The Feast of Corpus Christi

This feast day commemorates the Eucharist, the meal in which we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist is at the heart of our Catholic faith and traditionally, holds a special place among the sacraments.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about the importance of the Eucharist:

1324 The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life."134 "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."135

The Eucharist was instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper and this institution of the sacrament is celebrated on Holy Thursday. However, the emphasis of the Triduum is on the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, which creates the need for another feast day focusing on the Eucharist itself.

As Catholics, we believe in transubstantiation, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.

1374 The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend."199 In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained."200 "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."201

The Feast of Corpus Christi emphasizes and celebrates this Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

The feast of Corpus Christi was first suggested by St. Juliana, a nun of Liege, Belgium, who personally had a strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and who longed for a feast in honour of the Eucharist. A papal bull was issued by Pope Urban IV in 1264 commanding the universal observance of the feast. Many of the prayers and hymns associated with the feast of Corpus Christi have been attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, who composed them at the request of Pope Urban.

For us Catholics, every Mass is a commemoration of Jesus’ Last Supper and it is also a proclamation and a participation in this mystery. The feast of Corpus Christi helps us to refocus on what we are called to do at every Mass – to celebrate our belief in the risen Christ, to witness to our faith in that living Christ by how we live our lives and to become Christ by our receiving His Body and Blood.