Rorate Caeli

The 750th Corpus Christi

Well, not exactly. As is known by many, following its establishment by Pope Urban IV with the bull Transiturus, of August 11, 1264, Corpus Christi, the first "new" papally-established feast for the Church universal, was only irregularly celebrated until its reaffirmation by Pope John XXII over half a century later, when the first recorded public papal procession of the Most Holy Sacrament in Corpus Christi took place in Avignon. It is unknown if it was even celebrated in the Papal Court itself throughout the intervening years.

Nevertheless, it is true - for all formal purposes, this is the 750th Corpus, and we thank the Lord for this gift He gave the Church: the Sacrament, His Presence, the light given to successive papacies, saints, theologians and the faithful Catholic people that allowed for the development of this great notion of the Adoration of the reserved Sacrament, public Procession, and Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament. We thank the Lord for the devotion of Saint Juliana of Liège and for the sweet words of the Angelic Doctor.

The bull Transiturus had original versions which were slightly different one from the other; we present below the translation provided by Fr. James T. O'Connor:

Urban Bishop,
 servant of the servants of God, to the venerable brothers, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, and other prelates of the Church, health and the apostolic blessing.

About to pass from this world to the Father, our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, since the time of his Passion was at hand, instituted the great and wonderful Sacrament of his Body and Blood, bestowing his Body as food and his Blood as drink. For, as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we announce the death of the Lord. Indeed, at the institution of this Sacrament, he himself said to the Apostles: Do this in memory of me: so that for us the special and outstanding memorial of his love would be this venerable Sacrament; a memorial in which we attain the corporeal Presence of the Saviour himself.

Other things which we remember we embrace spiritually and mentally: we do not thereby obtain their real presence. However, in this sacramental commemoration, Jesus Christ is present with us in his proper substance, although under another form. As he was about to ascend into heaven, he said to the Apostles and their helpers, I will be with you all days even unto the consummation of the world. He comforted them with a gracious promise that he would remain and would be with them even by his corporeal presence. Therefore he gave himself as nourishment, so that, since man fell by means of the food of the death-giving tree; man is raised up by means of the food of the life-giving tree. Eating wounded us, and eating healed us. Thus the Saviour says, My Flesh is real food. This bread is taken but truly not consumed, because it is not transformed into the eater. Rather, if it is worthily received, the recipient is conformed to it.

We should celebrate continuously the memory of this memorial, because the more frequently his gift and favour are looked upon, so much the more firmly are they kept in memory. Therefore, although this memorial Sacrament is frequented in the daily solemnities of the Mass, we nevertheless think suitable and worthy that, at least once a year – especially to confound the lack of faith and the infamy of heretics – a more solemn and honourable memory of this Sacrament be held. This is so because on Holy Thursday, the day on which the Lord himself instituted this Sacrament, the universal Church, occupied with the reconciliation of penitents, blessing the chrism, fulfilling the Commandments about the washing of the feet and many other such things, is not sufficiently free to celebrate so great a Sacrament.

Moreover we know that, while we were constituted in a lesser office, it was divinely revealed to certain Catholics that a feast of this kind should be celebrated generally throughout the Church. Therefore, to strengthen and exalt the Catholic Faith, we decree that, besides the daily memory that the Church makes of this Sacrament, there be celebrated a more solemn and special annual memorial. Then let the hearts and mouths of all break forth in hymns of saving joy; then let faith sing, hope dance, charity exult, devotion applaud, the choir be jubilant, and purity delight. Then let each one with willing spirit and prompt will come together, laudably fulfilling his duties, celebrating the Solemnity of so great a Feast.

[Translation: James T. O’Connor (1988) from The Hidden Manna. Online Source: Vultus Christi. Image: Luigi Passini, Corpus Domini in Venice, 1873-74 - Online Source: Schola Sainte-Cécile, Fr. Meissonnier, FSSP]

This is our 6,000th post: thank you for your faithful readership.