Saturday, June 09, 2007

Celebrating Corpus Christi

Today is one of the most flamboyant of Catholic Days. It rivals Easter and Christmas for sheer energy and presence.Thanks to Google we can also get an idea of the rich diversity this day breathes into the Catholic community life. Some celebrations are full on formalities with every bit of clerical fashion on display. Others are a more casual affair with whatever props and costumes happen to be on hand. What I really love about this feast is that here in Brisbane it usually falls the week before Brisbane's Gay and Lesbian Pride March through the City.


In 1246, Bishop Robert de Thorete of the Belgina diocese of Liège, at the suggestion of St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon (also in Belgium), convened a synod and instituted the celebration of the feast. From Liège, the celebration began to spread, and, on September 8, 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull "Transiturus," which established the Feast of Corpus Christi as a universal feast of the Church, to be celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.


Digression: I have an absolute fascination with everything in Liege. The city is the hometown of my favourite saint, Christina the Astonishing, Virgin (always pronounce the comma as she wasn't just an astonishing virgin)


Back to the history lesson: At the request of Pope Urban IV, St. Thomas Aquinas composed the office (the official prayers of the Church) for the feast. This office is widely considered one of the most beautiful in the traditional Roman Breviary (the official prayer book of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours), and it is the source of the famous Eucharistic hymns "Pange Lingua Gloriosi" and "Tantum Ergo Sacramentum." ( Isn't that the newly appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, Peter Elliot doing the honours at West Melbourne in this pic?)


For centuries after the celebration was extended to the universal Church, the feast was also celebrated with a eucharistic procession, in which the Sacred Host was carried throughout the town, accompanied by hymns and litanies. The faithful would venerate the Body of Christ as the procession passed by. In recent years, this practice has almost disappeared, though some parishes still hold a brief procession around the outside of the parish church. (more links)





Digression 2 Dear old Google has managed to cause great confusion among traditional Catholics. When you do a Google image search for "Corpus Christi" you don't actually get the cool religious images. You get scenic views from the City of Corpus Christi. If you look closely at the image you can see a building on the left which has a Star of David perched on the roof. It takes to image 15 before you get a pic of the full blown Corpus Christi procession with billowing incense.

The traditional Corpus Christi Procession is a full on parade of various clerics,religious and members of lay associations watched by the loyal laity. They still take to the streets in some cities but others as my home city of Brisbane now just make do with a few laps of a school oval. Don't you love this pic of Pope BennyXVI doing wheelies as part of the ritual in Rome



To leave you with a sense of what the feast of the Body and Christ is really all about I suggest you sit with the image and text of Laura Facey