Thought for the week - Corpus Christi
23For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. It is a relatively late festival being proclaimed a feast day by Pope Urban IV in 1264. But it was until the 14th century, between 1320 and 132 that it was introduced into England. In many Catholic countries it is celebrated with processions of the Blessed Sacrament. Protestants, of course, perhaps regard it with suspicion, smacking of idolatry. But that really is to misunderstand the true nature of the feast. It is not the procession, or even solemn benediction that is at the heart of the feast, but the Body of Christ; and there is more to the Body of Christ than the sacrament. Let us look for a moment at what that simple phrase means. It is packed full of meaning and mystery. First and foremost, of course, the Body of Christ is the flesh that he took at the Incarnation, the flesh that he took of his mother, the Blessed Virgin. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” It is in this human body, this human flesh that the Divine Word, the Son of God dwelt among us and lived on earth, teaching and preaching and healing and proclaiming the good news of the God’s kingdom. It is this same Body, flesh of our flesh, that was nailed to the cross and suffered and died for our redemption. As Judy reminded us on Sunday, it was no pretend body. It was a real body that suffered and died and was buried. But now comes the next mystery. It was this same body that was raised to life on the third day still bearing the marks of the cross. It was the same body, but a body transformed, a resurrection body that was no longer confined to time and space; a body that could appear in a locked room; by the shores of the lake an on the open road to Emmaus. The same body. Forty days after the resurrection this same body was taken up into heaven – and there is mystery if ever there was one. Our flesh, our humanity, is taken into heaven in the person of the body of Christ, where he continues to make intercession for us, as the epistle to the Hebrews reminds us. Because the divine shared in our humanity in the body of Christ, so we shall share in his divinity. But it doesn’t end there. The Body of Christ ascended into heaven; yet still remains with us. How can this be? We now come to the heart of this festival of Corpus Christi as it has been traditionally understood. Just as Christ did not leave his disciples comfortless, but sent another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with them; so through the power of the same Spirit he comes to us now in this sacrament under the forms of bread and wine. This is the sacrament of his Body and Blood, the sacrament of his Real Presence with us. “Do this in remembrance of me.” Or to put t more strongly, and accurately: Do this for the recalling of me. Every time we celebrate this Eucharist h is with us. The Body of Christ. Not only is he with us, he is within us as we the bread and drink then cup. The sacrament of Christ’s presence within us. We are in communion with him. The Body of Christ ascended at the right hand of the Father. The Body of Christ with us and within us in this sacrament. But there is even more to it than this. “We are the Body of Christ; in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body.” “We break this bread to share in the Body of Christ. Though we are many we are one body, because we all share in the one bread.” In this last phrase the Body of Christ which is the sacrament is closely connected with the Body of Christ which is the Church. And so we are reminded that not only are we in communion with Christ through this is sacrament, but that we are also in communion with one another through that same sacrament. All this and much, much more in that simple phrase that we began with, the Body of Christ and which we celebrate on this feast of Corpus Christi.