This weekend we celebrate the feast formally titled the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, but popularly known as Corpus Christi. Every time the Church gathers to celebrate the Mass, the Eucharist, which is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord, is at the center of our worship. We must avoid the danger of growing lax in our reverence and awe due to our familiarity with this great and wonderful sacrament, which is one reason why the Church dedicates a particular day of solemnity to focus solely on this mystery.
Personally, among the many sorrows of these months of pandemic has been the separation of the faithful from the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the life source of the Church, the ultimate manifestation of Christ’s presence among us, and it has been the strength of the faithful for the Church’s entire history. It is not a sign or symbol, because a sign or symbol points to another reality. The Eucharist is a reality because the Holy Spirit changes the humble gifts of bread and wine that we offer into the real presence of Jesus. In extreme circumstances spiritual communion serves as a solace and source of grace but it is not the same the physical manifestation of the Lord Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine. You may remember one of Coca-Cola’s past slogans of “It’s the real thing.” Truer words could not be said regarding the Eucharist.
Some of you may have attended an adult faith formation series last year with Fr. Stock on the 20th century American Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor. Amongst her writings is a letter where Flannery recounted being invited to a dinner party and feeling out of place in a group of she termed “intellectuals.” She went on to say that she said nothing all night until the conversation turned to the Church and the Eucharist and that her hostess talked about that, even though she had left the practice of the faith, she still thought that the Eucharist was a wonderful “symbol.” Having heard enough, Flannery recounted: I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.
May we have the same grace that Flannery O’Connor did to recognize just how vital the Eucharist is for us. The Church should not have to impose an obligation on participating in Sunday Mass; the Eucharist should be incentive enough. The Eucharist has been the strength of martyrs, it has comforted the faithful over the centuries in the face of adversity, it is the source and summit of our life of faith, and the remedy for our mortality that will lead us to everlasting life. May we always approach the altar to receive this most precious gift with worthy hearts and lives.
Father Christopher House is the Rector of the Cathedral and serves in various leadership roles within the diocesan curia, namely Chancellor and Vicar Judicial.