but what I do now?

I fit words together and say them;
it is a given like the colour of my eyes.

I hope it makes a small difference, as
I hope the drought will break and the morning

come rising out of the ocean wearing
a cloak of clean sweet mist and swirling terns.

by Marge Piercy from Colors Passing Through Us (Alfred A. Knoff, 2003

As the feast of Corpus Christi nears, I am very conscious of all the divisions and brokenness in our world. 
These divisions break the wholeness you sought to bring.
so that's what I'm praying about.

Bread Blessed and Broken 
Instrumental version
Lyrics Below

May the bread we break today may the cup we share
Lift the burdens of our hearts lift them everywhere
Passing on to each of us the measure of your love
Love to make us whole again as we share your word

Bread, blessed and broken for us all
Symbol of your love from the grain so tall
Bread, blessed and broken for us all

Bread of live you give to us
Bread of life for all.

Jesus, You’re the One I love, 
You’re the One I know
You’re the One who makes me strong

 Spirit in my soul
From the clouds of yesterday

 through the night of pain
Teach me Lord to know your way,

  know it once again.

David Haas
Song Of The Body Of Christ

Below is an extract from my post last year on the feast of St Paul which is relevant to this coming Sunday's feast of Corpus Christi. The text below is an edited version of an article by Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.: Full text of article is here in the American Catholic Newsletter.

"When St. Paul experienced the Risen Lord at his conversion, he experienced a Christ who was so identified with us that to persecute the Christians was to persecute Christ. 

Not just once, but three times the experience is described in the Acts of the Apostles. In Chapter Nine we see Saul (not yet "St. Paul") terrorizing the followers of Jesus when suddenly, one day on the road to Damascus, Saul "fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' He said, 'Who are you, sir?' The reply came, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."

Later Paul himself retells the incident: "I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' I replied, 'Who are you, sir?' And he said to me, 'I am Jesus the Nazarene whom you are persecuting'"  Paul tells the story again in Chapter 26: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting" 

The experience revealed to Paul that Christ cannot be separated from his members. 

The Risen Lord is so united to the Christian that what we do to one another, we do to Christ.

Conversion of St Paul from here


This was the very point that was at issue in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 11, the earliest written account we have of the Last Supper. When Paul writes to the Corinthians in about the year 50 A.D., he has some concerns about their "eucharistic devotion":

"In giving this instruction, I do not praise the fact that your meetings are doing more harm than good. First of all, I hear that when you meet as a church there are divisions among you, and to a degree I believe it .... When you meet in one place, then, it is not to eat the Lord's supper, for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk. 

Do you not have houses in which you can eat and drink? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and make those who have nothing feel ashamed?"  

Paul reproaches the Corinthians for celebrating the Eucharist without recognizing the Body of Christ in the poor who go hungry while the rich get drunk. 

His criticism of their eucharistic devotion is not directed toward some liturgical rule, toward the songs they were singing, or the vestments they were wearing or not wearing, or whether they received Communion standing up or kneeling down or any of the issues that might disturb some Catholics today. 

The issue was much more important. They were trying to remember Christ without remembering his Body, which includes the poor and the "unacceptable." They wanted to celebrate the "head" without the "body risen and glorified "sacramental" Christ separated from his actual Body now.
Paul's experience at his conversion had convinced him that the Risen Lord is so identified with the disciples that the two cannot be separated.



Praying for The Persecuted image from here


St. Paul tells the Corinthians that they must examine themselves as to which body they are celebrating. 

The Christ they are proclaiming is the Risen Christ, glorified in his members, inseparably united with the poor and suffering. This is the Body they must see in the Eucharist if they are to celebrate worthily, for all who eat and drink without discerning this Body, eat and drink judgment on themselves.

Paul reminds us of an awesome responsibility. Coming forward at Mass to receive holy Communion is a promise that we will treat each person who receives the bread and drinks the cup as a member of our own body! It is no longer "us and them" but "us." Sharing the meal is a promise that we will treat all men and women as Christ would treat them, indeed as we would treat Christ himself.

This is an enormous responsibility and one which I do not think about enough and yet one which has greatly influenced the changes in my eucharistic devotion.

It is easy to lose sight of this relation: Risen Christ - Mystical Body - eucharistic Presence. The Eucharist is not merely a celebration of Real Presence, but a celebration of Real Presence which brings about unity and reconciliation in the whole Body. 

As the early Christians sang at Eucharist: As many grapes are brought together and crushed to make the wine and as many grains of wheat are ground into flour to make the one bread and we, although many, become one Body when we eat the one Bread.

My devotion used to be focused on the first transformation: the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. I had forgotten the warning of St. Paul and did not recognize the second transformation: the transformation of the Christians into Christ. 

This second transformation is the purpose of the first: Christ becomes really present in the Eucharist so that we may really become his Body. This is precisely what Eucharistic Prayer III is saying when it pleads, "Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ."

I think the second transformation is especially hard for Catholics. Our culture places a high value on the individual, on independence and freedom from obligations to one another. 


I hear people saying, "I have to own a gun because no one is going to protect me but me. The police can't even protect themselves." "I work hard for my money. I am not going to let the government take my money and waste it on welfare." 

If a culture is infected with racism or sexism, the Christians who are formed by that culture will find it difficult to express devotion to a Eucharist which proclaims that there is no longer "Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus"

In baptism I renounced "Satan," I renounced racism and sexism and exaggerated individualism and I was born into Christ Jesus. Each time I approach the Eucharist I renew that baptismal promise. As I come to the church for Eucharist, I dip my hand in the baptismal water and renew those baptismal vows.

Each time I get up and go to holy Communion I give a sign to the community that I am committed to all that the Eucharist stands for, I am committed to "do this" in memory of Jesus, to live as He lived, to live no longer for myself but for his Body.

I can't stop halfway: I can't celebrate the transubstantiation of the bread and wine without celebrating Christ's presence in my brothers and sisters. Some Christians still separate the two.

I am reminded of the man who once asked me: "Father, why do I have to shake hands with all those people before holy Communion? I don't know those people; and the ones I know, I don't even like."

I can only say that I am getting a new perspective. I see a new beauty and a new grandeur. It takes a different eye to see my God in the faces of my sisters and brothers with whom I share the broken bread. But there is true beauty there, and I find that beauty can still move me to tears of joy and devotion. 

Today I judge whether a liturgy is "good" or "bad" not by the number of candles that are lit, nor by the cost of the vestments, nor by whether or not I like the singing.

Today a "good" liturgy is one which transforms me and my fellow parishioners in such a way that men and women of today's society will see the full implication of the Sacrament of the Eucharist."

And they will say of us as they said of the first Christians, "See how they love one another! There is no one poor among them!" 


O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. 

Help me in all things to rely on Your Holy will.

In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. 

Bless my dealings with all who surround me.

Teach me to treat all that come to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all.

In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. 

In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. 

Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.

Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You Yourself in me.


(Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow)

This is one of the prayers offered for the day of a Week of Prayer For Christian Unity to remind us as Christ’s disciples of our call to continue in the quest for the fulfillment of Christ’s prayer, “that they all may be one.”

Lord God, the source of truth and love,
keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
united in prayer and the breaking of bread,
and one in joy and simplicity of heart,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Remembrance Communion Song
Matt Redman

This is My Body
Jimmy Owens/Damian Lundy

This is my body broken for you
bringing you wholeness, making you free
Take it and eat it and when you do
Do it in love for me.

This is my blood poured out for you
bringing forgiveness, making you free
Take it and eat it and when you do
do it in love for me.

Back to my Father soon I shall go
Do not forget me, then you will see
I am still with you, and you will know
you're very close to me.

Filled with my Spirit, how you will grow
You are my branches, I am the tree
If you are faithful, others will know
you are alive in me.

Love one another, I have loved you
and I have shown you how to be free
serve one another, and when you do
do it in love for me.
The grace of God comes swiftly to the soul 
when endurance is no longer possible.
                                        St. Dorotheos of Gaza ( Discourses and Sayings; Cistercian Publications 

No comments: