Thursday, 23 June 2011

Feast of Corpus Christi

Today is (in the Extraordinary Form at least) the feast of Corpus Christi, one of the great feasts introduced in the Middle Ages to counter the all too familiar problem of disbelief in the Real Presence. 

Much of the Office for the day was composed by St Thomas Aquinas.  Here is his sermon for the day:

The boundless favors of the divine goodness shown to the Christian people confer an inestimable dignity upon it. For there is not, nor has there been at any time, so wonderful a nation having its gods so near to it as our God is to us. For indeed, the only-begotten Son of God, willing that we should be partakers of His Divinity, has assumed our nature, so that, having been made man, He might make men gods. And still more, that which He has assumed from us He has offered in its entirety for our salvation. For He offered on the altar of the cross His own body as an oblation for our reconciliation; He shed His own blood both as a ransom and as a purifying laver, so that we, being bought back from wretched slavery, might be cleansed from all sin. And in order that the remembrance of such a great gift should remain constantly with us, He left His own body for food and His own blood for drink to be partaken of by the faithful under the species of bread and wine.

O precious and admirable banquet! Life-giving and filled with every sweetness! For what can be more treasured than this banquet? This banquet in which, not the flesh of bullocks and goats— as was formerly in the Law—but Christ, true God, is served to us to be partaken of! What is more marvelous than this Sacrament? For in it bread and wine are converted substantially into the body and blood of Christ; and He, perfect God and man, is contained under the species of a little bread and wine.

He is, consequently, eaten by the faithful, but He is by no means broken into parts; what is more, when the Sacrament is divided, He remains entirely in each particle. Moreover, in the Sacrament the accidents remain without their subject that faith may play its part when the visible is taken invisibly, hidden under a different ex¬terior form (that is, when the body and blood of Christ, which of themselves are visible, are received in the Eucharist under the appearances of bread and wine), and the senses, which judge of accidents known to them, may be rendered free from deception.

Likewise, there is no sacrament more salutary than this by which sins are purged away, virtues increased, and the mind enriched with an abundance of all spiritual charismata. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, that what has been instituted for the salvation of all may be of profit to all. Finally, no one is able to describe the sweetness of this Sacrament by which spiritual sweetness is tasted at its very source, and there is recalled the memory of that supreme charity which Christ displayed during His Passion.

Wherefore, in order that the immensity of this charity might be more deeply fixed in the hearts of the faithful, Christ, when about to pass from this world to the Father, having celebrated the Pasch with His disciples, instituted this Sacrament at the Last Supper as an everlasting remembrance of His Passion, the fulfillment of the ancient types, and the greatest of the miracles worked by Him; and He left it as a special comfort for those who are saddened by His absence.

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