The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, or Corpus Christi, Corpus Domini in some places, actually falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.
In the 1975 Missale Romanum, after the texts for the Mass, there is a note that the observance of the feast of Corpus Christi can be transferred to Sunday. In the newest edition, the 2002MR, we read not about the transferal of the feast, but rather:
Expedit ut processio fiat post Missam, in qua hostia in processione deferenda consecretur. Nihil tamen impedit quominus processio peragatur etiam post publicam et protractam adorationem quae Missam sequatur… It is advantageous that a procession be held after the Mass, in which the Host to be borne in procession is consecrated. However, nothing prevents the procession from being held after the public and extended adoration which follows Mass….
In other words… really, folks, you should have a procession!
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord celebrates the institution of the Eucharist in a more focused way than it is even on Holy Thursday, in the context of the Triduum.
It was established by Pope Urban IV in 1264 and its Mass and Office composed by St. Thomas Aquinas. The feast itself was inspired by a great miracle. In 1263 a German priest, Peter of Prague, making a pilgrimage to Rome stopped at Bolsena. He was having serious doubts about the Real Presence of Christ in the Host. While celebrating Holy Mass in Bolsena at the tomb of the virgin martyr St. Christina, at the consecration blood began to drip from the Host. The Host bled over his hands onto the altar and the corporal (the linen cloth spread under the Host and chalice during Mass). Fr. Peter stopped the Mass and asked to be taken to the neighboring city of Orvieto, where Pope Urban was in residence with his court (also there were St. Bonventure and St. Thomas). The Pope listened to the priest’s account then began a complete investigation. Afterward, Urban ordered the bishop of the diocese to bring to Orvieto both the Host and the linen corporal stained with the blood. The Pope made a great procession with the entire papal court out of Orvieto to meet the other procession approaching with the Host and corporal. He brought the relics to Orvieto, where the great new cathedral church or “Duomo” was raised for their display, the cornerstone laid in 1290. They are still visible in Orvieto today. The gold reliquary is one of the wonders of medieval craftsmanship and religious aspirations. Pope Urban prompted the drafting of an Office and Mass for the new feast which he instituted in August 1264. Anyone going to Rome would do very well to travel north also to Orvieto, which is not far at all, to see the magnificent cathedral with its bas reliefs by Lorenzo Maitani (1255-1330) and also a chapel decorated with frescoes by Luca Signorelli (1441-1523) and Fra Giovanni da Fiesole – “Beato Angelico” (1387-1455) whose tomb is at S. Maria sopra Minerva in Roma and who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1984. Bolsena is also not far, with the church and tomb of St. Christina where there is also a fine small catacomb you can visit.
We saw the Collect and Super Oblata in other entries.
Let’s now see the …
LAME-DUCK ICEL VERSION:
Lord Jesus Christ,
you give us your body and blood in the eucharist
as a sign that even now we share your life.
May we come to possess it completely in the kingdom.
This is what you hear in most parish churches on this feast. But is this what the prayer really says?
Let us take a look now at the Latin version which was and is the Postcommunio for Corpus Christi in the 1962MR.
Fac nos, quaesumus, Domine,
divinitatis tuae sempiterna fruitione repleri,
quam pretiosi Corporis et Sanguinis tui
temporalis perceptio praefigurat.
I suspect that there is more to this Latin prayer that the lame-duck ICEL version suggests. Sliding the hefty Lewis & Short Dictionary a little closer we can examine some of the vocabulary and pry its treasures loose.
The first word we should dig into is fruitio which means, “enjoyment”. It is derived from the deponent verb fruor, famous to Latin students as one of the several deponent verbs (utor, abutor, fruor, fungor, potior, vescor) whose “object” is usually in the ablative case, rather than the accusative or (in the case of 65 verbs) the dative. Fruor (infinitive frui) is “to derive enjoyment from a thing, to enjoy, delight in (with a more restricted significance than (utor) uti, to make use of a thing, to use it)”.
One might remember the use of “use” in the Early Modern English of Shakespeare such as when Brutus says to the peevish Cassius in the tent before the battle, “By the gods / You shall digest the venom of your spleen, / Though it do split you; for, from this day forth, / I’ll use you for my mirth, yea, for my laughter, / When you are waspish. (Julius Caesar IV.iii.51-55)” or when the Bawd says to Marina in Pericles Prince of Tyre, “Pray you, without any more virginal fencing, will / you use him kindly? He will line your apron with gold” (IV.vi.51-2).
Note that the L&S definition I cite above makes a distinction between utor and fruor. Both mean “use” but fruor has the added note of enjoyment.
St. Augustine of Hippo in Book I of his magisterial De doctrina christiana makes some distinctions about uti and frui. Before he became Pope, our Holy Father John Paul II wrote a book in 1960 entitled (in its English translation of 1981) Love and Responsibility (originally Miłośći odpowiedzialność) which grew out of his lectures during 1958-59 at the Catholic University of Lublin. He explores the difference between uti and frui in the context of human sexuality.
Taking a cue from St. Augustine, Karol Wojtyła explained that, since human beings are images of God, they are consequently the dignified subjects of actions. They must not be objectified and turned into the objects of uti – of “use” – for “utilitarian” purposes. That sort of “use” must never be applied to a human being in any sphere of human activity, whether sexual, economic, or other. As a contrast, the other way of “use” which is more aligned with frui use, includes the element of “enjoyment”, by which is meant far more than mere sensory pleasures.
Proper “enjoyment” includes an appreciation of what things (or people) truly are.
This sort of enjoyment-use is found in interpersonal relationships only when there is genuine love, in the sense of charity. Thus, all utilitarian-use (uti) of another person is wrong while enjoyment-use (frui) is proper when subordinated to authentic love. Simply put, people cannot be used as a means to an end without any respect for the fact that they, too, are “acting agents”, the acting subjects of their own actions. All “use” of others must be subordinated to the good of the persons involved.
We also have the word perceptio, (from the verb percipio) which basically signifies a “a taking, receiving; a gathering in, collecting.” It is also, by extension, “perception, comprehension”. St. Ambrose in his Commentary on Luke 4, 15 uses this noun with “frugum fructuumque reliquorum… a gathering of the produce of the earth and of the remaining fruits”. Both frux (which gives us the genitive plural frugum) and fructus (whence comes fructuum) are both related/derived from fruor, frui, fructus.
At the time of his own Holy Communion in the 1962MR the priest said silently (and may say with the 1970MR in a truncated version):
"Perceptio Corporis tui, Domine Iesu Christe, quod ego indignus sumere praesumo, non mihi proveniat in iudicium et condemnationem: sed pro tua pietate prosit mihi ad tutamentum mentis et corporis, et ad medelam percipiendam…Let not the partaking of Your Body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I, unworthy, presume to receive turn out to be unto my judgment and condemnation: but by Your goodness, may it become a protection of soul and body and remedy to be received.…”
Cause us, we beseech you, O Lord,
to be filled with the eternal enjoyment of your divinity,
which the worldly reception of Your precious Body and Blood prefigures.
Reception (perceptio) of the Host at Mass is the climatic moment in a sacred action which, glorious as it is, constitutes but a foreshadowing of our participation in the heavenly liturgical banquet before the throne of God. We receive Communion in this life (temporalis perceptio) as a token or promise of future glory (praefigurat). We want this gift of God to transform us in such a way that we will never loose this perceptio. We all have our own role to play in this transformation.
The words fruitio and perceptio both have a subtle agricultural overtone. We gather grain for bread that will be made into hosts for Mass, grapes for wine. Spiritually we reap what we sow as well. We must cultivate our relationship with God in the Eucharist, carefully and loving, with even greater attention than we might give to cultivating earthly relationships. Indeed our earthly relationships, for devout Catholic Christians, must reflect the bond of love and unity with have with Christ.
In our prayer we have the phrase divinitatis tuae sempiterna fruitione which speaks of the eternal “use-enjoyment” of God’s divinity. This sort of use implies an interpersonal relationship built on charity.
God loves us in His own divine way of loving His creatures. We, on the other hand, are often at fault in how we treat God and His gifts to us, even His sacrificial self-gift in the Eucharist.
We must avoid simply “using” the Eucharist by, for example, knowingly and purposefully receiving Holy Communion when not in the state of grace. We cannot, for another example, present ourselves to the priest and knowingly, willingly, omit confessing mortal sins and then expect to be forgiven. We must never presume on God’s love and mercy when faced with a temptation by saying something like, “I’ll just do it. I can always go to confession later.” These are ways of “using” God in a utilitarian way rather than giving Him the respect, love and worship which is His due. And we reap what we sow.
In the prayers we say before the Blessed Sacrament during Exposition we sing with the priest the verse and response, “Panem de caelo praestitisti eis… Omne delectamentum in se habentem… You have given to them bread from heaven… Having within itself every delight.”
Truly the sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord contains every delight, for of all the sacraments this sacrament of the Eucharist actually is what it signifies: Jesus Christ truly with us, Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity even in the smallest fragment or tiny precious drop.
Our consideration of who gives and who is being given in this sacred gift must draw forth from us our very best in every aspect of our lives.