Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi.
Today is a day of joyous significance when we commemorate and celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist, which is the definitive meaning of the Jewish Passover.
The word “Eucharist” is an action of thanksgiving to Our Lord, from the Greek words, “eucharistein and eulogein.” (Lk 22:19, 1 Cor 11:24; Mt 26:26; Mk. 14:22) As such, “Eucharist” recalls the Jewish tradition about the blessings that are announced particularly during a meal regarding God’s works of creation, redemption, and sanctification.
The following dialogue took place while Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, which is set forth in John 6: 22-71. It is the occasion of the first announcement of the Holy Eucharist — Corpus Christi or the Body of Christ.
Jesus says in John 6:48-58:
“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. The Jews quarreled amongst themselves saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
John continues in 6:60-69:
“Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it.?” “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
Accordingly, Jesus chose the time of the Passover, the eve of His Passion, to fulfill what he had announced previously when he was teaching at the synagogue in Capernaum – giving His Body and His Blood to His disciples.
In Luke 22:7-8, we are told, “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.”
With this command, the disciples did as Jesus had commanded and made the necessary preparations. Then it is revealed in Luke 22:14-20:
“When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying,“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper saying,“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my Blood…”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains in 1340-1344:
“By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus’ passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the Kingdom.”
And, “The command of Jesus to repeat his actions and words “until he comes” does not only ask us to remember Jesus and what he did. It is directed at the liturgical celebration, by the apostles and their successors of the memorial of Christ, of his life, of his death, of his Resurrection, and of his intercession in the presence of the Father.
From the beginning the Church has been faithful to the Lord’s command. Of the Church of Jerusalem it is written: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. . .Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts.”( Acts 2:42, 46.)
It was above all on “the first day of the week,” Sunday, the day of Jesus’ Resurrection, that the Christians met “to break bread.” ( Acts 20:7.) From that time on down to our own day the celebration of the Eucharist has been continued so that today we encounter it everywhere in the Church with the same fundamental structure. It remains the center of the Church’s life. Thus from celebration to celebration, as they proclaim the Paschal mystery of Jesus “until he comes”, the pilgrim People of God advances, “following the narrow way of the cross,” toward the heavenly banquet, when all the elect will be seated at the table of the kingdom.”
Jesus came to make a new Covenant with not just Jews, but with all who believe in Him — Jew and Gentile. On this wonderful Feast of Corpus Christi, we are reminded that the manna given by God to the Israelites while they were trying to survive in the harsh desert is replaced by Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ.
“This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” ~Luke 22:19
The Holy Eucharist is our manna which the Lord Jesus has chosen to feed and nourish us, through which He gives Himself to us, during our remembrance of His sacrifice, in Mass.
~Joan & Eowyn