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SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II

Thursday 14 June 2001 

 

1. "Ecce panis Angelorum, / factus cibus viatorum:  / vere panis filiorum" "Behold the bread of angels, as pilgrims' food inherited, it is the bread of all true heirs" (Sequence).

 

Today the Church shows the world the Corpus Christi - the Body of Christ. And she invites us to adore him:  Venite adoremus - Come let us adore him.

 

The attention of believers is focused on the Sacrament in which Christ has left himself:  Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. It is the reason for considering it as the holiest reality:  "the Blessed Sacrament", living memorial of the redeeming Sacrifice.

 

On the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we return to that "Thursday" which we call "Holy", on which the Redeemer celebrated his last Passover with the disciples:  it was the Last Supper, fulfilling the Jewish passover supper and inaugurating the Eucharistic rite.

 

For this reason, for centuries the Church has chosen Thursday for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, feast of adoration, contemplation and exaltation. On the feast the People of God draw close to the most precious treasure left by Christ, the Sacrament of his own Presence, and they praise, celebrate and carry it in procession through the streets of our cities.

 

2. "Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem!"  "Praise, O Sion, your Redeemer". (Sequence).

 

The new Zion, the spiritual Jerusalem in which God's children are gathered from every nation, language and culture, praises our Saviour with hymns and canticles. Indeed, wonder and gratitude for the gift received are inexhaustible. This gift "exceeds all praise, there is no hymn worthy of it" (ibid.).

It is a sublime and ineffable mystery, a mystery before which we remain astonished and silent, in a state of deep and ecstatic contemplation.

 

3. "Tantum ergo Sacramentum veneremur cernui" "Let us fall down in adoration of so great a sacrament".

 

Christ who died and rose for us is really present in the Holy Eucharist.

 

In the consecrated Bread and Wine, the same Jesus of the Gospels remains with us whom the disciples met and followed, whom they saw crucified and risen, whose wounds Thomas touched, exclaiming prostrate in adoration:  "My Lord and my God!" (John 20,28) (cf. ibid., 17-20).

 

In the Sacrament of the altar, there are offered for our contemplation the full depths of the mystery of Christ, the Word and the flesh, the divine glory and his tent among men. Before this Sacrament, we are sure that God is "with us", that in Jesus Christ he assumed all the dimensions of our human nature, except sin, emptying himself of his glory to clothe us with it (cf. ibid., 21-23).

 

The invisible face of Christ, the Son of God, is manifest in his Body and Blood in the simplest and, at the same time, the most exalted way possible in this world.

 

The ecclesial community responds to people in every age who ask perplexed:  "We wish to see Jesus" (John 12,21), by repeating what the Lord did for the disciples of Emmaus:  He broke the bread. In the breaking of the bread, the eyes of those who seek him with a sincere heart are opened. In the Eucharist, the intuition of the heart recognizes Jesus and his unmistakable love lived "to the end" (John 13,1). And in him, in that gesture, it recognizes the Face of God!

 

4. "Ecce panis Angelorum ... vere panis filiorum"  "The angel's food is given ... see the bread of the sons [of God]".

 

We are nourished with this bread to become authentic witnesses of the Gospel. We need this bread to grow in love, the necessary means for us to recognize the face of Christ in the faces of our brothers and sisters.

 

Our diocesan community has need of the Eucharist in order to continue on the path of missionary renewal on which it has set out. In the last few days the diocesan convention was held, which examined "the perspectives of communion, formation and mission in the Diocese of Rome for the coming years". It is necessary to continue to "set out anew" from Christ, that is, from the Eucharist. Let us walk generously and courageously, seeking communion within our ecclesial community, and lovingly dedicated to humble and disinterested service to all, especially the neediest.

On this journey Jesus goes before us, with the gift of himself to the point of sacrifice and offers himself to us as nourishment and support. Indeed he does not cease to repeat to the Pastors of the People of God in all the ages:  "Give them something to eat" (Luke 9,17); break  this  bread  of  eternal  life  for everyone. A demanding and exalting task. A mission that lasts until the end of time.

 

5. "All ate and were satisfied" (Luke 9,17). The echo of a feast that has gone on without interruption for 2,000 years reaches us through the words of the Gospel we have just heard. A Feast of the people on their way in their exodus from the world, nourished by Christ, the true Bread of salvation.

 

At the end of the Mass we will process in the heart of Rome, carrying the Body of Christ hidden in our hearts and clearly visible in the monstrance. We will accompany the Bread of immortal life through the city streets. We will adore him and around him will be gathered the Church, living monstrance of the Saviour of the world.

 

May Rome's Christians, revived by his Body and Blood, show Christ to everyone through their way of life:  through their unity, their joyful faith and their kindness.

 

May our diocesan community courageously set out anew from Christ, the Bread of immortal life.

And you, Jesus, living Bread who gives life, bread of pilgrims, "may you feed us, may you guard us, may you let us see good things in our homeland eternally". Amen.

 

 

Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homily of Blessed Pope John Paul II, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of Godís encouragements to all of us.     

MASS AND EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION
FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST

HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II

Basilica of St John Lateran
Thursday, 10 June 2004

 

1. "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (I Corinthians 11: 26).

 

With these words St Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth that the "Lord's Supper" is not only a convivial meeting but also, and above all, the memorial of the redeeming sacrifice of Christ. Those who take part in it, the Apostle explains, are united with the mystery of the death of the Lord, and indeed, "proclaim" him.

 

Thus, there is a very close relationship between "building the Eucharist" and proclaiming Christ. At the same time, entering into communion with him in the memorial of Easter also means becoming missionaries of the event which that rite actualizes; in a certain sense, it means making it contemporary with every epoch, until the Lord comes again.

 

2. Dear brothers and sisters, we are reliving this wonderful reality in today's Solemnity of Corpus Christi, during which the Church does not only celebrate the Eucharist but solemnly bears it in procession, publicly proclaiming that the Sacrifice of Christ is for the salvation of the whole world.

 

Grateful for this immense gift, her members gather round the Blessed Sacrament, for that is the source and summit of her being and action. Ecclesia de Eucharistia vivit! The Church draws her life from the Eucharist and knows that this truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery in which she consists (cf. Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucaristia, n. 1).

 

3. Ever since Pentecost, when the Church, the People of the New Covenant, "began her pilgrim journey towards her heavenly homeland, the Divine Sacrament has continued to mark the passing of her days, filling them with confident hope" (ibid.). Thinking precisely of this, I wanted to dedicate the first Encyclical of the new millennium to the Eucharist and I am now pleased to announce a special Year of the Eucharist. It will begin with the World Eucharistic Congress, planned to take place from 10 to 17 October 2004 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and will end with the next Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, that will be held in the Vatican from 2 to 29 October 2005 and whose theme will be: "The Eucharist: source and summit of the life and mission of the Church".

 

Through the Eucharist, the Ecclesial Community is built up as a new Jerusalem, a principle of unity in Christ among different persons and peoples.

 

4. "You give them something to eat" (Luke 9: 13).

 

The Gospel passage we have just heard offers us a vivid image of the close bond that exists between the Eucharist and this universal mission of the Church. Christ, "the living bread which came down from heaven" (John 6: 51; cf. Gospel Acclamation), is the only one who can appease the hunger of human beings of every time and in every corner of the earth.

 

However, he does not want to do this on his own, so he involves the disciples, as he did in the multiplication of the loaves: "Taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd" (Luke 9: 16). This miraculous sign is the symbol of the greatest mystery of love which is renewed every day at Holy Mass: through the ordained ministers, Christ gives his Body and his Blood for the life of humanity. And all those who partake of his Banquet with dignity become living instruments of his presence of love, mercy and peace.

 

5. "Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem!... - Sion, praise the Saviour / your guide, your pastor / with hymns and canticles".

 

With untold emotion, we hear this invitation to praise and joy echoing in our hearts. At the end of Holy Mass we will carry the Divine Sacrament in procession to the Basilica of St Mary Major. Looking at Mary, we will understand better the transforming power that the Eucharist possesses. Listening to her, we will find in the Eucharistic mystery the courage and energy to follow Christ, the Good Shepherd, and to serve him in the brethren.

 

Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homily of Blessed Pope John Paul II, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of Godís encouragements to all of us.   

 

 

  HOLY MASS AND EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION
TO THE BASILICA OF SAINT MARY MAJOR
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square outside the Basilica of Saint John Lateran
Thursday, 3 June 2010

(Video)
Images of the Celebration

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 

The priesthood of the New Testament is closely linked to the Eucharist. For this reason today, on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi and almost at the end of the Year for Priests, we are invited to meditate on the relationship between the Eucharist and the priesthood of Christ. We are also oriented to this direction by the First Reading and the Responsorial Psalm that present Melchizedek. The brief passage from the Book of Genesis (cf. 14: 18-20) says that Melchizedek, King of Salem, was "priest of God Most High" and therefore "brought out bread and wine" and "blessed him [Abram]", who had just returned after winning a battle. Abram himself gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything. In the last verse, the Psalm in turn contains solemn words, sworn by God himself who declares to the Messiah-King: "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Ps 110[109]: 4); thus the Messiah is not only proclaimed King but also Priest. It is from this passage that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews drew for his broad and articulate explanation. And we have re-echoed it in the refrain: "You are a priest for ever" Christ the Lord: almost a profession of faith that acquires special significance on today's Feast. It is the joy of the community, the joy of the whole Church which, in contemplating and adoring the Most Holy Sacrament, recognizes in it the real and permanent presence of Jesus, the Eternal High Priest.

 

The Second Reading and the Gospel focus attention on the Eucharistic mystery instead. From the First Reading of the Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 11: 23-26) is taken the fundamental passage in which St Paul reminds this community of the meaning and value of the "Lord's Supper", which the Apostle had transmitted and taught and which risked being lost. Whereas the Gospel is St Luke's version of the account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes: a sign attested to by all the Evangelists and that foretells the gift that Christ was to make of himself in order to give to all humanity eternal life. Both these texts highlight the prayer of Christ, in the act of breaking bread. There is of course a clear difference between the two moments: when he breaks the loaves and fishes for the crowds, Jesus thanks the heavenly Father for his providence, trusting that he will not let the people go hungry. In the Last Supper, instead, Jesus transforms the bread and wine into his own Body and Blood so that the disciples may be nourished by him and live in close and real communion with him.

 

 

The first thing always to remember is that Jesus was not a priest in accordance with the Jewish tradition. He did not come from a family of priests. He did not belong to the lineage of Aaron but rather that of Judah and was therefore legally barred from taking the path of the priesthood. Jesus of Nazareth himself and his activities do not follow in the wake of the ancient priests but rather in that of the prophets. And in this line Jesus took his distance from the ritual conception of religion, criticizing the structure that gave value to human precepts linked to ritual purity rather than to the observance of God's commandments: namely, love of God and of one's neighbour which, as the Lord says, "is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12: 33). Even in the Temple of Jerusalem, a sacred place par excellence, Jesus makes an exquisitely prophetic gesture when he drives out the money changers and livestock vendors, all things that served for offering the traditional sacrifices. Thus Jesus was not recognized as a priestly but rather as a prophetic and royal Messiah. Even his death, which we Christians rightly call a "sacrifice", had nothing to do with the ancient sacrifices; indeed, it was quite the opposite; it was the execution of a death sentence by crucifixion, the most ignominious punishment, which took place outside the walls of Jerusalem.

 

 

In what sense, therefore, was Jesus a priest? The Eucharist itself tells us. We can start with the simple words that describe Melichizedek: He "brought out bread and wine" (Genesis 14: 18). This is what Jesus did at the Last Supper: he offered bread and wine and in that action recapitulated the whole of himself and his whole mission. That gesture, the prayer that preceded it and the words with which he accompanied it contain the full meaning of the mystery of Christ, as the Letter to the Hebrews expresses it in a crucial passage that we should quote: "In the days of his flesh", the author writes of Our Lord, "Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek" (5: 8-10). In this text, which clearly alludes to the spiritual agony of Gethsemane, Christ's Passion is presented as a prayer and an offering. Jesus faces his "hour" which leads him to death on the Cross, immersed in a profound prayer that consists of the union of his own will with that of the Father. This dual yet single will is a will of love. Lived in this prayer, the tragic trial that Jesus faces is transformed into an offering, into a living sacrifice.

 

 

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