The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of The Body and Blood of Christ. The most logical day to commemorate the presence of Christ’s body and blood in the eucharist might seem to be Holy Thursday, the day on which the eucharist was instituted. Holy Thursday, however, is part of the Easter Triduum and the focus for the liturgy on that day is not on the institution of the eucharist, or even of the priesthood, but on the passion.
The Thursday after Trinity Sunday – the first ‘free’ Thursday (at the time) after the Easter season - was chosen for the celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi, as it was originally known. In countries like Australia where it is not observed as a holy day of obligation, it is assigned to the Sunday after Trinity Sunday.
The feast arose in thirteenth century Belgium in response to debates about the real presence and as a result of an upsurge in eucharistic piety. Its extension to the entire Western Church was decreed by Urban IV in 1264.
When the liturgical calendar was reformed in 1969, the old observances of Corpus Christi and the Precious Blood (on July 1) were combined into a solemnity which celebrates the Lord’s abiding presence with us in the gift of the eucharist.
Prefaces of the Holy Eucharist I and II are to be used in Masses today. The second of these focuses on the impact of the eucharist on our lives, especially its unifying effect:”In this great sacrament you feed your peopleand strengthen them in holiness,so that the family of mankind may come to walk in the light of one faith,in one communion of love.We come then to this wonderful sacramentto be fed at your table and grow into the likeness of the risen Christ.”
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal 2000 says that the homily ” should develop some point of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Mass of the day and take into account the mystery being celebrated” (#65). Occasions such as today’s feast offer presiders the opportunity to preach on the theology of the real presence, the meaning of our participation in the eucharist, and the significance of receiving communion under the form of both bread and wine.
When we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, we ourselves are transformed more perfectly into the presence of the risen Christ. This is Christ’s gift to us, but it is also a challenge, because it calls us in turn to give our own body and blood to others so that they too might be nourished.
In my column on 16 May, I said that people looking for liturgical information on the web would find that the Bulletin Bonanza site well worth a visit. I have since been informed that Fr Lonsdale who published the site died recently and the site is no longer operational. Some of the articles can be found on and on the Resources for Catholic Educators web site.

Elizabeth Harrington