Really Celebrating the Presence of Christ

Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi, the Latin name by which it is still known to many. Some parishes will mark the day by holding Exposition and Benediction, but there is much more to the feast than passive adoration of the Body of Christ in the Reserved Sacrament.

While he was on earth, Jesus brought the Good News of his Father’s love to all and showed everyone how they ‘might have life and have it to the full’. Christ began the Christian story and, by calling us friends, invites us to continue the story.

Celebrating the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ challenges us to recapture the true meaning of the feast – that we are the Body of Christ. Jesus is the Body of Christ in the Eucharist so that we might be the Body of Christ in our world.

Just as Jesus nourishes us with his body and blood in the Eucharist, we are to nourish the world with our presence, with our body and blood. The Real Presence in the Eucharist is not an end in itself, but exists to make us the Real Presence in the world. If that connection is broken, we end up with an empty piety.

Whoever embraces the Real Presence automatically takes on the challenge to become the Real Presence for others and commit themselves to the works of Christ. The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ celebrates that full reality. Christ is the Real Presence inviting us to become the Real Presence. This is true for every Christian, from every part of the globe, from every culture and way of life. We are a worldwide Corpus Christi, carrying out Christ’s mission. We place ourselves at the service of Jesus that he might use our lives and our talents, with all those who constitute his Body, in the service of the Kingdom of God.

The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ reminds us that we are not alone in this. We gather with our fellow parishioners and others around the world to listen to the same scriptures being proclaimed and to break the same bread. Through Baptism, we are in solidarity with all who are the Body of Christ.

This solemnity is a celebration not just of the Real Presence but of the active Presence that we, nourished by the Eucharist, show to others as the Body of Christ. We are here to break bread. We are here to be broken as bread in service.

So when it comes down to it, the Real Presence is wherever we, nourished by the Real Presence, do the works of Jesus. This is what the feast is all about. While the Collect for today unfortunately does not capture this outward aspect, it is reflected in the second of the two Prefaces set down for the feast:

Nourishing your faithful by this sacred mystery,
you make them holy, so that the human race,
bounded by one world,
may be enlightened by one faith
and united by one bond of charity. (PREFACE II OF THE MOST HOLY EUCHARIST)

Elizabeth Harrington