Saturday, June 13, 2009

O Sacrum Convivium--The Summit of our Catholic Identity

O Sacred Banquet, in which Christ becomes our food
the memory of His passion is celebrated
the soul is filled with grace
and a pledge of future glory is given to us

The Feast of Corpus Christ--Body and Blood of Christ

A Belgian Augustinian nun had a deep devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and after having a vision of the moon with a dark spot, she petitioned her bishop and later the pope to establish a feast in honor of her devotion. Thus St. Juliana helped fill the void (dark spot) in the liturgical life of the Church when Pope Urban IV issued the Bull, Transiturus, extending the feast to the Church Universal in 1264. At the request of Pope Urban, the Angelic Doctor himself, Saint Thomas Aquinas, OP, composed arguably the most beautiful body of prayer, text, hymns and chants in the Roman Breviary. You may recognize the Tantum Ergo, Pange Lingua, O Salutaris Hostia and the most beautiful of sequences, Lauda Sion, all composed by St. Thomas for this feast. Below is from this morning's Office of Readings and is a rich theolgical tract, albeit brief and concise and fairly 'accessible'.

From a work by Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest
(Opusculum 57, in festo Corporis Christi, lect. 1-4)

Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods. Moreover, when he took our flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation. He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin. But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us forever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.

O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.

It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfillment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.

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