The Feast of Corpus Christi, which we celebrate today, dates back to the 13th century.
It was promoted by a Norbertine Canoness, Juliana of Liege, who had visions for 20 years of Christ asking for the institution of the said feast. She kept these visions private until her confessor discussed it with a bishop.
In 1264, Pope Urban IV instituted the feast in the Papal Bull Transiturus de Hoc Mundo, which stated that one main purpose of the feast is to focus solely on the Holy Eucharist, since the Thursday observance of the institution of the Holy Eucharist is celebrated with other mysteries of our faith including the Washing of the Feet, the Institution of the Priesthood as well as the Agony in the Garden.
The late great Fr. John Delaney, S.J., was known for his devotion to the Mass. A former principal of Ateneo de Manila High School, and later chaplain of the University of the Philippines chapel, Father Delaney advocated a devotion to the daily Mass and, I believe, the Holy Communion, way before the Church encouraged it.
Father Delaney’s influence on Ateneo and UP students led them to live exemplary Christian lives. He made such an impression on them that, even years after his death, some wanted to work on his beatification.
From all accounts, Father Delaney was a charismatic leader but was also a firebrand who rattled many people. This, I think and feel, was the grace of the Eucharist working in him; his devotion to daily Mass and communion led to a life inspired by the Eucharist.
I invite you to reflect on the Eucharist and the Mass from the perspective of Father Delaney’s story. His spiritual patrimony gives us a better understanding of this story.
Father Delaney lived out Ignatius of Loyola’s injunction when a Jesuit was sent on a mission, “Ite, omnia incendite et inflammate” or “Go, set the whole world on fire and in flame.”
This is the grace of the Eucharist—it inspires and transforms the world. We see this process of inspiration in the four stages or graces of the Eucharist: take, bless, break and give.
In our second reading, Paul narrates to the Corinthians the prescription of Christ in the Eucharistic celebration. He ends by saying that every Eucharistic celebration is a witnessing to the core of who we are as Christians—
proclaim the saving Death and Resurrection of Christ and his promise to come again.
Our lives, therefore, are meant to witness what Christians consider the most life-changing events in history: the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. There are various ways to witness and this is what we call charisms, the particular gifts of the Spirit for us to live out God’s love and compassion.
Our Gospel for today gives us a communitarian effect or grace of the Eucharist in the narrative of the multiplication of loaves and fish in Luke. Faced with the situation of hunger, the disciples tell Christ to send home the crowd.
But Christ tells them to “give them some food yourselves,” to which the disciples respond that they do not have enough food, only five loaves and two fish for over 5,000 people. Then Christ invokes the grace of the Eucharist
—taking the scarce resources, giving thanks, breaking the bread and giving it to the crowd.
The result was an abundance of food. This miracle has been interpreted from two perspectives: one, there was an actual physical multiplication; two, Christ’s Eucharistic act inspired others to share the little that they had, and in the end, there was even a surplus.
Christians must put the Eucharist as a central mystery and grace to their lives. In the Eucharist, we constantly “take,” take stock of our life to have constant awareness of the self and the world, which some call mindful; “bless/give thanks”— awareness leads to gratitude, all things being equal, always there are more things to be grateful for than to be sorry about; “break”—out of gratitude we are inspired to “break” ourselves as an offering to God out of gratitude; and “give”—gratitude leads to a life offered in service.
Imagine a community inspired to share out of gratitude, and this leads to service. This is the gift of the Eucharist
—it builds a community of compassion where no one is left behind.
When I used to hear the confession of students at Ateneo de Manila High School, some would say they missed Mass or that they no longer went to Mass.
I would ask them a “trick question”: “If I tell you to go to Mass, will you go? Be honest.” They would say, “No.” Then I would follow up, “Okay, but can I ask you to pray that God gives you a devotion to the Mass?”
Looking perplexed, but in “awe”—in the tradition of Rudolph Otto’s mysterium fascinosum—they would readily agree.
This is the final point for reflection: The Eucharist is about devotion that lovingly leads us to experience Christ, remembering him who offered the perfect Eucharist.
People usually would come up to me and ask to be blessed after Mass. I respond with this silent prayer: “May the risen Lord stay with you that He may make your heart burn within you, and may you always come to know Him at the breaking of bread.”