Celebrating the Eucharist

Posted May 27, 2016 at 12:00 am

The Feast of Corpus Christi, which will be celebrated May 29, dates to the Last Supper and the first Eucharist.

But not until the 13th century was there a distinct feast of the Blessed Sacrament, the origins coming from an unlikely source. Beginning at the age of 16, St. Juliana of Liege (what is modern day Belgium), began having visions of a silver moon with a portion of it obscured while kneeling in prayer.

St. Juliana, (1193-1252), repeatedly attempted to make the vision go away, uncertain of its meaning. It was not after she joined the convent that the Lord came to her to reveal its significance.

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It was then the Lord explained to her that the moon resembled the cycle of the church, and the obscured area signified something was incomplete, that being a feast to celebrate the Blessed Sacrament.

The Lord explained to St. Juliana that a feast needed to be instituted in order that Catholic doctrine might receive aid from this feast at a time when heresies were rife in the world. The faithful could draw from this source of life new strength and irreverence and sacrilegious behavior toward the divine mercy in the Blessed Sacrament might, by adoration, be repaired.

St. Juliana asked the Lord to be excused from this charge and for 20 years the secret remained in her heart. Reportedly, she shed tears of blood over her anguish.

Eventually, she related the story to Bishop Robert de Thorte, bishop of Liege. He discussed it with Father James de Threzis, who was then archdeacon at the cathedral of Liege and who became Pope Urban IV. Both clergy members embraced the idea and the feast was initially celebrated in the church in 1246, although not worldwide.

But, the establishment of Corpus Christi did not come without controversy. Some monks protested against the devotion and insisted the sacrifice at the daily Mass was adequate to commemorate the love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Following the death of St. Juliana in 1252, Pope Urban was petitioned to extend the feast through the entire church. But it took the Miracle of Orvieto in 1263, when blood began seeping through a consecrated host during a Mass being celebrated by a German priest who was undergoing his own faith crisis, to make that a reality.

Shortly after the miracle, Pope Urban commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the Proper for the Mass and an office for the feast day. One year later, in 1264, through the papal bull Transiturus Pope Urban made the feast universal.

Originally, Corpus Christi was to be celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, with indulgences granted to the faithful who attended the Mass as well as the office. In 1970 the feast of Corpus Christi was changed to the Sunday following Trinity Sunday in the majority of the world, including the United States.

A procession of the Eucharist usually follows the last Mass of the day, with the host placed in a monstrance.

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