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Hubert van Eyck, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb ©1432 (Public Domain)

CORPUS CHRISTI

The Corpus Christi Procession through London's West End had become an annual fixture. As last year, again this, it was impossible to envisage such a large public event but we are now planning for a Procession to take place on Sunday 19th September covering even more ground than before. Starting from Warwick Street at 3.30pm, the route will include stations at Farm Street and the Ukrainian Cathedral before wending its way over Oxford Street for Benediction at St James's Spanish Place.

 

"The Mystery of Faith". Words we hear in every celebration of the Mass. "He had always loved those who were his own in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was." Saint John's description of what happened in the Upper Room on the evening before Jesus goes to his Passion.

The Eucharist is first and foremost a Mystery of Love. Saint Francis of Assisi (writing in the 13th century) could say: "Our whole being should be seized with fear, the whole world should tremble and heaven rejoice, when Christ the Son of the living God is present on the altar in the hands of the priest. What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, would humble himself like this and hide under the form of a little bread for our salvation". And that is what we believe. That under the form of a little piece of bread and the smallest sip from a chalice, we receive the body and blood, the soul and divinity of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

No human imagination could have come up with such an idea. How can He who made everything that is - who is infinitely larger, and more complex, and more wonderful, than the sum total of the creation, which has existed for untold millions of years, and extends into distances which are beyond human calculation, how can He approach us in a way that is so small, so insignificant? He who is Eternal Light makes himself small enough that even a child can receive him. He who is the beginning and the ending of everything makes himself accessible to anyone, and everyone-, by answering the basic human need for nourishment. This is love of such a depth that it can only be Divine. We marvel at it, and we say'. "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you".

The Eucharist is a Mystery of Faith. Saint John Vianney, the Cure d'Ars, once wrote: "By Communion, Jesus makes us his own Body, and identifies himself with us as the body with the head. He is not content with showing himself to us. He puts himself into our hands, into our mouths, mingling his substance with our substance, that we may become one spirit with him". We cannot know this truth through our natural senses. Taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing - none of these tell us that bread and wine are anything other than what they appear to be in their physical reality. But faith in the word spoken to us by Him who is the Truth convinces us that this is no ordinary food. The outward sign conceals the totality of the Saviour - anything less would mean that our worship of the Real Presence was idolatrous.

The Holy Spirit, who was promised to us as the guide into the fullness of truth, has helped the church to speak of this tremendous Mystery - to find a language in which we can express with our lips what our souls already experience. On the road to Emmaus, the two disciples said that their hearts burned within them in the, as yet, unrecognised presence of their Lord. We believe that in every act of Holy communion our small gifts of bread and wine have been returned to us transformed, transfigured - they are substantially changed - they are Jesus. Cardinal Hume once made the point that our Catholic churches feel different from other centres of worship - for us, they are places where our hearts do burn within us, as we sense who it is tabernacled among us here on earth.

“The Eucharist is our living Memorial. In the Eucharist, as the Council recalls, ‘is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself our Pasch and the living bread which gives life to men through his flesh – that flesh which is given life and gives life through the Holy Spirit. Thus men are invited and led to offer themselves, their works and all creation with Christ…” (Pope Paul VI, Presbyterorum ordinis, n.5).

Story by Fr Christopher Colven

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