Corpus Christi (feast)


Corpus Christi (feast)
Corpus Christi procession (painting by Carl Emil Doepler)

Corpus Christi (Latin for Body of Christ) is a Latin Rite solemnity, now designated the solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi).[1] It is also celebrated in some Anglican, Lutheran and Old Catholic Churches. Like Trinity Sunday and the Solemnity of Christ the King, it does not commemorate a particular event in Jesus' life. Instead it celebrates the Body and Blood of Christ really present in the Eucharist. Its date is the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, but "where the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is not a Holyday of Obligation, it is assigned to the Sunday after the Most Holy Trinity as its proper day".[1]

At the end of the Mass, it is customary ìn many places to have a procession of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Contents

History

Corpus Christi procession in Łowicz, Poland, 2007
Corpus Christi procession in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, 2007

The appearance of Corpus Christi as a feast in the Christian calendar was primarily due to the petitions of the thirteenth-century Augustinian nun Juliana of Liège. From her early youth Juliana had a veneration for the Blessed Sacrament, and always longed for a special feast in its honour. This desire is said to have been increased by a vision of the Church under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which signified the absence of such a solemnity.[2] In 1208 she reported her first vision of Christ in which she was instructed to plead for the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi. The vision was repeated for the next 20 years but she kept it a secret. When she eventually relayed it to her confessor, he relayed it to the bishop.[3]

Juliana also petitioned the learned Dominican Hugh of St-Cher, Jacques Pantaléon (Archdeacon of Liège who later became Pope Urban IV) and Robert de Thorete, Bishop of Liège. At that time bishops could order feasts in their dioceses, so in 1246 Bishop Robert convened a synod and ordered a celebration of Corpus Christi to be held each year thereafter.[4]

The celebration of Corpus Christi became widespread only after both St. Juliana and Bishop Robert de Thorete had died. In 1263 Pope Urban IV investigated claims of a Eucharistic miracle at Bolsena, in which a consecrated host began to bleed. In 1264 he issued the papal bull Transiturus de hoc mundo in which Corpus Christi was made a feast throughout the entire Latin Rite.[5] This was the very first papally sanctioned universal feast in the history of the Latin Rite.[6]

While the institution of the Eucharist is celebrated on Holy (Maundy) Thursday, the liturgy on that day also commemorates Christ's New Commandment ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you." John 13:34), the washing of the disciples' feet, the institution of the priesthood and the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. For this reason, the Feast of Corpus Christi was established to create a feast focused solely on the Holy Eucharist.

A new liturgy for the feast was composed by St. Thomas Aquinas. This liturgy is used as a votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament even on days of the liturgical year other than that of the solemnity. The hymn Aquinas composed for Vespers of Corpus Christi, Pange Lingua, is also used on Holy (Maundy) Thursday during the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose. The last two verses of Pange Lingua are also used as a separate hymn, Tantum Ergo, which is sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. O Salutaris Hostia, another hymn sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, comprises the last two verses of Verbum Supernum Prodiens, Aquinas' hymn for Lauds of Corpus Christi. Aquinas also composed the propers for the Mass of Corpus Christi, including the sequence Lauda Sion Salvatorem. The epistle reading for the Mass was taken from Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:23-29), and the Gospel reading was taken from the Gospel of John (John 6:56-59).

When Pope Pius V revised the General Roman Calendar (see Tridentine Calendar), Corpus Christi was one of only two "feasts of devotion" that he kept, the other being Trinity Sunday.[7]

The feast had an octave until 1955, shen Pope Pius XII suppressed all octaves, even in local calendars, except those of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost (see General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII).

From 1849 until 1969 a separate Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ was assigned originally to the first Sunday in July, later to the first day of the month. This feast was removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969, "because the Most Precious Blood of Christ the Redeemer is already venerated in the solemnities of the Passion, of Corpus Christi and of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and in the feast of the Exaltaton of the Holy Cross. But the Mass of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ is placed among the votive Masses".[8]

Silver-gilt Corpus Christi monstrance of Toledo, Spain

Celebration

Corpus Christi is primarily celebrated by the Catholic Church, but it is also included in the calendar of a few Anglican churches, most notably the Church of England. The feast is also celebrated by some Anglo-Catholic parishes even in provinces of the Anglican Communion that do not officially include it in their calendars. McCausland's Order of Divine Service, the most commonly used ordo in the Anglican Church of Canada, provides lections for the day. As stated above, in the Roman Catholic Church the celebration is designated The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). In the Church of England it is known as The Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion (Corpus Christi) and has the status of a Festival. Although its observance is optional, where kept, it is typically celebrated as a major holy day. It is also celebrated by the Old Catholic Church and by some Western Rite Orthodox Christians, and is commemorated in the liturgical calendars of the more Latinized Eastern Catholic Churches. The feast was retained in the calendars of the Lutheran Church up until about 1600,[9] but continues to be celebrated by some Lutheran congregations.

In medieval times in many parts of Europe Corpus Christi was a time for the performance of mystery plays. In Catalonia it is celebrated with the tradition of the Dancing egg, with evidence from the 16th century.

Date

Corpus Christi procession in Poznań, Poland, 2004
Corpus Christi procession by ships on the Rhine called "Mülheimer Gottestracht" in Cologne, Germany, 2005

The Feast of Corpus Christi, which is a moveable feast, is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday or, in countries where it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, on the Sunday after Holy Trinity.

The earliest possible Thursday celebration falls on 21 May (as in 1818 and 2285), the latest on 24 June (as in 1943 and 2038). The Sunday celebrations occur three days later.

The Thursday dates until 2022 are:

  • 7 June 2012
  • 30 May 2013
  • 19 June 2014
  • 4 June 2015
  • 26 May 2016
  • 15 June 2017
  • 31 May 2018
  • 20 June 2019
  • 11 June 2020
  • 3 June 2021
  • 16 June 2022

Corpus Christi is a public holiday in some traditionally Roman Catholic countries including amongst others Austria, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, East Timor, parts of Germany, Liechtenstein, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, parts of Spain and Switzerland, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.

Corpus Christi celebrations in Antigua Guatemala, 1979

References

  1. ^ a b Roman Missal, 2011 English translation
  2. ^ Catholic encyclopedia
  3. ^ Phyllis Jestice, Holy people of the world Published by ABC-CLIO, 2004 ISBN 1576073556 page 457
  4. ^ The decree is preserved in Anton Joseph Binterim, Vorzüglichsten Denkwürdigkeiten der Christkatholischen Kirche (Mainz, 1825-41), together with parts of the first liturgy written for the occasion.
  5. ^ The Feast of Corpus Christi By Barbara R. Walters, Published by Penn State Press, 2007 ISBN 0271029242 page 12
  6. ^ Oxford history of Christian worship By Geoffrey Wainwright, Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 0195138864, page 248
  7. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 66
  8. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 128]
  9. ^ Frank Senn: Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical, Fortress Press, 1997. p. 344. ISBN 0800627261

External links


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