Sunday, May 29, 2016

Lost Octaves Series: Corpus Christi & Musings

A correspondent wrote to me confessing a slight faintness with the gravity of Catholic teaching on the Eucharist, that Christ is not merely present in a spiritual sense after Anglo-Catholic fashion, but is really present in His Flesh on the altar:
Verbum caro, panem verumverbo carnem efficit:fitque sanguis Christi merum,et si sensus deficit,ad firmandum cor sincerumsola fides sufficit. 
The choice of the word "flesh" comes to us from Holy Writ, not handmedown concepts of oblation inherited from Roman paganism or Judaic sacrifice. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood," Our Lord teaches, "you shall not have life within you" (John 6:54). A spiritual presence straddles a fine boundary between mystical and symbolic. A fleshly presence accepts a spiritual presence while adding a more immediate one to it. The Eucharist must be a physical and spiritual reality precisely because the Church is both a physical and spiritual reality, as a remarkably long and un-monitored comment box on EENS demonstrates. The Church is not bound by the sharing of the Eucharist among its numbered members, but in Christ absorbing the faithful into Himself by giving His flesh over to them ut unum sint. St. John Chrysostom says as much during Mattins for Saturday within the octave:
"Dearly beloved brethren, it behoveth us to learn the miracle of the Mysteries what the Gift is, and why It was given, and what is the use thereof. "We, being many, are one body," saith [the Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. x. 17, and again] "We are members of His Body, of His Flesh, and of His Bones." Eph. v. 30.Only the initiated will now understand what I say. That this union may take place, not by love only, but verily and indeed, we ought to mingle our own with His Flesh. And this is done by eating that Food Which He hath given unto us, being fain to manifest that exceeding great love which He beareth to us-ward. To this end He hath mingled Himself with us, and infused His Body into our bodies, that we may be one together, like as the limbs of a man and his head are all of one body. Such union do they long for that love much."
The Archbishop of Constantinople continues in Monday's Mattins:
"In this mysterious Sacrament Christ doth mingle Himself with all and each of His faithful ones. They are His children, and He nurseth them Himself, and giveth them not over unto another, herein again assuring us that the Flesh He hath taken unto Himself is ours. We then, who have been deemed meet to be treated with such love and such honour, let us be wakeful See ye not how eagerly the sucklings seize on the breasts, how readily they fix their mouths on the paps Let us, with like eagerness, draw nigh to that Table, and suck at that spiritual Cup. Yea, let us prize that gracious Food as the suckling doth its mother's breast, and hold it the great woe of life to be cut off from that Banquet. Here there are set before us no works of man's power He That worked at that Last Supper, the Same worketh the same here still. As for us Priests, we hold the place of His ministers, but He Which halloweth and changeth is He. Hither let there draw nigh no Judas, nor covetous one this is no Table for him. But he which is Christ's disciple, let him come for the Lord saith "I will keep the Passover with My disciples," Matth. xxvi. 18. This is that Passover Table, and it is all Christ's what is wrought there is not some of it Christ's work, and some of it man's work, but it is all His work and not another's." 
The eagerness of the faithful to "suck at that spiritual Cup" is obscured on our reformed 20th century rites. With very few exceptions anyone who attended a Latin rite parish today experienced an "external solemnity" of Corpus Christi Thursday Sunday. This is unfortunate and a consequence of the reduction of octaves under Pius XII and the availability of celebrating major feasts in place of the Sunday Mass. In the traditional Roman rite today would have been the Second Sunday after Pentecost, Sunday within the octave, complete with white vestments, commemorations at Mass and the office, and the preface of the Incarnation during the Mass. The gospel passage comes from Luke chapter 14, in which Our Lord makes a parable of a rich man who holds a banquet only to find that all the invited guests have made their polite excuses. The rich man then tells his servants to go into the streets and invite everyone they can find to the banquet. The Sacrament of the Lord, the glue of the Church, is open to all who do not reject it. The Jewish people were granted the revelation of God to man ("Salvation is from the Jews" John 4:22) and the unique place of being His "people" in the world; in declining Christ, to Whom the fullness of revelation was offered in Christ, the faith was then opened to the entirety of the world. The Temple sacrifices besought the forgiveness of the sins of the Jewish people and bound them under God's command. The Memoriale mortis Domini actually accomplishes the forgiveness of sins within the Church and binds the Church visibly under the Son of Man's own flesh.

Sunday Gospel as an antiphon

The feast of Corpus Christi is quintessentially Roman in its texts, direct yet with heuristic, subtle wordplay from St. Thomas Aquinas. The fleshly presence of Christ in the Eucharist finds itself expressed in many texts and actions throughout Eastern and Western liturgical history; long before monstrances the Sacrament was carried in a pyx by the celebrant and heralded by boys dressed in sack cloth as "prophets" in the Sarum form of Palm Sunday. The Sacrament extends Christ's presence on earth without dividing Him. 

And yet there is an odd extension of Eucharistic piety that personifies the Sacrament to a level that the Church has never traditionally understood. There have been some pious additions in Eucharistic devotion in the Latin Church that frankly give not a few of us the "heebie jeebies." I recall one fine Sunday morning breaking the fast at Brown's on Woodstock after the 8AM Mass at the Oxford Oratory. A gathering of us discussed the long road ahead to getting the old liturgy a permanent foothold in the mainstream Church. One of our number commented that one difficulty was the odd focus on the Blessed Sacrament itself outside of the liturgy, which distracts from the fact that the liturgy exists to confect the Sacrament. "What, pray tell, do you mean?" I asked. "Well, Rad Trad," he dilated, "I recently ran into a friend on his way to the Oxford chaplaincy to pay a 'visit' to the Sacrament. All well and fine to me, but when I asked why he did not just pop into the Oratory or Blackfriars, nearer his college, he gave me a queer reply. Do you know what he said? 'He's lonely.' Well, of course He's 'lonely'! He's God! He's the Only One!" 

A blessed continued octave of the Body of the Lord to all!


  1. Principally the Liturgy is adoration of the Most Blessed Trinity. The Trinity is even adored by second Divine Person himself in the way of Eucharistic Sacrifice.

    Ergo, that admirable sacrament exists primarily that by it we worship the undivided Trinity.
    When Trinitarian worship fades away, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament gets in at the expense of the former, in my view.

    I'm fine with a yearly procession and adoration of the Sacrament, but not more than that. It is a yearly thanksgiving for that admirable gift.

    It is my opinion that the finest act of adoration of the Sacrament is to worthily partake of it, so as to be united in one Christ's Body. When we do that, we are then taken up in Spirit through Him as a pleasing sacrifice to Father. That is what happens in Communion. He is sacrificed, and when we partake of Him, He takes us in Spirit that we may be a pleasing sacrifice with Him. We become one Body so that as one Body we worship the Father in Spirit and truth.

    When we forget that, we begin to "pay visits" to the Blessed Sacrament.

    Liturgy is worship of Trinity, and partaking of the Heavenly Bread is our Lord's command. When we obey that command, we're submitting ourselves to His will, and those who do the will of God are his brothers and sisters, and we worship God with our obedience too. When we partake of the Bread we receive every heavenly blessing and no priestly or papal or monstrance blessing can replace that.

    We adore the Sacrament better when we commune, than when we kneel in silence, but surely, it is worthy of our adoration apart from communion.

    But still, adoration of Blessed Sacrament is not liturgy. It is a devotion, a communal one, but still a devotion. But liturgy is more important than any devotion.

    As i said, The Divine Trinity is worshiped by the second Divine Person himself by the way of Eucharistic Sacrifice. So in my opinion there would be a greater adoration of the second Divine Person in the Sacrifice, even if no genuflections were made, than if we knelt or layed prostrate for 40 hours before the exposed Sacrament.

    And about the Tabernacle, not even st. Thomas Aquinas regarded the Tabernacle as a place of worship.

    1. And might i add that when we are in liturgy, we adore the Eucharist better for it is a liturgical action in Spirit.

  2. As a consolation prize, today's Mass for me was the ferial Mass with the commemoration of St. Felix I. But yeah, just having the Octaves of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost is so sparse and dull. It was true that there were too many Octaves, but reducing them to three was inexcusable!

  3. I do not see why Eucharistic adoration should take away from the liturgy or from worship of the Most Holy Trinity. For when the Son is glorified, so is the Father and the Spirit. Private devotions normally help people grow holier and closer to God and therefore helps people to pray better at Mass. I like this blog but it seems like a false dicadomy is often put up between private devotions and the liturgy.

    1. No false dichotomies, but false ideas like keeping Our Lord company since He's "lonely." Sounds very pious and all, but actually very sentimental and false idea of the Eucharist. He doesn't need us, but we need Him! To tell the truth, this idea of keeping Christ company should be buried IMHO. Visits are fine, but the motivations sometimes aren't.

    2. I agree that people's motives can be wrong but a statment like this I find particularly strange: "When Trinitarian worship fades away, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament gets in at the expense of the former, in my view"
      I have never seen anyone with an increased devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament worship the Trinity less. Besides, if anything, not enough people have a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament or even believe in the Real Presence.
      Obviously though, none of our worship compares to Christ worshiping the Father in Mass.

    3. "Obviously though, none of our worship compares to Christ worshiping the Father in Mass."

      There it is. You said it.
      Liturgy is on whole another plain than private devotions. Private devotions are for houses. Liturgy is for churches.

      Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament sometimes can deviate into some sort of opinion that the Eucharist is a sort of 1st class relic of Our Lord to be venerated, and not Heavenly Bread that sustains and nourishes our spiritual life. Eucharist is to be eaten primarily, and eaten in liturgy primarily, and that is the most adoration and veneration we can give to it (since it is a liturgical act) and it is the most what it can give to us.
      So if i can daily partake of it in that liturgical way, why would i "settle" for extra-liturgical piety?

      When did the adoration of the Sacrament itself begin? When the frequency of communions dropped and when allegorical interpretations of liturgy (i.e. liturgy as the life of Christ) began.
      The texts were clear as to purpose of the liturgy, but mentality wasn't.

    4. I think some people stopped reading the Athanasian Creed halfway through and missed the part about the Incarnation, the second great mystery of our religion, which mystery the Blessed Sacrament most stunningly participates in.

    5. Paul, how can you, and the writer of this blog, not see what people mean when they talk about the Blessed Sacrament being "lonely"? Clearly what they mean is that being in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament comforts them and takes away their own loneliness. How can one not see this, and seeing it, how can one possibly object to it?

    6. Then they should say so and don't say Our Lord is lonely! I'm sorry, but you're just twisting the person's words! The person clearly stated that Our Lord is lonely!

    7. If the person himself was lonely, why didn't he go to the Oratory or the Blackfriars, as the The Rad Trad's friend stated? Because he felt Our Lord was "lonely." There's no other way for me to see it.

  4. If I were a godly man in the 13th Century,I would found a Monastic Order that had Daily Solemn High Mass "Coram Sanctissimo".

    1. There is a certain sect that has Masses only coram Sanctissimo.

      Mariavite Church. Here you go.

    3. Nowhere, because that's not a right thing to do.