About the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Origins of Corpus Christ

It all began with a humble nun in Belgium, Saint Juliana (1258). She was the Prioress of Mont Cornillon, from the age of sixteen years, she had often received a strange vision during her prayers. In it she saw the full moon appeared to her in brilliant light, while a part of its disc remained black and lightless. Finally, in her vision, Christ himself explained to her that the moon represented the ecclesiastical year; the black spot indicated the absence of a festival to honour Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Thus, she was to announce that God wished the authorities of the Church to establish such a feast.

Why was this necessary?

Given the sombre mood of Maundy Thursday, the day on which the Church commemorates the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, it was impossible to celebrate with great festivity and give due honour to the Blessed Sacrament with appropriate solemnity and joyful rites.

When was Corpus Christi recognised?

In 1230 Juliana after communicated her secret to a small group of learned theologians and the Bishop of her diocese of Liége, a diocesan synod in 1246 decided in her favour and prescribed such a feast for the Churches of Liége. This same Bishop was later elected as Pope Urban IV. In 1264, he instituted the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (also known as Corpus Christi), as a universal feast for the Church and affirmed the authenticity of St. Juliana’s mystical visions. The Pope proclaimed, “Although the Eucharist is celebrated solemnly every day, we deem it fitting that at least once a year it be celebrated with greater honour and a solemn commemoration.”

At the same time Pope Urban commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas, to compose the text for the Liturgical Office for this new feast. From this emerged one of the most beloved of hymns the Pange Lingua. One would recognize some of the final stanzas of this most beloved ancient hymn, treasured throughout the Church and sung at every Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament: : (Down in adoration falling, This great sacrament we hail…)

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, let us with joy in our hearts, thank the Lord for this beautiful Sacrament, which brings us so much love, mercy and consolation. At the same time in expressing our great devotion and love to our Eucharistic Lord, Let us offer prayers and sacrifices in reparation for the sacrileges committed against the Most Holy Eucharist. And Let us come before the Lord in humble adoration and “taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (Ps 34:8)

Written by Fr Ignatius Yeo, Parish Priest