Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, we call to mind its historical association with Maundy (Holy) Thursday. As the veneration of the Holy Eucharist increased, various feasts throughout the Church arose. Naturally, these feasts were directly connected to the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday. As early as 448, for example, Polemius referred to it as the Birth of the Chalice, linking it to the passion of Jesus.
However, because of the somber tone associated with Holy Week, the devotion eventually found its way outside of the penitential season, taking on a more joyous tone. Saint Julian of Belgium was a great promoter of the devotion and later Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote the entire Liturgy of the Hours and Mass prayers for this Feast, which continued to gain popularity in the Western Church and was revered in the East.
During the Protestant Reformation, however, this feast was prohibited by many leaders who rejected Catholic belief in the “Real Presence.” Some theologians who protested Catholic belief in transubstantiation declared Catholic doctrine about the Eucharist to be idolatry and developed theologies whereas the Eucharist is merely a symbolic representation of what Jesus instituted. Prompted by reformers and rulers, entire countries made it illegal to celebrate this holy feast.
This became a source of great division among Christians and is still a point of separation in ongoing dialogue with our non-Catholic and non-Orthodox brothers and sisters. However, still today, many parishes throughout the world conduct Eucharistic processions on their properties or in the streets of their neighborhoods. Eucharistic Adoration is observed on this holy feast, as well.
As part of this year’s solemnity, Saint Patrick Parish and Saint Malachi Parish jointly welcome five individuals who will be received through baptism or by profession of faith. In addition to Baptism and Confirmation, they will receive their first reception of Holy Communion. What a beautiful day to receive our Eucharistic Lord, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity! We extend a warm welcome as they encounter our Lord who desires to be so closely and intimately connected through the sacraments!
We are also mindful of the power of transformation experienced in the life of the Holy Eucharist. As bread and wine is transformed into the living Body and Blood, we are transformed to be living witnesses and sources of nourishment for others. During these challenging times of pandemic and social unrest as we address the sin of racism, we rely on the gift of the Holy Eucharist to give us insight, humility, courage, strength, and the capacity to live in the truth and love of God. Imitating our Eucharistic Lord who offered Himself for the remission of our sins, so we continue to confront the sins of our own generation as we defend the rights and dignity of every human life.
Blessings to each of us as we continue to enjoy the experience of public worship while joining our brothers and sisters who continue to join us through spiritual communion.
Yours in Our Eucharistic Lord,