Friday, June 12, 2009

The Body and Blood of Christ

(Corpus Christi, B)

Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, more commonly known as Corpus Christi. This day is traditionally observed on the second Thursday after Easter, sixty days after Holy Thursday, in order to make the connection with the institution of the Eucharist at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. But, as seems to be the sometimes unfortunate trend, our great moveable feasts migrate to the nearest Sunday. In any case, however, today is a day set aside to reflect on, appreciate, explore, and worship the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Here at Holy Mass we stand and kneel before, and even receive into our bodies, the true and real Body of Christ. This is Christ’s great gift to us, and it’s worth our attention and prayer.

When we talk about the Body of Christ, we mean first of all the historical, human body of Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Word of God made flesh. His human body and human soul were perfectly joined to the divine life of second Person of the Blessed Trinity, breathed forth from the Father from all eternity. We know from our most basic confession as Christians that the destiny of his human body was to be broken as a sacrifice on the Cross. But we also know that the breaking of his body and the extinguishing of his human life were not the end of the story. The same Body of Christ returned from the dead in the revelation of the Resurrection. The Scriptures are pretty insistent on this point: the historical, human body of Jesus of Nazareth is continuous with the Risen Body of the Resurrected Christ.

The Eucharist fits into this through its institution at the Last Supper. As we hear in the gospel today, on the eve of his Passion and death, Jesus identified his own body, soon to be broken in sacrifice, and his own blood, soon to be poured out on the Cross, with the bread and wine of that meal. In this, Jesus establishes both an eternal commemoration of his own self-sacrifice, and passes his own Presence as Risen Lord into our offering of that same commemoration. This is the mystery of the Eucharist for us: The Real Presence of the Resurrected Jesus, which we know is continuous with the physical body of the Incarnate Son of God, has passed into the consecrated bread and wine of Holy Mass.

In the Eucharist we see and touch Jesus risen from the dead just as the disciples did when the Resurrection was first revealed. And this shouldn’t seem so weird to us, because the wonder of the resurrected Jesus—which we have contemplated through this past Easter season—is the same as the wonder of the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. For example, we know from the Scriptures that the risen Jesus had a body that could be touched, and yet he also appeared in locked rooms and does not seem to have been confined by space and time. And so it is with the Most Blessed Sacrament: it is the Real Presence of Christ, but it is a Presence not limited in location. The risen Jesus, though it was really the same Jesus the disciples had known in his earthly life, was sometimes not immediately recognizable. Remember how Mary Magdalene didn’t know who he was until he called her by name? She thought he was the gardener! So it is with the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Jesus is truly risen into the bread and wine we offer, and his Real Presence abides in them for our worship, but this isn’t something we can see with our physical eyes. We see the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist with our spiritual eyes. As with Mary, these eyes are opened when the Lord calls us by name through prayer. So let us always be praying in the Presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament, that the Lord may open our eyes to see him among us.

1 comment:

pennyante said...

...and they recognized him in the breaking of the bread...

I love the Emmaus story... A Eucharistic moment...