Feast of Corpus Christi: Honoring the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, May. 30, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes, a column by Fr. Donald Lange

On June 2, we celebrate Corpus Christi, the feast of the Eucharist. In Latin Corpus Christi means the Body of Christ. The full Latin name of this feast is “Corpus et Sanguis Christi’’ — “The Body and Blood of Christ.”

In some countries and sometimes in our diocese, during this feast there are edifying processions when the sacred host is carried outdoors or around the church.

Unique gift of the Eucharist

In the 13th century Sister Juliana of Mont-Cornillon, an Augustinian Belgian nun, experienced a vision of the moon with a dark spot. Jesus revealed to her that the dark spot indicated that the Church needed a feast of the Eucharist.

The Church already celebrated the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday. But Holy Thursday centers on Jesus’ passion and death and begins the Easter Triduum. She was instructed in her vision to plead that the Church establish the feast of Corpus Christi to focus upon Jesus’ unique gift of the Eucharist.

On the feast of Corpus Christi we honor the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the great Sacrament. This feast reminds us that Jesus is present in a special sacramental way in the Eucharistic species.

Receiving Christ’s Body and Blood

In no. 1413 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, “By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity.”

During Mass at the Consecration and the Lamb of God, the priest holds up the consecrated host for us to recognize and adore. This prepares us to receive Christ more worthily.

When the bishop, priest, or deacon holds up the Body of Christ at Communion, we respond “Amen” which means we believe in the Real Presence.

Importance of Eucharistic Adoration

Eucharistic Adoration outside Mass increased when the early Church started reserving the host for the sick. In no. 1418 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says, “Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he is to be honored with the worship of Adoration. To visit the Blessed Sacrament is a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and a duty of adoration toward Christ our Lord.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen constantly promoted prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He said, “We become like that upon which we gaze. Looking at the Eucharistic Lord for an hour transforms our heart in mysterious ways.”

For him, Adoration was like an oxygen tank that revived the Holy Spirit’s breath in us. He preached that Eucharistic Adoration fosters vocations and transforms individuals and dioceses.

Receiving Communion

Eucharistic Adoration increases our desire to receive Christ in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the heart of the Church’s life because Christ is the center of Catholic life. In Communion, Christ gives Himself totally, that we might share his life and be united in his mystical body.

In John 6:56 it says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” St. Augustine wrote that unlike natural food, which when consumed is changed into our substance, the Bread of Life changes and transforms us into Christ, strengthens us to live a Christ-like life and carry our crosses.

In 1985 a woman was pinned beneath a crane in New York City. As millions watched, TV cameras showed a team of paramedics fighting to keep her alive until a larger crane could be brought in to rescue her. The paramedics gave her fluids, blood transfusions, and massive doses of painkillers.

Then the woman asked to receive Holy Communion. Millions watched as she received the body of Christ. It was a beautiful testimony of her desire to receive the Eucharist to strengthen her in her hour of need.

In no. 1370 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, “In communion with and commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. In the Eucharist the Church is as it were at the foot of the cross with Mary, united with the offering and intercession of Christ.”

Need for unity

When we receive the Eucharist worthily, we are united more closely with Christ and others. To counteract harmful effects of polarization in today’s Church and world, unity is needed. In First Corinthians 10:16-17, it says, “The bread which we break, is it not participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body for we all partake of the one bread.”

May Eucharistic Adoration increase our desire to receive Christ in Communion. May the Eucharist unite us with Christ and others.

May it strengthen us in our journey through time to the fullness of eternal life in Heaven. In John 6:54 it says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”


Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.