Today is the Feast Day of Corpus Christi. Many reading this may not know what a "Feast Day" is as celebrated and recognized by the Catholic Church, so I'll share with you here from New Advent's Catholic Encyclopedia.
Feast Days, or Holy Days, are days which are celebrated in commemoration of the sacred mysteries and events recorded in the history of our redemption, in memory of the Virgin Mother of Christ, or of His apostles, martyrs, and saints, by special services and rest from work. A feast not only commemorates an event or person, but also serves to excite the spiritual life by reminding us of the event it commemorates. At certain hours Jesus Christ invites us to His vineyard (Matthew 20:1-15); He is born in our hearts at Christmas; on Good Friday we nail ourselves to the cross with Him; at Easter we rise from the tomb of sin; and at Pentecost we receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Every religion has its feasts, but none has such a rich and judiciously constructed system of festive seasons as the Catholic Church. The succession of these seasons form the ecclesiastical year.
The Feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for Body of Christ) 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. -Wikipedia
Catholicism teaches that the Eucharist (in other Christian denominations it's known as "Communion"), is not merely a symbol of Christ and the promise of salvation to do "in remembrance" of Him, but all that and MORE! We believe from scripture that it's TRULY Christ's flesh and blood.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."
John 6: 49-58
I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
The Eucharist, a.k.a Communion, is THE MOST sacred, central and important aspect and principle of the Catholic faith because it joins us with Christ here on earth, and helps us to eternal life.
Now, I know this can be complicated because the bread and wine we eat and drink at Mass is not physically flesh and blood. In its molecular form it's unleavened bread and wine, but a priest has been given the power by God to change the substance of the bread and wine. The change of the substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is called Transubstantiation.
The following is from The Baltimore Catechism.
This change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ continues to be made in the Church by Jesus Christ, through the ministry of His priests.
(a) Only ordained priests have the power of changing bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. When they consecrate, they act in the person of Christ, through the power received in the sacrament of Holy Orders.
354. When did Christ give His priests the power to change bread and wine into His body and blood?
Christ gave His priests the power to change bread and wine into His body and blood when He made the apostles priests at the Last Supper by saying to them: "Do this in remembrance of Me."
355. How do priests exercise their power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ?
Priests exercise their power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ by repeating at the Consecration of the Mass the words of Christ: "This is My body . . . this is the Cup of My blood."
356. Why does Christ give us His own body and blood in the Holy Eucharist?
Christ gives us His own body and blood in the Holy Eucharist: first, to be offered as a sacrifice commemorating and renewing for all time the sacrifice of the cross; second, to be received by the faithful in Holy Communion; third, to remain ever on our altars as the proof of His love for us, and to be worshipped by us.
Taken from The Baltimore Catechism, Lesson 26
Full text available, click here.
I plan to write more about the Eucharist, as it's hard to explain it all in one brief post. I'd like to now share part of a conversation I had recently with a dear lady who has left the Catholic Church for Protestantism. She was telling me all about her wonderful bible study programs through her current church and how much she's learned and grown in her faith and relationship with Christ because of them. She mentioned that she didn't get any of that when she was Catholic. I agreed that with the shortage of priests it's hard to find organized, authentic bible studies at every parish, but we're still asked to seek on our own and try to study and learn God's Word (which can be challenging, I know, but it is possible.). Matthew 7:7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
I went on to explain that we can't expect to grow if we're only spoon-fed. In fact, I've found new incite and TRUTHS by delving deep and seeking on my own (along with going to Mass) and truly trying to learn the faith, than just by listening to someone talk about their supposed interpretations of things. I'm closer to God now than I've ever been and it's so invigorating! I shared with her that I've had peaks and valleys in my Catholic faith journey (just as any seeking Christian has) but that the ONE THING that always keeps me coming back for more, and sticking with it, is the Eucharist. There's NO OTHER way to get closer to Christ here on earth than through the Eucharist. She contemplated it for a brief moment and then agreed.
I'm happy that this dear lady has found a way to grow closer to Christ and I pray she'll continue to learn and grow. I pray that perhaps in her studies she'll find her way back to the Church and the Sacraments... for the Catholic Church IS present in the scriptures, and is the Church that Jesus himself began (a topic for a future post).
Blessing to you this Feast of Corpus Christi. May you find total fulfillment in Him!