Thursday the Octave of Corpus Christi
|Christum regem adoremus dominantem gentibus, qui se manducantibus dat spiritus pingudeninem.||Let us adore Christ, the King, who ruleth the nations; who giveth fatness of spirit to them that eat him.|
The bright Octave, consecrated to the glory of the Blessed Sacrament, closes today; and, although we began the subject three days before the Feast itself, we have been able to do little more than slightly touch upon the sublime subject proposed for our consideration and love by the Church. The Memorial left us by our Lord of all his wondrous mercies far exceeds the measure of our poor thoughts; the extremity of the infinite love, which God bears to his own creatures, is far beyond any possibility of ours to make it a return such as it would deserve, and very far beyond the capabilities of human words to express.
Eternal Wisdom was, even from his Father’s bosom, betrothed to human nature; he came down into this world, which sin had marred, and there he found man, who had become the slave of sin; he assumed this nature; he became man; he was thus able to make a Sacrifice, which gives infinite glory, and full satisfaction, to God; and, by that same, he perfected his union with his creature, by means, that is, of a divine banquet, at which, as food and drink, he himself is served, for he is the divine Victim, immolated on the Cross, and at our Altars.
O Man! O child of Adam, that wast formed of earthly slime, what art thou, that thou shouldst be remembered in the court of heaven? Thou desired one of the everlasting hills,—(for we may apply this name even to thee)—what hast thou done, that thou shouldst thus be glorified? Yet, doubt it not, thou hast had all these favors. “Let not my few weak words stagger thee,” cries out St. Cyril, the brave defender at Ephesus, of the sacred nuptials, of which the Eucharist is, what the Fathers call, the glorious extension,—“heed not my unworthiness, but listen to the voice, respect the authority of them that have gone before us, and have preached these truths. They were not men of the commopn sort, they were not men undeserving of notice, who went about, like hired criers, to proclaim these things on the high-roads; no, they were such men as the great Solomon, who was sent as the herald of the King of kings; he sat on his high throne, and proclaimed the mysteries of the Most High; he was clad in scarlet robes, and wore a diadem on his brow, and he was the one to publish the mandate of the God who makes and unmakes things.”
Christians! ye people of kings! who are to have crowns and thrones yonder in heaven,—it is to you this Solomon speaks. Your dignity is great. Listen to this herald of God; learn whence comes your greatness, and live up to it. Hearken, ye kings, and understand! Give ear, ye kings! To you are these my words. If ye love your thrones and your scepters, love Wisdom, that ye may reign for ever. I preferred this Wisdom before kingdoms and thrones; I loved him above all treasures, and health, and beauty, and chose to have him instead of light. What this Wisdom is, and what his origin, I will declare, and I will not hide from you the mysteries of God; but will seek Wisdom out from the beginning of his birth, and bring the knowledge of him to light, and will not pass over the truth. I have learned him without guile, and I communicate him to you without envy. Receive, therefore, instruction by my words, and it shall be profitable unto you.
Would to God that we had been able to tell the wonderful mystery we have been celebrating! Divine Wisdom himself has been pressing us, during all these days, to study the excellencies of that sacred Bread which yields delight to the kings, his guests! The Church has kept close to the throne of her Jesus, that cloud in which he dwells out of love for us. She is full of love for him; he has given her unity by the Sacrament of union; and she, like a strong compact city, summons her tribes of Israel, the holy nation, the people of the redeemed, the chosen race of the priests and kings, to come together again on this octave-day, that they may testify their faith, and sing their love, and be grateful for the peace which, by the holy Eucharist, is secured to them, and for the abundance of grace and blessing it gives to us her children. These days of universal joy and festivity around the holy Host were revealed, by the Holy Ghost, to the son of Sirach; and the vision made him exclaim: Wisdom shall praise her own self, and shall be honored in God, and shall glory in the midst of her people, and shall open her mouth in the churches of the Most High, and shall glorify herself in the sight of his power. And in the midst of her own people, she shall be exalted, and shall be admired in the holy assembly. And in the multitude of the elect, she shall have praise, and among the blessed (of the Father) she shall be blessed.
Blessed the man, continues the inspired writer, still speaking in the future, that shall dwell in Wisdom! Blessed the man that considereth her ways in his heart, and hath understanding in her secrets, who goeth after her as one that traceth, and prepareth for her snares of love; who looketh in at her windows, and hearkeneth at her door! Blessed is he that lodgeth near her house, and, fastening a pin in her walls, shall set up his tent nigh unto her, where good things shall rest in his lodging for ever. He shall set his children under her shelter, and shall lodge under her branches. He shall be protected, under her covering, from the heat, and shall rest in her glory.
O House of God, House of the feasting of kings filled with the fragrance of sweetest incense! better is one day in thy precincts, than a thousand elsewhere. It is a joy to my soul to think of days spent there! The poor bird that once was lonely, and sat moaning on a roof that could never give her rest, here, in the House of God, finds all she wants. The turtle dove, having found, at the Altar of her Lord, a nest for her young ones, has no further solicitude. In the secret of that little cloud, far from the conflicts and disturbances of the world, and where there is no contradiction of tongues,—there, from early dawn, eternal Wisdom is pouring out upon souls the multitude of his light and sweetness; there, each of the Church’s hours, choirs will be singing psalms and canticles of praise and joy, around the tabernacle, wherein resides the Lamb who, though slain, is ever living, beautiful on his throne of love, the God of gods in our Sion. O ye children of men, Sons of the Most High, the Psalmist may well give you the name of gods, for you are so closely united with God; you receive Him into such intimacy with your own selves; you feast upon the Lamb, and divine Wisdom is within you by that communion. It is by the same Lamb that he abides among you!
Truly, he abides among us; our earth has received the mystery of the Marriage-Feast, of the divine Espousals with human nature, and she ever possesses the Lord her God, dwelling with her in the Eucharist. O thou gladness of morning! O heavenly wine that bringeth forth virgins! the happy moments wherein the beauty of that Jesus of ours, whose full vision is the joy of Angels, gives Itself, under the sacramental veil, to our souls,—O happy moments! you leave behind you something more than a joyous recollection. The Altar of Sacrifice, and the House of the great Banquet,—they both continue as the throne ever occupied by our King; they are the earthly abode of that Wisdom, who, though he is seated at the right hand of the Father, in the brightness of the Saints, and is loved by the Lord of all things, yet has he not changed towards us poor children of men; he still delights to be with us, and keep up his loved union with us; and, as he tells us he did at the beginning, so he does still, he loves this world of ours, and, to use his own word, he still plays with it. On the throne of his tabernacle, he, beautiful Wisdom, receives the adorations of them that rule this world, for it is from him they have their crowns and scepters; and when they have wisdom, it is from Him they have it, and they asked him for it, on bended knees. On that same throne, he hears and grants the prayer of those little ones, little by humility and simplicity of heart, whom he so sweetly presses to go to him; they are attracted to him by his divine loveliness and riches; and they go to him, that he may teach them how to love him, and fill their treasures to the brim.
Glory be to the Lamb, whose Sacrifice has given us this wondrous Presence in the Blessed Sacrament! To him be power, and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and benediction, for ever and ever! By his lovely light, let us, as a close to this day and the Octave, respectfully contemplate what this ineffable permanence is, which thus secures to us, and in its fullness, and to the end of time, the great Mystery of Faith.
How different is the divine Lamb of the true Passover, from that ancient one of the Jewish people, which we now so well understand! In prescribing the rites to be observed in the sacrifice of the figurative Paschal Lamb, and which was to be eaten but once a year, Moses laid down this strict injunction: “Neither shall there remain anything of it until morning,” nothing was to be left, all was to be consumed! Let us listen, now, to an Apostle of the New Law: it is Andrew, brother to Peter; he is speaking to a Roman Proconsul, and, through him, to all the Gentiles: “Every day, I offer up to the almighty God, who is one and true, not the flesh of oxen, nor the blood of goats, but the spotless Lamb, upon the Altar; of whose Flesh the whole multitude of the people eat; and the Lamb that is sacrificed, remains whole and living.”
“How can that be?” asks the Proconsul. “Become a disciple of mine, and thou shalt learn,” replies Andrew. But that could not be: the representative of the pagan world was officially appointed to persecute the crucified Jesus in his members; and, as to the sublime dogma he had just heard, and which was the very basis of the religion proscribed by the State, he had but one way of dealing with it and its preacher,—laugh at it, and hang Andrew on the cross. The Apostle thus sealed his testimony by his death, leaving to the Holy Ghost, who had inspired him with the words he had spoken, the future victory which that teaching was to win. His brother-Apostles, who had been his fellow guests at the Last Supper, also laid down their lives for Jesus and his doctrines; and, by that sacrifice of themselves, they made themselves food to the same dear Lord. So did Andrew. He followed the counsel of the Wise Man: When thou shalt sit to eat with a Prince, consider diligently what is set before thy face, and lay this to thy heart, and know that it behoveth thee to give a like feasting to the Prince. Having, therefore, been fed with Jesus’ Cross in the banquet of his Body at the Last Suppper, as St. Augustine expresses it, Andrew made a right noble return.
And so was it with the other Martyrs, who came after him: — the joy they showed, in the midst of their tortures, kept up the proof of the power that exists in the precious Wine and heavenly Bread, which can thus gladden man’s heart and make it brave. (Psalm 103:15) The time would come, when the demonstration of the Mystery of Faith, so sublimely expressed by the Apostle St. Andrew, would convince the world; not, indeed, by the force of argument, or by the clever sequel of learned deductions, — but by the world itself becoming transformed, from paganism to Christianity. That transformation was an impossibility, as far as the world’s own misery and power were concerned; and yet, it was an undeniable fact; and it was the result of an irresistible influence; and the influence was that of the divine leaven, which in the language of the Gospel, was put into the whole measure of flour at the Last Supper. From south to north, from east to west, everywhere throughout the globe, the children of the Church now sing these words, which are but St. Andrew’s expression that has triumphed over the world, won its faith, and is set to rhythm and music: “Christ’s Flesh is food, and his Blood is drink; yet is he whole, under each species. He is not cut by the receiver, nor broken, nor divided: “he is taken whole. He is received by one, he is received by a thousand; the one receives as much as all; nor is He consumed, who is received. And when the Sacrament is broken, waver not! but remember, that there is as much under each fragment, as is hid under the whole. Of the substance that is there, there is no division; it is but the sign that is broken; and He who is the Signified, is not thereby diminished, either as to state or stature.” (Sequence Lauda Sion)
The Church’s doctrine is this: that “under each species, and under each part of each species, there is contained, truly, really, and substantially, the Body, and the Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and, therefore, the whole Christ.” Of themselves, it is true, the words of Consecration in the Sacrifice, do but produce what they signify; and, therefore, exclusively and isolatedly, under the two-fold species, produce the Body and the Blood; but our Risen Lord, who liveth now for ever, remains indivisible. As the Apostle teaches us, Christ, rising again from the dead, dieth now no more; for, in that he died to sin (that is, because of our sin), he died once; but, in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Therefore, wheresoever, in virtue of the words of consecration, there is the most holy Body or the Blood of our Redeemer, there, also, by an essential and necessary concomitance, is there the whole entire sacred Humanity, united with the Word.
And here, for the sake of greater precision, we are going to adopt the scholastic phraseology. And firstly, the change of bread into the Body, and of wine into the Blood, is one of substance into substance; but in this miraculous change, very appropriately, on that account, called trans-substantiation, the accidents or modes of the two terms of the change are, in no ways, altered or destroyed. So that, being deprived of their natural subject, or support, the species, or appearances, of bread and wine are immediately sustained by God’s omnipotence, and they produce and receive the same impressions as they would do if they were joined to their own proper substances. They are the sacramental sign; and although they do not inform the Body of Christ, that is, do not give It their own qualities or properties, yet they determine and maintain Its presence, so long as these species are not essentially modified. As regards the Body of our Lord,—which, in Its own true substance, is substituted for the substance alone of bread and wine,—It is withdrawn, by the sacred formula, from those mysterious laws of extension, which are so far from being thoroughly understood by human science; It is whole under the whole species, and whole under each sensible portion of the species, and, in this, It resembles spiritual substances, such as, for instance, the soul of man, which is whole in his whole body, and whole in each member of the same. Such, then, is the mystery of the sacramental state: while present to us under the dimensions of the host, and not beyond them, by reason of his substance, being independent of our known laws of extension, Christ our Lord, abides in himself precisely what he is in heaven. As St. Thomas of Aquin expresses it: “The Body of Christ, in the Sacrament, retains all Its accidents, as a necessary consequence; and its several parts are just as they are in his sacred Body, although they are not subject to the conditions of external space.”
The very notion of Sacrifice required this passive appearance; in the same way as the idea of a banquet, in which he is received, determined what were to be the peculiar nature of the sacramental elements selected by our divine Lord. Of course, when we behold the sacred Host, we must banish every such thought as bondage, or actual suffering, or laborious virtues, on the part of the divine Guest who dwells under the sacred species: under this external passiveness or apparent death, there abound life, and love, and beauty of the Lamb, who has vanquished death,—of Jesus, that is,—of Him who is the Immortal King of ages.
He resides under the white Host, with all his power and brightness, the most beautiful of the children of men; he has all those admirable proportions, and all the perfect finish of those divine members, which were formed from the flesh of the most beautiful of the daughters of Adam, and the purest of Virgins. Let us venerate, with all the respect we are capable of, those feet which were watered by the tears of the repentant Magdalene, and dried with her hair, and embalmed with the sweetest ointment, beforehand, as our Jesus emphasizes her act, when praised it; those feet of our merciful Redeemer, more beautiful than the feet of them who come to tell us of his having come among us; they are bright, beyond the brightness of fine brass when in a burning furnace. Let us send our reverential kisses, beyond the veil, to those hands, which are spotless, and consecrated for the office of High Priest; those hands, which worked at the wood in Joseph’s shop; those hands, which scattered blessings and miracles throughout the land of Israel; they are there, under that Host, just as the Bride of the Canticle saw and described them, bright as gold, formed to the model of perfection, and full of something extremely precious, which she called hyacinths, and which perhaps signify those wounds of which the prophet speaks, saying that horns are in his hands, and there is his strength hid. Would that we might look beneath the little cloud which hides from us that divine head, the admiration of the Angels,—that face, once disfigured, and buffeted, and covered all over with reproaches, out of love for us, but now resplendant as the sun when he shineth in his power! O mouth of our Jesus, thou instrument of the Word, whose voice is as the sound of many waters, and whose breathing is death to the wicked! O lips, which our Scriptures tell us are as lilies dropping choice myrrh! And you, O eyes, which shed tears over Lazarus, and now are lighting up with your brightness the abode of the Saints! Oh! that we might see all, see thee thyself, Jesus, beneath the mystery and the veil! But no! the mystery and veil may not be removed; and surer are we, than if our eyes were the witnesses, that thou, O Beloved of our hearts! that thou art behind our wall, looking at us through the lattices; and this is enough to make us adore thee. Verily, the sweetest test to which thou couldst put our love, was that we should have faith in this mystery of the adorable Sacrament!
O precious Blood, thou price of our ransom, shed profusely on this earth, but now again within the Sacred veins of Jesus! thou art now, as during his years here below, diffusing thy life-giving qualities to his divine members, under the action of that sacred Heart, which we are so solemnly to honor tomorrow! Most holy soul of Jesus, present in the Sacrament as form substantial of that most perfect Body, which, through thee, is the ever-living Body of the Man-God,—thou possessest within thee all the treasures of eternal Wisdom! thou hadst the office entrusted to thee, of putting into a varied and sensible language, the ineffable beauty of that Wisdom of the Father, who was taken with love for the children of men, and desired, by a manifestation which they could understand, to secure their love to himself! Every word, every step, of Jesus, every mystery of his public or hidden life, was a gradual revelation, to us men, of that brightness. Truly, as we have it in the Gospel, this Wisdom, like the grace that was within him, advanced in his manifestation to the creatures, whose love he had come down from heaven to win. When, at length, he had achieved all his work,—given us his teachings, and examples, and mysteries, those marvelous manifestations of his own infinite perfections,—he gave them perpetuity, that so all ages to come might possess them and benefit by them; he fixed them, so to say, in the Sacrament of love, that abiding source of grace and light to men, that living Memorial, wherein divine love is ever ready to bestow upon us the graces of the wonderful works he has wrought by his Incarnation. “The Flesh, the Blood of Christ, is the Word made manifest,” says St. Basil; “it is Wisdom made visible by the Incarnation and by all that mystery of his life in the flesh, whereby he unfolds to us, all moral perfection, and all the beautiful, both natural and divine. It is that which is the food of our soul, and which is preparing her, even in this world, for the contemplation of the divine realities.”
The solemn Exposition, during which the Blessed Sacrament has been receiving our most fervent homage of adoration and love, is concluded, as it began, with a Procession. As soon as the Vespers are over (and they are the same as those of the Feast), the Deacon takes the Monstrance from the throne, and gives it to the Priest. The sacred Host is, once more, carried outside the Church, with the same holy ceremonies, and chants, and joyous worship of the Faithful. Again, It has all nature doing homage to its Creator; it sanctifies every place through which It is carried, drives away the hostile power, which, as the Apostle tells us, seeks to infest this air, blesses our streets and our country lanes, and imparts to our field a pledge of rich harvest. It is then brought back to the Church, not to leave the hallowed precincts again, save for the sake of the dying, to strengthen them for their last long journey, or for the sick, that it may be administered to them, since they are not able to go to their Lord. The Benediction is then given to the adoring assembly, and the Sacred Host is replaced in the Tabernacle.
While these sentiments of faith and love are so active within us, let us give them expression, by the beautiful hymn, Adoro te devote: it was composed by the Angelical Doctor, St. Thomas of Aquin; and it is hard to say which of the two predominates in these verses,—the theological science of the Saint, or his humble and glowing love.
But when the Tabernacle door closes upon our Jesus in his holy Sacrament, our hearts will still continue with him. This octave always brings with it such an increase of light regarding the great Mystery? It has been so, this year. More than ever, for the future, will we reverence and love the Banquet which is, and produces, all that we have been considering during these days: we know so much better now, than formerly, the perfections of eternal Wisdom, who has given himself to us in the Eucharist; we will let him guide us into all grace and truth.
|Rhythmus S. Thomæ|
|Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quæ sub his figuris vere latitas:
Tibi se cor meum totum subjicit,
Quia te contemplans totum deficit.
|I devoutly adore thee, O hidden Deity, who truly liest concealed under these forms: to thee my whole heart subjects itself, because it finds itself quite lost in contemplating thee.|
|Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur.
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius,
Nil hoc verbo veritatis verius:
|Sight, feeling, taste, tell us not of thy presence; but the hearing alone may be safely believed. I believe whatsoever the Son of God has spoken; nothing is more true, than this word of truth:|
|In cruce latebat sola Deitas,
At hic latet simul et humanitas;
Ambo tamen credens atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro pœnitens.
|Upon the Cross the divinity alone was concealed; but here the humanity also lies hid: but I believe and confess them both, and ask for what the penitent thief asked.|
|Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor,
Deum tamen meum te confiteor.
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere.
|I see not the wounds, as Thomas did; yet do I confess thee to be my God. Oh! grant that I may ever believe in thee, more and more, and put my hope in thee, and love thee.|
|O memoriale mortis Domini,
Panis vivus, vitam præstans homini:
Præsta meæ menti de te vivere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere.
|O memorial of my Lord’s death! O living Bread, that givest life to man! Grant that my soul my ever live on thee, and may ever relish thy sweetness.|
|Pie Pelicane Jesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine,
Cujus ana stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.
|O loving Pelica; Jesu Lord! cleanse, me, an unclean sinner, with thy Blood, one drop whereof could save the whole world from all its guilt.|
|Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro fiat illus quod tam sitio:
Ut te revelata cernens facie
Visu sim beatus tuæ gloriæ.
|O Jesus, whom I now see beneath a veil! I beseech thee, let that be done, for which I do so thirst: that I may see thine unveiled face, and be happy in the vision of thy glory.|
The devout Ratpert, monk of St. Gall, friend of Notker, and, like him, a writer of liturgical compositions, shall provide us with an appropriate conclusion to this our Octave of Corpus Christi, in the following devout hymn, which he composed for the Faithful of his own times,—the 9th Century.
|Ad Eucharistiam Sumendam|
|Laudes, Omnipotens, ferimus tibi, dona colentes
Corporis immensi, Sanguinis atque tui.
|We offer thee our praises, O Almighty Lord, honoring the gifts bestowed upon us of the adorable Body and Blood.|
|Tangimus ecce tuam, Rector sanctissime, mensam:
Tu licet indignis propitiare tuis:
|Lo! we are approaching thy table, O most holy Guide! have mercy on us thy servants, though unworthy ones.|
|Here is repeated: Laudes, Omnipotens.||Here is repeated: We offer thee.|
|Propitiare pius, peccata absolve benignus:
Prosit ut invictis appropriare sacris.
|Have mercy, O loving Lord! compassionately forgive us our sins: That our approaching these triumphant sacred Mysteries may be to our profit.|
|Here is repeated: Corporis immensi.||Here is repeated: Bestowed upon us.|
|Angelus æthereis sanctus descendat ab astris,
Purificans corpus, cor pariterque pius.
|May there descend upon us, from the high heavens, the holy Angel, who will lovingly cleanse both our body and soul.|
|Laudes, Omnipotens.||We offer thee.|
|Hæc medicina potens cœli nos ducat in arces,
Interea terris dans medicamen opis.
|May this powerful remedy lead us to the heavenly abode, giving us meanwhile, here on earth, the restoring power.|
|Corporis immensi.||Bestowed upon us.|
|Quod colimus fragiles, respice clemens,
Summeque pascentes protege Pastor oves.
|O merciful Lord! look down upon us frail ones, who are honoring thy Majesty; O best of shepherds, protect us thy sheep, now feeding on it!|
|Laudes, Omnipotens.||We offer thee.|
|Protege quas recreas, hostis ne proterat illas,
Consolidans dono nos sine fine tuo
|Protect them whom thou refreshest, lest the enemy may crush us; for ever strengthen us by the gift|
|Corporis immensi.||Bestowed upon us.|
|Nam sumus indigni quos ornes munere tali:||For we are unworthy that thou shouldst honor us with such a gift:|
|Tu pietate tua, Rex, rege castra tua.||Do thou, in thine own mercy, O King, rule thine own soldiers!|
|Laudes, Omnipotens.||We offer thee.|
|Hoc, Pater Omnipotens, cum Christo perfice, clemens,
Spiritus atque potens, trinus et unus apex
|O Almighty Father, in thy clemency, grant us our prayer, together with Christ and the all-powerful Spirit, the perfect Three and One giver of the gifts|
|Corporis immensi.||Bestowed upon us.|
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)