Guest Post: Tara Clemens
The Eucharist is at the root of every form of holiness, and each of us is called to the fullness of life in the Holy Spirit. How many saints have advanced along the way of perfection thanks to their Eucharistic devotion…Holiness has always found its center in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. (Sacramentum Caritatis, 94)
The solemnity of Corpus Christi is specially associated with the Dominican Order. This feast was instituted for the Universal Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264 after it had first been celebrated in several dioceses of northern Europe. In his proclamation of the feast, Urban explained that while the institution of the Eucharist was commemorated as part of the liturgy of Holy Thursday, the tenor of that day in the setting of Holy Week was focused on Christ’s Passion. Therefore another Thursday, the second after Pentecost, was chosen for the new feast which would be dedicated exclusively to honor the great sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.
The proper texts for the liturgy (Mass and the Divine Office) were composed by St. Thomas Aquinas. Pope Urban admired the theological genius of the famous Dominican and trusted that he could capture the mystery of the Eucharist in words suited to the Church’s worship. Included in the works attributed to St. Thomas for this feast are several hymns as well as the sequence for the Mass. Portions of these hymns are used often in the Church under the titles “Tantum Ergo,” “O Salutaris Hostia,” and “Panis Angelicus.”
As Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, we treasure these hymns of our brother Thomas. They are integral to our celebration of the Mass and Office of Corpus Christi. This day is also marked for us by a Eucharistic procession. At our Motherhouse we honor the Most Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus with a procession that includes triple Benediction. The sisters process outside from our chapel, with one of the stations for Benediction in our community cemetery. Hymns, prayers, candles, and incense accompany the Lord, as our bodies and senses are engaged in proclaiming the goodness of the Lord in His Presence among His people. The procession returns to our chapel for the final Benediction, after which Jesus is again reposed in the tabernacle.
While we all have the joy of the celebration of the Mass each day, the feast of Corpus Christi gives us an opportunity to renew our love of our Eucharistic Lord. We immerse our minds in consideration of the theological mystery while our bodies and senses also take part in giving due reverence to the Blessed Sacrament.
In his homily for the office of Corpus Christi, written at the request of Urban IV, St. Thomas Aquinas notes that:
(a)lthough on the day of the (Lord’s) Supper, when we know the Sacrament to have been instituted, a special mention is made of this fact in the solemn Mass, nevertheless, all the rest of the day’s services pertains to Christ’s Passion, which the Church is concerned to venerate at that time. In order that the faithful may once again honor the institution of so great a Sacrament with its own service, the Roman Pontiff Urban IV, moved by his devotion to It, piously decreed that the memory of this institution should be celebrated by all the faithful on the first Thursday after the Octave of Pentecost, so that we who make use of this Sacrament throughout the year unto our salvation, may specially honor Its institution at that time when the Holy Spirit taught the hearts of the disciples to know the mysteries thereof; for at the same time did the Sacrament begin to be frequented by the faithful.
About our Guest Blogger, Tara Clemens:
My heart’s desire is to offer myself, my gifts and talents, to Christ in the cloister of a Dominican monastery, Corpus Christi Monastery, in Menlo Park, California, in contemplation and prayer, for the salvation of souls. But before I can enter, I must eliminate my educational loans. To that end, I am part of the 2013 aspirant class of The Laboure Society, a non-profit organization that helps aspirants resolve their education loans so they are free to enter formation in the priesthood and religious life.
If you want to contact me directly with questions, comments, or prayer requests, you may reach me at tara [at] laboureaspirant [dot] org. Thank you for your prayerful support and God bless!