Feast of Corpus Christi

Feast of the Body of Christ

This feast is celebrated in the Latin Church on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to solemnly commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist.

Of Maundy Thursday, which commemorates this great event, mention is made as Natalis Calicis (Birth of the Chalice) in the Calendar of Polemius (448) for the 24th of March, the 25th of March being in some places considered as the day of the death of Christ. This day, however, was in Holy Week, a season of sadness, during which the minds of the faithful are expected to be occupied with thoughts of the Lord’s Passion. Moreover, so many other functions took place on this day that the principal event was almost lost sight of. This is mentioned as the chief reason for the introduction of the new feast, in the Bull “Transiturus.”

The instrument in the hand of Divine Providence was St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon, in Belgium. She was born in 1193 at Retines near Liège. Orphaned at an early age, she was educated by the Augustinian nuns of Mont Cornillon. Here she in time made her religious profession and later became superioress. Intrigues of various kinds several times drove her from her convent. She died 5 April, 1258, at the House of the Cistercian nuns at Fosses, and was buried at Villiers.

Juliana, from her early youth, had a great veneration for the Blessed Sacrament, and always longed for a special feast in its honour. This desire is said to have been increased by a vision of the Church under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which signified the absence of such a solemnity. She made known her ideas to Robert de Thorete, then Bishop of Liège, to the learned Dominican Hugh, later cardinal legate in the Netherlands, and to Jacques Pantaléon, at that time Archdeacon of Liège, afterwards Bishop of Verdun, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and finally Pope Urban IV. Bishop Robert was favourably impressed, and, since bishops as yet had the right of ordering feasts for their dioceses, he called a synod in 1246 and ordered the celebration to be held in the following year, also, that a monk named John should write the Office for the occasion. The decree is preserved in Binterim (Denkwürdigkeiten, V, 1, 276), together with parts of the Office.

Bishop Robert did not live to see the execution of his order, for he died 16 October, 1246; but the feast was celebrated for the first time by the canons of St. Martin at Liège. Jacques Pantaléon became pope 29 August, 1261. The recluse Eve, with whom Juliana had spent some time, and who was also a fervent adorer of the Holy Eucharist, now urged Henry of Guelders, Bishop of Liège, to request the pope to extend the celebration to the entire world. Urban IV, always an admirer of the feast, published the Bull “Transiturus” (8 September, 1264), in which, after having extolled the love of Our Saviour as expressed in the Holy Eucharist, he ordered the annual celebration of Corpus Christi in the Thursday next after Trinity Sunday, at the same time granting many indulgences to the faithful for the attendance at Mass and at the Office. This Office, composed at the request of the pope by the Angelic Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas, is one of the most beautiful in the Roman Breviary and has been admired even by Protestants.

The death of Pope Urban IV (2 October, 1264), shortly after the publication of the decree, somewhat impeded the spread of the festival. Clement V again took the matter in hand and, at the General Council of Vienne (1311), once more ordered the adoption of the feast. He published a new decree which embodied that of Urban IV. John XXII, successor of Clement V, urged its observance.

Neither decree speaks of the theophoric procession as a feature of the celebration. This procession, already held in some places, was endowed with indulgences by Popes Martin V and Eugene IV.

The feast had been accepted in 1306 at Cologne; Worms adopted it in 1315; Strasburg in 1316. In England it was introduced from Belgium between 1320 and 1325. In the United States and some other countries the solemnity is held on the Sunday after Trinity.

In the Greek Church the feast of Corpus Christi is known in the calendars of the Syrians, Armenians, Copts, Melchites, and the Ruthenians of Galicia, Calabria, and Sicily.

– CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Corpus Christi procession. Oil on canvas by Carl Emil Doepler.

Corpus Domini redirects here. For other uses see Corpus Domini (disambiguation)

The Feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for Body of Christ), also known as Corpus Domini, is a Latin Rite liturgical solemnity celebrating the tradition and belief in the body and blood of Jesus Christ and his Real Presence in the Eucharist. It emphasizes the joy of the institution of the Eucharist, which was observed on Holy Thursday in the somber atmosphere of the nearness of Good Friday.

In the present Roman Missal, the feast is designated the solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.[1] It is also celebrated in some Anglican, Lutheran, and Old Catholic Churches that hold similar beliefs regarding the Real Presence.

The feast is liturgically celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday or, “where the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is not a Holy Day of Obligation, it is assigned to the Sunday after the Most Holy Trinity as its proper day”.[1] At the end of Holy Mass, there is often a procession of the Blessed Sacrament, generally displayed in a monstrance. The procession is followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

A notable Eucharistic procession is that presided over by the Pope each year in Rome, where it begins at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran and makes its way to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where it concludes with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Contents

History

Corpus Christi procession in Łowicz, Poland, 2007

Corpus Christi procession in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, 2007

The institution of Corpus Christi as a feast in the Christian calendar resulted from approximately forty years of work on the part of Juliana of Liège, a 13th-century religious woman from an unrecognized religious order. Orphaned and placed in a convent at an early age, Juliana developed a special veneration for the Blessed Sacrament, and always longed for a feast day outside of Lent in its honour. Her vita reports that this desire was enhanced by a vision of the Church under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which signified the absence of such a solemnity.[2][3] In 1208, she reported her first vision of Christ in which she was instructed to plead for the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi. The vision was repeated for the next 20 years but she kept it a secret. When she eventually relayed it to her confessor, he relayed it to the bishop.[4]

Juliana also petitioned the learned Dominican Hugh of St-Cher, Jacques Pantaléon (Archdeacon of Liège who later became Pope Urban IV) and Robert de Thorete, Bishop of Liège. At that time bishops could order feasts in their dioceses, so in 1246 Bishop Robert convened a synod and ordered a celebration of Corpus Christi to be held each year thereafter.[5]

The celebration of Corpus Christi became widespread only after both St. Juliana and Bishop Robert de Thorete had died. In 1264 Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull Transiturus de hoc mundo in which Corpus Christi was made a feast throughout the entire Latin Rite.[6] The legend that this act was inspired by a procession to Orvieto after a village priest in Bolsena and his congregation witnessed a Eucharistic miracle of a bleeding consecrated host at Bolsena has been called into question by scholars who note problems in the dating of the alleged miracle, whose tradition begins in the 14th century, and the interests of Urban IV, which was initiated while he served as Archdeacon in Liege in the 1240s. This was the first papally imposed universal feast for the Latin Rite.[7]

While the institution of the Eucharist is celebrated on Holy (Maundy) Thursday, the liturgy on that day also commemorates Christ’s New Commandment (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you.” John 13:34

), the washing of the disciples’ feet, the institution of the priesthood and the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. For this reason, the Feast of Corpus Christi was established to create a feast focused solely on the Holy Eucharist.

Three versions of the office for the feast of Corpus Christi in extant manuscripts provide evidence for the Liege origins and “voice” of Juliana in an “original office”, which was followed by two later versions of the office. A highly sophisticated and polished version can be found in BNF 1143, a musical manuscript devoted entirely to the feast, upon which there is wide scholarly agreement: The version in BNF 1143 is a revision of an earlier version found in Prague, Abbey of Strahov MS D.E.I. 7 and represents the work of St. Thomas Aquinas following or during his residency at Orvieto from 1259 to 1265. This liturgy may be used as a votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament on weekdays in ordinary time.[8] The hymn Aquinas composed for Vespers of Corpus Christi, Pange Lingua or another eucharistic hymn, is also used on Holy (Maundy) Thursday during the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose.[9] The last two verses of Pange Lingua are also used as a separate hymn, Tantum Ergo, which is sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. O Salutaris Hostia, another hymn sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, comprises the last two verses of Verbum Supernum Prodiens, Aquinas’ hymn for Lauds of Corpus Christi. Aquinas also composed the propers for the Mass of Corpus Christi, including the sequence Lauda Sion Salvatorem. The epistle reading for the Mass was taken from Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:23-29

), and the Gospel reading was taken from the Gospel of John (John 6:56-59).

When Pope Pius V revised the General Roman Calendar (see Tridentine Calendar), Corpus Christi was one of only two “feasts of devotion” that he kept, the other being Trinity Sunday.[10]

The feast had an octave until 1955, when Pope Pius XII suppressed all octaves, even in local calendars, except those of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost (see General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII).

From 1849 until 1969 a separate Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ was assigned originally to the first Sunday in July, later to the first day of the month. This feast was removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969, “because the Most Precious Blood of Christ the Redeemer is already venerated in the solemnities of the Passion, of Corpus Christi and of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and in the feast of the Exaltaton of the Holy Cross. But the Mass of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ is placed among the votive Masses”.[11]

Silver-gilt Corpus Christi monstrance of Toledo, Spain

Celebration

Corpus Christi is primarily celebrated by the Catholic Church, but it is also included in the calendar of a few Anglican churches, most notably the Church of England. The feast is also celebrated by some Anglo-Catholic parishes even in provinces of the Anglican Communion that do not officially include it in their calendars. McCausland’s Order of Divine Service, the most commonly used ordo in the Anglican Church of Canada, provides lections for the day. As stated above, in the Roman Catholic Church the celebration is designated The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). In the Church of England it is known as The Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion (Corpus Christi) and has the status of a Festival. Although its observance is optional, where kept, it is typically celebrated as a major holy day. It is also celebrated by the Old Catholic Church, the Liberal Catholic Church and by some Western Rite Orthodox Christians, and is commemorated in the liturgical calendars of the more Latinized Eastern Catholic Churches. The feast was retained in the calendars of the Lutheran Church up until about 1600,[12] but continues to be celebrated by some Lutheran congregations.

In medieval times in many parts of Europe Corpus Christi was a time for the performance of mystery plays. In Catalonia it is celebrated with the tradition of the Dancing egg, with evidence from the 16th century.

In the village of Castrillo de Murcia near Burgos, the celebration includes the practice of El Colacho (baby jumping).

Date

Corpus Christi procession in Poznań, Poland, 2004

Corpus Christi procession by ships on the Rhine called “Mülheimer Gottestracht” in Cologne, Germany, 2005

The Feast of Corpus Christi, which is a moveable feast, is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday or, in countries where it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, on the Sunday after Holy Trinity.

The earliest possible Thursday celebration falls on 21 May (as in 1818 and 2285), the latest on 24 June (as in 1943 and 2038). The Sunday celebrations occur three days later.

The Thursday dates until 2022 are:

  • 30 May 2013
  • 19 June 2014
  • 4 June 2015
  • 26 May 2016
  • 15 June 2017
  • 31 May 2018
  • 20 June 2019
  • 11 June 2020
  • 3 June 2021
  • 16 June 2022

Corpus Christi is a public holiday in some countries with a predominantly Catholic population including, amongst others, Austria, Brazil, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, East Timor, parts of Germany, Liechtenstein, Panama, Peru, Poland, San Marino, parts of Spain and Switzerland, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.

Corpus Christi celebrations in Antigua Guatemala, 1979

References

  1. ^ a b Sanctissimi Corpus et Sanguis Christi. Roman Missal, 2011 Latin to English translation
  2. ^ Catholic encyclopedia
  3. ^ “Vie de Sainte Julienne de Cornillon” by J.P. Delville, Published by the Institute of Medieval Studies at the Catholic University at Louvain pp. 120-123
  4. ^ Phyllis Jestice, Holy people of the world Published by ABC-CLIO, 2004 ISBN 1-57607-355-6 page 457
  5. ^ The decree is preserved in Anton Joseph Binterim, Vorzüglichsten Denkwürdigkeiten der Christkatholischen Kirche (Mainz, 1825-41), together with parts of the first liturgy written for the occasion.
  6. ^ The Feast of Corpus Christi By Barbara R. Walters, Published by Penn State Press, 2007 ISBN 0-271-02924-2 page 12
  7. ^ Oxford History of Christian Worship By Geoffrey Wainwright, Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 0-19-513886-4, page 248
  8. ^ General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 375
  9. ^ Roman Missal, Mass of the Lord’s Supper, 38
  10. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 66
  11. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 128]
  12. ^ Frank Senn: Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical, Fortress Press, 1997. p. 344. ISBN 0-8006-2726-1

External links