Christ’s incarnation and presence in the Eucharist “puts into crisis the wisdom of men”. So the Pope spoke this past Thursday, at 7 p.m., on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi).
To mark the feast, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and afterwards presided over a Eucharistic Procession from St. John’s Basilica until the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. The Pope greeted the Romans gathered there, together with the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Mons. Camillo Ruini, and other cardinals and bishops present at the celebration.
During the homily, the Pope said: “a moment ago, we have sung in the Sequence: It is certain for us Christians, / that the bread becomes flesh, / the wine becomes blood’. Today we affirm with enthusiasm our faith in the Eucharist, the Mystery which constitutes the heart of the Church.” It is also, “the gift which Jesus Christ makes of himself, revealing to us the infinite love of God for every man.”
Making reference to the counter-Reformation, the Pope noted that the feast has its origins in the desire of the people to reaffirm their belief in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The purpose of the feast, he said, is “to adore, praise, and thank publicly the Lord, who ‘in the eucharistic Sacrament continues to love us ‘until the end’, to the point of giving his body and his blood.’” The Apostles received the gift of the Eucharist from the Lord in the intimacy of the Last Supper, but the gift was intended for everyone, for the whole world.
Linking Thursday’s celebration with the heightened spiritual tension of the last days of Lent, the Holy Father commented: “This evening’s Eucharistic celebration leads us back to the spiritual climate of Holy Thursday, the day in which Christ, on the eve of his Passion, instituted in the Cenacle the most holy Eucharist. The feast of Corpus Domini constitutes in this way a taking up of the mystery of Holy Thursday, as if in obedience to the invitation of Jesus to ‘proclaim from the rooftops’ what He has said in secret (cf. Mt 10:27).”
As he prepared to begin the Solemn Procession, the Pope declared, “This is why [the Eucharist] is proclaimed and exposed openly, so that everyone may encounter “Jesus who passes” as he passed through the roads of Galilee, of Samaria and of Judea; so that everyone, in receiving him, may be healed and renewed by the strength of his love.”
Calling the assembly’s attention to the miracle of the Eucharist, Benedict XVI noted that “when the priest proclaims after the consecration, ‘This is the Mystery of our faith!’ he proclaims the mystery just celebrated, and manifests his stupor in front of the substantial conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understanding.”
Noting the disbelief today of many Christians in the real Presence of Our Lord, the Holy Father explained: “Precisely because we are dealing with a mysterious reality which surpasses our comprehension, we should not be amazed if even today many find it difficult to accept the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It could not have been otherwise…Today, just as back then, the Eucharist remains a ‘sign of contradiction’ … because a God who becomes flesh and sacrifices himself for the life of the world puts into crisis the wisdom of men.”
Besides an incredible miracle, the Eucharist is nourishment: “The Eucharist is ‘the bread of pilgrims’… the food which sustains them on their long exodus journey throughout the desert of human existence.” The Holy Father remarked that this world is like a ‘desert’, ‘dried up by ideological and economic systems which do not promote life, but instead put it to death; a world where the logic of power and of having dominate, rather than that of service and of love
As an antidote and answer to the culture of death, the Pope noted that the procession would be made “as if to bring ideally the Lord Jesus through all the streets and neighbourhoods of Rome. We will immerse Him, so to speak, in the ordinariness of our life, so that He may walk where we walk, so that He may live where we live.”