“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (Jn 6:51)
Today is the solemn feast of Corpus Christi, or the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We ought to celebrate it with an especial glorification in appreciation of our communal homecoming to the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist after an absence of a few months. Hopefully this absence has magnified our devotion to this precious divine gift, a devotion which just a few months ago had been shown to be severely deficient.
As we recall, not long before the COVID-19 virus hit we were talking about recent polling showing that many Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. This was disturbing enough to prompt some bishops and priests to put forth letters and instructions that in Holy Communion we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Then the virus hit. The pandemic gained the greatest attention in the Church while the theme of the Holy Eucharist was shelved again as Our Lord became unobtainable not due to any shortage of wheat.
On this feast day we do well to consider the proximity of two Eucharistic occurrences: first, statistical proof that faith in the Holy Eucharist has greatly diminished and second, that this same Holy Eucharist became inaccessible to the faithful.
Now when one occurrence follows upon another, this does not mean that one caused the other. We cannot say with certainty that God withdrew the Holy Eucharist from us as a consequence of our lack of communal faith. However, we cannot wholly discount this either. Nor do we mean to suggest that God sent a deadly virus only to remind us of his Real Eucharistic Presence. Yet, even through a very physical event such as a deadly pandemic, God will inject his own spiritual meaning into the Church. As men we felt deeply the restrictions of the pandemic; as churchmen we felt intensely the withholding of the Blessed Sacrament. As we emerge from these constraints have we grown in our devotion to the Real Presence? Have we come to understand that it is the Holy Eucharist that binds us in faith not only as a sign but as a supernatural grace in the very Divine Person whose Body and Blood we must worthily consume? Do we now realize that we gather on Sunday and everyday to partake in Christ and not merely in some prayed-over bread?
On this Feast of Corpus Christi we place on our bulletin cover a detail of a work by the French realist James Tissot entitled The Communion of the Apostles (1894 – Brooklyn Museum). Tissot was influenced by Degas and Manet although Tissot never fully transitioned to Impressionism, keeping one individualized foot in the realm of romantic realism.
Here we have a work reminiscent of the earth tones of Rembrandt which lend a somber solemnity to its telling. Christ appears as a “priest of Melchizedek” wearing a humeral veil held aside reverently by Saints Peter and John. This is a very liturgical piece so that even the table appears as an altar rail. Jesus distributes Holy Communion indicating that this is His Body while the Apostles kneel in worship. The thirteenth figure kneeling with face unseen must be our Blessed Mother.
Let us likewise adore Jesus in His most Blessed Sacrament.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services