The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) is an important occasion in the Church’s year: indeed along with Holy Week, Easter, Christmas and Pentecost, Canon Law requires that a bishop may not be absent from his diocese for this Solemnity except for grave or urgent reason. The establishment of the Solemnity in the calendar is due to the devotion of St Juliana of Liège, a Norbertine canoness who in the early part of the thirteenth century was part of a group of women who lived together in community in Liège and devoted themselves to charitable works and Eucharistic worship. Juliana received frequent visions in which the Lord asked her to plead for the institution of a feast throughout the Church. Her prayers were answered when the Archdeacon of Liège subsequently was elected Pope Urban IV. His Papal Bull Transiturus de hoc mundo (1264) instituted the feast of Corpus Christi; this was the very first universal feast of the Latin Rite to be instituted by a Pope. St Thomas Aquinas was a significant contributor to the Bull and composed for the feast the Pange Lingua (traditionally sung to accompany the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose on Maundy Thurday, including the famous verses Tantum Ergo Sacramentum, also used at Benediction).
A special joy for us around this time has been to see our children receiving their first Holy Communions. Their excitement and prayerfulness reminds us never to take the Eucharist for granted and to give thanks to the Lord for this most holy and precious gift which feeds and strengthens us and, as Jesus himself promised, gives us eternal life.
“On the night of that Last Supper, seated with His chosen band, He, the Paschal Victim eating, first fulfils the Law’s command; then as food to all his brethren gives Himself with His own hand.” (Aquinas)