Corpus Christi are two Latin words that mean The Body of Christ. This feast day is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. It is believed that this feast originated with St Juliana, a nun of Liège, Belgium. She had a strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and longed for a feast in honour of The Eucharist. She petitioned the Archdeacon of Liege, who later became Pope Urban IV and also Bishop Robert de Thorete also of Liège to institute such a feast and her request was granted.
The celebration of this feast day was started in France in the thirteenth century because at that time there was a denial that the bread and wine actually became the Body and Blood of Jesus at the consecration. Just as Holy Thursday reminds us that Jesus gave us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, Corpus Christi reminds us that Jesus is here really present in the Eucharist.
The liturgical colour for that day is white. St Thomas Aquinas composed many of the hymns associated with Corpus Christi. The feast is celebrated with processions in many parishes throughout the world. These public demonstrations proclaim our faith and tell the world that Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It is a powerful sign of the people of God in an earthly pilgrimage. This is our pilgrim faith witnessing before the world that Christ is with us in the Eucharist as food for our journey. We celebrate this in prayer and song.
Christ’s real presence must not only be acknowledged in the host but also in the gathered pilgrims – The People of God. There is a connection between Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi. Holy Thursday is when Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist when He took bread, blessed it and said: “This is my Body take and eat.” He took wine blessed it and said: “This is my Blood, take and drink”. Corpus Christi is public acknowledgement of Christ’s real presence – Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
Corpus Christi is primarily celebrated by the Catholic Church but it is also included in the calendar of some Anglican Churches. Some Orthodox Christians and Lutheran Churches also celebrate it. This feast day is a public holiday in Trinidad and Tobago and other countries such as Grenada, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Panama and many others. This public holiday gives us the time and the opportunity to participate in the public processions in our parish or in the major one held in Port of Spain. At the end of the procession, Benediction is held. This day is also a Holy Day of Obligation when we must all participate in the celebration of Holy Mass.
Since there is a great deal of rainfall around the time of Corpus Christi, gardeners in Trinidad and Tobago consider the day to be good for planting as it is believed that anything planted on this day will thrive. Some farmers even carry their seeds to Church services for blessing.
Corpus Christi reminds us that Jesus, present in the Eucharist is nourishment for our souls while farmers and other planters ensure that our bodies are also nourished.
The feast of Corpus Christi this year will be celebrated on Thursday, June 23. – Ruby Nelson for Archdiocesan Catechetical Office