Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bone pastor, panis vere,

The Body and Blood of Christ
Solemnity (Year A)

The account of Moses and the People of God in the desert, taken from our first reading for Mass today from the book of Deuteronomy, struck me in a special way this year.

Normally when we think about Corpus Christi the Procession comes to mind, our carrying Christ into our cities, towns and villages. It is our witness to our faith in Him truly present under signs of bread and wine, Jesus present, our Risen Savior present, the Son of God present, the Word made Flesh present, not symbolically but really present, Jesus, His True Body, His True Blood, not the dead Christ but the Living One: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Bread of Angels is He; our Food and our Stay is He.

Normally we Catholics are busy today reclaiming the highways and byways for God in the Person of Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament. We are blessing right and left and rightly so. We do so with joy and to the extent we are able in many places around the world with great solemnity and even pageantry, like in Orvieto not far from Rome or in some of the other places in Italy where they decorate in beautiful designs made out of different colored flower petals the path the priest will walk carrying Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Historically we can say that the Solemnity of Corpus Christi really took off at the time of St. Thomas Aquinas (just over 700 years ago),  Aquinas who composed the Divine Office and the great hymns for this feast. Since that time especially, Corpus Christi has been a saving antidote for all kinds of doubts and hesitations about the reality of this great mystery of our faith. It has calmed fears, restored joy, and vanquished those doubts in matters of faith which have crept into the lives of individual Christians, into the lives somethimes even of priests.

Normally, as I say, we are carrying Him, Jesus in the Eucharist, we are praising and proclaiming Him in the streets, we are worshipping Him, the One and Only, the One True God, Jesus Christ. But this year, as I say, Deuteronomy reminds us as well, at least it reminded me, that first and foremost we are celebrating God's action; it is not just we carrying and proclaiming. Moses says "Remember how the Lord your God led you... he fed you... to make you understand... that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord." Manna, bread from heaven, not what your fathers ate in the desert, but as Jesus says in the Gospel: "I am the living bread which has come down from heaven."

I think Trinidad is especially fortunate to have Corpus Christi both as a Holy Day and a National Holiday. While this day should be a reminder and reinforcement of a genuinely healthy Catholic pride in possessing such a great gift as Jesus truly present on our altars and in our tabernacles, let us also be mindful today in a very special way that it is Jesus Himself Who feeds and carries us all our days.

"As I (Jesus says in St. John's Gospel), who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me. This is the bread come down from heaven; not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever."

Bone pastor, panis vere,
Iesu, nostri miserere:
Tu nos pasce, nos tuere,
Tu nos bona fac videre
in terra viventium.
Tu qui cuncta scis et vales,
qui nos pascis hic mortales:
tuos ibi commensales,
coheredes et sodales
fac sanctorum civium.
Amen. Alleluia.

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