Thought for Corpus Christi
Today is the feast day of Corpus Christi, which means ‘the Body of Christ’ and I is a day when we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, or the Mass. We did this in Holy Week, as you will know, on Maundy Thursday, at the Mass of the Last Supper, which mirrors in a mystical way that which we celebrate today in a clearer mystery, with fuller sight and vision. On Maundy Thursday, we accompanied Christ as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, as a convince might the night before his execution, but today we accompany Christ as the risen and ascended Lord, who gave us Himself on the cross and also gives us Himself in the Eucharist, truly, as we sing at mass today, a saving victim.
For generations out of mind, we have held fast to His command to ‘do this in memory of me’ – indeed He only really asks two things of us, to love each other and to share in the Eucharist. This love and this sharing belongs to us all equally – priests are not guardians of a sacred chalice, but people who allow the grace God bestows on His church to fall like sand from our hands, for it does not belong to us either, and if we try and keep it to ourselves we will soon discover how we deceive ourselves in thinking that it can be done. So, we can receive communion standing up or kneeling down, and we take the chalice into our hands because it belongs to us all collectively and grace is bestowed upon the world according to the will of God and that is beyond our judgement or competence.
We do this many times, this Eucharist, and we are a repetitive people, us Christians. This is probably a mixed blessing, depending on how you see repetition. For many of us, doing the same thing over and over again helps to make our lives flat and uninteresting. Children do the same thing over and over again until they get bored of it, we might love watching a certain programme but if we buy the box set and watch it back to back every night we will soon wish we had never heard of it and if we eat a fine game terrine with chutney on toast evert night, after a few days we will begin to wish for water and boiled vegetables!
But this is because these things do not change – the game children play is the same, the film is the same film and the terrine is the same recipe. The Mass not only changes in appearance from place to place, but it also changes us, moulds us into that which it actually is – the body and blood of Christ, and we can feel that change in our hearts every day. This is an aspect of repetition, called our characteristic activities. The kind person is one who can be relied upon to be kind not just in occasional spontaneous moments but over and over and again. Someone who loves and forgives is characterised by that, someone who is focussed only on themselves is defined by that as well.
To understand someone is to find out how they are repetitive — what sort of things they are known for doing. The generous person is a repetitive giver; the prayerful person is one who keeps praying, not one who prayed only once for a long time. Not all repetition enslaves us, some actions make us become what we do and the disciples of Christ becomes like He who they follow – defined by giving, defined by love, defined by forgiveness. Do this in memory of me – not so that you might fill an otherwise boring Tuesday evening, but that you might become what you do, and that He who does it, does it within you and with you, and, thus changed, we do it for others.
When we die, which we will, we might hope that people say ‘they loved others’ and we might hope that they may love as we have loved. So it is for us, so it is for Christ who we accompanied to the Garden of Gethsemane and who we accompany today, in god times and bed, in sickness and in health, on earth as it is in Heaven.