Weekend Reflections for June 8, 2018
Reflection For the Body of Christ
On June 3 we celebrated the feast of the Body of Christ (Corpus Christi). This is a delayed reflection on that feast day.
The Corpus Christi celebration grew out of the reaction of the people of God and the Church to an erroneous teaching that had its origins in the 13th century. This false teaching denied the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and instead said that the consecrated host was only a symbol of Jesus’ presence. This teaching was soon condemned by the church, but reaction to it planted the seeds for the development over the centuries of many modern-day Eucharistic practices, such as processions of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, 40 hours devotion, perpetual adoration.
Absent these practices one might wonder how the Christians in the first 1200 years of Christianity perceived and incorporated the Eucharist into of their faith life.
There was little or no question in the minds of the early Christians concerning the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic. But they also took very seriously how Christ was present to them. Through baptism they had become temples of the Holy Spirit. So St. Paul (I Corinthians 12, 27) would not hesitate to refer to the Christian believers as the body of Christ. The early Christians were also very conscious of Jesus desire to be the food and drink, that is, the nourishment for the believers’ (our) faith journey.
St. Augustine’s awareness of Christ presence to each Christian and they’re being the body of Christ led him to preach:
So if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the apostle telling the faithful, “You, though, are the body of Christ and its members” (1 Cor. 12:27). So if it is you that are the body of Christ and its members, it is the mystery meaning you that has been placed on the Lord’s table; what you receive is the mystery that means you. It is to what you are that you reply Amen, and by so replying you express your assent. What you hear, you see, is The body of Christ, and you answer, Amen. So be a member of the body of Christ, in order to make that Amen true.
Seeing themselves as the body of Christ, how did the early church understand the Eucharist. As the quote from Augustine above indicates the Eucharist was the sign signifying that they were in fact the body of Christ. It was for this reason that in the early church they would sometimes refer to the sacramental Eucharist as the mystical body of Christ.
The feast of Corpus Christi celebrates the incredible gift of himself Christ has bestowed on us. In doing this he has enabled us to be his presence in our world today. In the words of the Benediction hymn, Tantum Ergo, composed by St. Thomas, we sing and pray “Humbly let us voice our homage for so great a sacrament.” And may we ever more appreciate Christs great gift of himself to us.
Jim Blumeyer, S.J.