1 Cor. 10:1-4, 16-17
“Blessed, praised, hallowed and adored be our Lord Jesus Christ on his throne of glory in heaven, in the most Holy Sacrament of the altar, and in the hearts of all his faithful people.” So goes a prayer said by some priests when they return to the sacristy after a Eucharist.
Today we celebrate “The Body and Blood of Christ”, or “Corpus Christi”. It’s a feast added to the calendar in the 13th century as a way to celebrate the institution of the Eucharist outside Holy Week. Maundy Thursday, of course, celebrates the institution of the Eucharist, but there’s so much going on otherwise that day that it was felt we needed another occasion to commemorate this event and in a more festive way than is possible in the shadows of the Passion.
Corpus Christi is a feast that has drawn to it lots of popular devotions. Great processions of the consecrated host became popular in the Middle Ages and continue to this day. Martin Luther, not surprisingly, disdained the whole business and decried what he called the “cosmetics and false holiness” of the processions—most likely referring to the sumptuous vestments and canopies and the elaborate jeweled monstrances used to carry the host.
And, especially in the Mediterranean countries, practices have accrued that are questionably Christian in nature. In a village near Burgos, Spain, for example, part of the Corpus Christi festivities is “baby jumping”, or El Colacho. Babies born within the previous twelve months are put on mattresses in the middle of the street and men in devil costumes jump over them. And in Catalonia there is the tradition of the “dancing egg”: eggs emptied and refilled with wax are balanced on the upright jets of fountains.
Processions, canopies, monstrances, baby jumping, dancing eggs: it all sounds like good fun to me—and why not? We all have our strategies of evasion of the deeper truths of the Body and Blood of Christ—and of the ethical implications. “Blessed, praised, hallowed and adored be our Lord Jesus Christ on his throne of glory in heaven, in the most Holy Sacrament of the altar, and in the hearts of all his faithful people.” Christ glorified in heaven, Christ glorified in the Sacrament, Christ glorified in human hearts. And, yet, not three Christs glorified, but one Christ glorified—Christ’s glories are one and indivisible, co-equal and co-eternal. None exists separately from the other.
The Body and Blood of Christ in heaven, in the consecrated bread and wine and in human hearts is one and the same. We expose our blindness when we perform reverences before altars, tabernacles, monstrances and such and fail to see and honor Christ present in our neighbor. The same reverence is due them. And didn’t Christ himself on that last night also genuflect before them and wash their feet?
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