WDTPRS: Corpus Christi – I affirm my subjugation to Christ vanquisher of hell and my sins.

In the traditional Roman calendar for the 1962 Missale Romanum Thursday (I am posting late) is Corpus Domini, or Corpus Christi.  In the Novus Ordo many people are celebrating Corpus Christi on Sunday (which is really suppose to fall on the Thursday before).  This gives more people a chance to participate.  I don’t object as much to the transference of Corpus Christi to Sunday as I do to the appalling removal of Ascension Thursday to Sunday.  Ascension Thursday is, after all, Scriptural and of very ancient observance.  Corpus Christi is relatively new, modern even: it comes only from the 13th century.

ASIDE: Attached here is a photo I took a few years ago in the Vatican Gardens during a Corpus Christi procession.  That great edifice in the background is back of St. Peter’s Basilica.  It isn’t often you get Swiss Guards to carry the canopy.

In 1246, Robert of Thourotte, Bishop of Liège, Belgium, had instituted in his diocese the feast now known as Corpus Christi at the request of an Augustinian nun Juliana of Cornillon, who composed an office for it.  In 1264, Pope Urban IV ordered the feast of the Body of Christ to be celebrated as a holy day of obligation for the universal Church on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday and accepted the texts by the Angelic Doctor for the Mass and office.

At the request of an Augustinian nun, Juliana of Cornillon, in 1246 the Bishop of Liège, Robert of Thourotte, instituted in his diocese a feast now known as Corpus Christi.  A few years later, following a great Eucharistic miracle in which a priest suffering doubts witnessed a Host become flesh and bleed on the linen corporal, Pope Urban IV n 1264 ordered the feast of the Body of Christ to be celebrated by the universal Church on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.  The Angelic Doctor, St Thomas Aquinas (d 1274), composed the feast’s Mass and Office.  The Collect for today’s Mass, also used during Benediction, was assumed into the 1570 Missale Romanum.  It has remained unchanged.

Deus, qui nobis sub sacramento mirabili passionis tuae memoriam reliquisti, tribue, quaesumus, ita nos Corporis et Sanguinis tui sacra mysteria venerari, ut redemptionis tuae fructum in nobis iugiter sentiamus.

Iugiter, an adverb, is from iugum, “a yoke or collar for horses”, “beam, lath, or rail fastened in a horizontal direction to perpendicular poles or posts, a cross-beam”.  Iugiter means “continuously”, as if one moment in time is being yoked together with the next, and the next, and so on.


O God, who bequeathed to us under a wondrous sacrament the memorial of Your Passion, grant to us, we implore, to venerate the sacred mysteries of Your Body and Blood in such a way that we constantly sense within us the fruit of Your redemption.


O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament have left us a memorial of your Passion, grant us, we pray, so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood that we may always experience in ourselves the fruits of your redemption.

In the 1980’s we seminarians were informed with a superior sneer that, “Jesus said ‘Take and eat, not sit and look!’”  Somehow, “looking” was opposed to “receiving”, “doing”.  This same error is at the root of false propositions about “active participation”: if people aren’t constantly singing or carrying stuff they are “passive”.

Younger people no longer have that baggage, happily.  They desire the all good things of our Catholic patrimony.  They want as much as Holy Church can give.  They resist passé attempts to make Jesus “smaller”.

After the Second Vatican Council, many liturgists (all but a few?) asserted that, because modern man is all grown up now, Eucharistic devotions are actually harmful rather than helpful.  We mustn’t crawl in submission before God anymore.  We won’t grovel in archaic triumphal processions or kneel as if before some king.  We are urbane adults, not child-like peasants below a father or feudal master.  We stand and take rather than kneel and receive.

How this lie has damaged our Catholic identity!  Some details of society have changed like shifting sandbars, but man doesn’t change.  God remains transcendent. We poor, fallen human beings need concrete things through which we can perceive invisible realities.

The bad old days of post-Conciliar denigration of wholesome devotional practices may linger, but the aging-hippie priests and liberal liturgists have lost most of their ground under the two-fold pincer of common sense and the genuine Catholic love people have for Jesus in the Eucharist. The customs of Corpus Christi processions, Forty Hours Devotion, and Eucharistic Adoration are returning in force.

People want and need these devotions.  They help us to be better Catholic Christians through contact with Christ and through giving public witness to our faith.

The iugum (whence iugiter) was a symbol for defeat and slavery.  A victorious Roman general compelled the vanquished to pass under a yoke (sub iugum, “subjugate”) made of spears.  Prisoners were later yoked together and paraded in the returning general’s triumph procession.

In worldly terms, crosses and yokes are instruments of bitter humiliation.

Jesus says His yoke is “sweet” and “light”.

Christ invites us to learn His ways through the image of His yoke upon our shoulders (Matthew 11:29-30).  True freedom lies precisely in subjugation to Him.  His yokes are sweet yokes.  He did not defeat us to give us His yoke. He defeated death in us to raise us by His yoke.  In honoring the Blessed Sacrament we proclaim with the Triumphant Victor Christ, “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (cf 1 Cor 15:54b – 57).

Proponents of true “liberation theology” take Christ the Liberator into the public square. In the sight of onlookers, we march in His honor, profess His gift of salvation, and kneel before Him.

We cannot honor enough this pledge of our future happiness in heaven, the Body and Precious Blood of Christ.

I affirm my subjugation to Christ, Victor over death, hell and my sins.  Before the Eucharist, Jesus my God and King, I am content to kneel until with His own hand He raises me.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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10 Responses to WDTPRS: Corpus Christi – I affirm my subjugation to Christ vanquisher of hell and my sins.

  1. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    A wonderful article. Thank you Father Z.

    “Younger people no longer have that baggage, happily. They desire the all good things of our Catholic patrimony. They want as much as Holy Church can give.”

    For those of your readers who are in Central London this weekend there is a Corpus Christi Procession on Sunday from The Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, to Spanish Place, with a station on the way for Benediction at the Ukrainian Cathedral, Duke Street. Beginning at 5.15pm in Farm Street Church.

    A true act of witness and joy, for real grown-ups.

  2. JonPatrick says:

    Our parish (Prince of Peace Lewiston ME) is having Forty Hours Devotion that ends with the Corpus Christi procession after the 10 AM Mass Sunday. The procession around the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul will end with Benediction at the Basilica Chapel.

  3. majuscule says:

    We are going to have a Corpus Christi procession at our Sunday OF Mass. Our priest (from another country) has been encouraging this for several years. Our church is in a rural area, so only the early arrivals for the Sunday SVdP food pantry will be witnesses from the non-church-going community. Still, it’s something.

    I was blessed to be able to attend an EF Mass on Thursday. The Sequence was beautiful.

  4. JustaSinner says:

    Why such stickler for tradition I am asked. Get with the times, they say. Well I always ask, do you remember playing the telephone game as kids? You start with “Jimmy had a red bike”, and two minutes and twenty kids later you end up with “Suzy had a blue dress.” Imagine if the Church had ‘gotten’ with the times continuously since Christ was crucified? It would have started out as “this is my body and blood”, and today would be that it merely symbolizes God’s essence, maybe, kinda, sometimes.

  5. Uxixu says:

    This is a relatively “normal” calendar difference as far as I’m concerned, as it it’s not one of those listed in Canon 1246 or of the ancient Apostolic tradition as is Ascension Thursday. Any of those listed in Canon Law should remain obligatory on their stated days and not be moved for convenience reasons.

  6. Uxixu says:

    Oops of course, I misread 1246. It is there… so should be obligatory.

  7. Gregorius says:

    One objection to moving it to Sunday is that the feast is often treated like just another Sunday Mass. I had never seen a Corpus Christi procession in my life until I became an adult. On the other hand, this isn’t really a problem if the parish celebrates liturgy well.

  8. Imrahil says:

    Well, we of course still have the holiday.

    That said, many parishes around here celebrate Corpus Christi Sunday too, because there would be a general city-wide celebration on the holiday and then a parish-wide external celebration on the Sunday.

    I heard that the reason that America is rather shy with processions is that this was a prudential end-19th. cent. move to prevent anti-Catholicism. (Though in such cases, wouldn’t we at least have an indoors procession, three times up the aisle or so?) Indeed around here, the traditional thing would be to put an extra large share of incense into the thurible when passing by a Protestant church.

  9. Imrahil says:

    Dear Uxixu, maybe, but then the State should grant a holiday. (There is a time for additional efforts and inconvenience by the religious population, but it’s the fasts, not the feasts.)

    I’m with our rev’d host on this: would be nice on the Thursday perhaps (and certainly with a real holiday), but it really isn’t as problematic on the Sunday as is Ascension.

    (And by the way, Ascension, other than Corpus Christi, is ecumenically neutral. You can’t, practically, make a public holiday out of Corpus Christi, in America, but as a foreigner I seriously do not get why you cannot make one out of Ascension – with the precise same justification as for Christmas.)

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