Corpus Christi is one of the most colourful and joyful feasts of the Catholic year. It is especially dear to us at the Oratory because it was a feast for which our founder St Philip Neri had a particular devotion.
On Maundy Thursday at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the sanctuary bells rang out at Gloria in excelsis Deo. Why? To herald the arrival in this world of a startling new reality, Christ’s Eucharistic presence. At the Last Supper the Creator did something entirely new. He introduced a new mode of His own Personal presence within creation.
No other religion believes anything as extraordinary as this. It is a breathtaking article of our faith. Either it is truly God that we worship when we kneel before the Host in the monstrance, or it is an act of idolatry.
Man was created to worship his Maker. Adoration is our eternal destiny. To engage in the cultus of the Blessed Sacrament is to fulfil our human nature in one of the best ways possible. To worship Christ in the Host is one of the most fruitful of all religious activities. It is the best preparation for heaven.
Devotionally and culturally, the Corpus Christi processions are among the greatest treasures of the Catholic Church. In his book The Blessed Sacrament Father Wilfrid Faber (1814-1863) evokes the universality of this devotion around the Catholic world.
“How many glorious processions, with the sun upon their banners, are now winding their way around the squares of mighty cities, through the flower-strewn streets of Christian villages, through the antique cloisters of the glorious cathedral, or through the grounds of the devout seminary, where the various colours of the faces are fresh tokens of the unity of that faith, which they are all exultingly professing in the single voice of the magnificent ritual of Rome.” (1855)
For us who live in a country where Christian faith is now in alarming decline and practising Catholics an ever reducing minority, we pray that Fr Faber’s description will once again become true. It is not wholly untrue even now, even in the present wave of apostasy that we are currently living through.
We should also pray for those countries where persecuted Christians have no liberty to celebrate Holy Mass, no freedom to worship the Blessed Sacrament.
A growing apostasy and a growing persecution of Christians: are these a passing episode, or are they signs that the Abyss is opening, and the End closer?
Watch and pray.