The Solemnity of Corpus Christi commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist, paralleling Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) commemorating Our Lord’s institution of the Eucharist. Corpus Christ was introduced in the late 13th century to encourage the faithful give special honor to the institution of the Holy Eucharist to the Blessed Sacrament.
The official title of this Solemnity was changed in 1970 to The Body and Blood of Christ (Latin: Sollemnitas Sanctissimi Corporis et Sanguinis Christi); and it is still on the Roman Missal’s official Calendar for the universal Church on Thursday after Trinity Sunday; however, where it is not a day of obligation (as in the United States) it is usually celebrated on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday.
Corpus Christi became a mandatory feast in the Roman Church in 1312. Pope Clement V published a new decree which embodied Urban IV’s decree and ordered the adoption of the feast at the General Council of Vienna (1311). Pope John XXII, successor of Clement V, urged this observance.
The processions on Corpus Christi to honor the Holy Eucharist were not mentioned in the decrees, but had become a principal feature of the feast’s celebration by the faithfl, and became a tradition throughout Europe. These processions were endowed with indulgences by Popes Martin V and Eugene IV.Some excerpts from the Catechism about Corpus Christi include the following:
1324 The Eucharist is "source and summit of the Christian life." "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."
1325 "The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit."
1326 Finally, by the Eucharistic Celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.
1327 In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking."
(The previous was excerpts from the webpage of the Catholic organization Women for Faith and Family, based out of Missouri, in the United States of America. Visit their webpage for more information about Corpus Christi and their movement at www.wf-f.com .)
Fr. Michael Phillippino