The Rector writes…
In notes he made during a retreat centred on the Eucharistic presence of Jesus, Gerard Manley Hopkins commented: “preciousness of our Lord’s body, born of the Blessed Virgin of David’s line; crucified, raised from the dead, seated in heaven; united in Christ’s soul; united to the Word. Appreciate. Feel your unworthiness” and then he added: “Its mystery; it binds the Church into one, bodily into one. It is the pledge and means of our immortality. Revere this mystery”. This weekend’s celebration of Corpus Christi provides an opportunity for each of us to reflect on our own Eucharistic faith and to renew our thanksgiving to the Father for sending his Son not only in the historic reality of the Incarnation, but in the Eucharistic extension of that Incarnation. If Moses could ask: “what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call on him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7) as Catholic Christians we have so much more reason to echo that same sentiment. The God who reveals himself in Jesus Christ is present among us eucharistically not only in the celebration of Mass but in his abiding presence on the altars of our churches. “When we cannot come to church, let us turn at least in the direction of the tabernacle. The good God has no walls to stop him. We can receive Holy Communion only once a day; but a heart on fire with love makes up for that by the desire of receiving him at every moment “(St John Vianney).
With his disciples gathered around him at the Last Supper, Jesus asked for the continuation of his actions as a permanent memorial of what he would achieve on Calvary. “Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you are proclaim his death” (I Corinthians 11:27). What was done, once for all, at a specific moment in time, in a particular place, has an eternal resonance and is re-presented (not repeated) every time the Lord’s Eucharistic action is celebrated. The poet and artist, David Jones is able to put this understanding into a wide context: “what was accomplished on the Tree of the Cross presupposes the sign world and looks back to the foreshadowing rites and arts of mediation stretching back for tens of thousands of years. In theological terms, the Tree of the Cross presupposes the other Tree and stretches back to the ‘truly necessary sin of Adam’ and the ‘happy fault’ so that Saint Thomas Aquinas in the Good Friday hymn could write that ‘the art of man’s deceiver by God’s art might be outweighed’”. The Eucharist is the most powerful prayer we have because it is Christ’s own prayer poured out to the Father in the obedience and love of his self-sacrifice on the Cross. Whenever we pray in this way: “the whole redeemed community, the congregation and fellowship of the saints, is offered as a universal sacrifice to God by the great Priest who offered himself in suffering” (Saint Augustine).
When we understand the true nature of the Eucharist – as not just a “service” but the way in which our Lord and Saviour has asked us to worship and effects an intimate communion with us – attendance at Sunday Mass has to be more than an obligation (which it is) and become the very staple of our relationship with the Godhead. “The Mass is not a mere form of words, it is a great action, the greatest action there can be on earth. It is not the invocation merely, but, if I dare use the word, the evocation of the Eternal” (Bl. John Henry Newman). In the pastoral letter he has addressed to us to mark this Corpus Christi, Cardinal Nichols talks about the need for adoration. Pope Saint John Paul 11 famously said: “the Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offences and crimes of the world “. All these themes come together and find their expression in this Sunday’s Corpus Christi Procession. Saint Matthew says of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry: ”large crowds followed him” (4:25), and that is our hope as we make our act of witness on the streets of this great city. Let us pray that the faith of all those who participate will be deepened, and that graces and blessings will be copiously poured out on the streets through which Jesus passes.