The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

The renewal of the liturgical calendar took two feasts from the old calendar to create the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.  On the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, the Church celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ) while on July 1 the Church celebrated the Feast of the Most Precious Blood. These two feasts were joined together; and, while most of the world still celebrates the Solemnity on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, the Bishops of the United States moved the observance to the Sunday after Trinity Sunday.
The A cycle of the Lectionary for Sunday Mass emphasizes the Body (bread) of Christ; the B and C cycles emphasize the Blood (wine) and the minister of the sacrament respectively.
This Sunday’s first reading reminds us of the “theology of memory” that underlies both Jewish and Christian worship.  By remembering the events of the Passover and all that God did for the children of Israel during their sojourn in the desert, Moses lays the foundation for Jewish worship.  In the act of remembering, the people make the events present in the community so that all of them can participate in those events as if they had lived through it.  By participating in it, they reap the benefits of God’s providential care.
In Christian worship, we too remember what Jesus did for us.  By remembering his sacrifice on Calvary, we make that reality present within the community so that we can participate in it.  Again, by participating in it, we reap the benefits of the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus.  As we pray in the great Eucharistic Prayer, “Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your church and, recognizing the sacrificial Victim by whose death you willed to reconcile us to yourself, grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ.”  St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians reminds us of this by proclaiming: The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (I Corinthians 10:16b)
We participate in a cultic sacrifice and a cultic meal.  Cultic sacrifices involve the shedding of blood and the immolation of flesh.  Cultic meals involve food and drink.  At Mass, the two are joined.  The Gospel of St. John clearly states today: 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.  (John 6:53-55)
As we celebrate this great solemnity of our liturgical calendar, we must be mindful of the power of memory to be sure.  However, we must also recognize that participating in the Body and Blood of Christ carries with it the moral imperative that we become what we eat.  Just as Christ offered his body and blood for the sake of our redemption, we must now do the same.
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