Corpus Christi Sunday, which this year falls on 29 May, celebrates the gift of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, under the appearances of bread and wine.
It has a particular significance this year, which Pope John Paul II dedicated to the Blessed Eucharist and which was the subject of one of his last encyclical letters, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (The Church from the Eucharist). In that letter, the Pope said that in this sacrament, Christ's promise, "I am with you always, to the end of time" is made literally true. In beautiful words, the Holy Father explained how the Mass "unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation.
"He, the Eternal High Priest who by the blood of his Cross entered the eternal sanctuary, thus gives back to the Creator and Father all creation redeemed ... Truly this is the mystery of faith which is accomplished in the Eucharist: the world which came forth from the hands of God the Creator now returns to him, redeemed by Christ."
We participate in this mystery, as the Second Vatican Council said, by offering the divine victim to God, and offering ourselves along with it, making the Mass "the source and summit of the Christian life."
While welcoming "positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love", John Paul II warned that "in some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet."
On this Feast Day, we are reminded of the wonderful gift Jesus left us, and are invited to celebrate it with love and reverence, as Christians have since the Apostles were on earth.
Peter Westmore is Publisher of AD2000.