Corpus Christi

Here are somethings pasted together from past WDTPRS articles on the prayers for Corpus Christi.

If you are not into the text, then perhaps you will enjoy the photo I shot last year of the Eucharistic procession for Corpus Christi which took place in the Vatican gardens behind St. Peter’s Basilica. The Swiss Guard did the honors. There were many pilgrims from Switzerland and Germany and Austria, including a very good choir and bands.

Writing as Joseph Ratzinger, His Holiness wrote about Corpus Christi and processions in a book on liturgy Feast of Faith. He had a very good paragraph on the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: quantum potes, tantum aude. I believe this to be the great byword of today’s feast.

Eucharistic procession in Vatican gardens COLLECT – (2002MR):
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.

O God, who bequeathed to us under a wondrous sacrament
the memorial of Your Passion,
we implore, grant us
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.

I have heard from many places that the customs of Corpus Christi processions, Forty Hours Devotion, and Eucharistic Adoration are returning in force. People want and need these things. They help us to be better Catholic Christians through contact with Christ. The bad old days of post-Conciliar denigration of these necessary practices lingers a bit but the aging-hippie priests and liturgists are losing ground under the two-fold pincer of common sense and a genuine Catholic love of Jesus. In the seminary I attended in the 1980’s we were informed with a superior sneer towards those quaint old processions and devotions that, “Jesus said ‘Take and eat, not sit and look!’” Somehow, “looking” was opposed to “receiving”. This is the same error, I think, inherent in the puzzling idea that if people aren’t constantly singing or carrying stuff during Mass they are not “actively” participating as if listening and watching must be only “passive”. Younger people no longer have that baggage, happily. They desire the good things of our Catholic inheritance. They resist passé attempts to make Jesus “smaller”. They want much more, as much as the Church can give.

Ecclesiae tuae, quaesumus, Domine,
unitatis et pacis propitius dona concede,
quae sub oblatis muneribus mystice designantur.

We beseech You, O Lord
kindly grant to Your Church gifts of unity and peace
which are mystically signified under the gifts here offered.

The vocabulary of today’s prayer doesn’t drive us scratching our heads to the informative Lewis & Short Dictionary, so let’s consider what the prayer is really saying in its content. In Thomas Aquinas’ beautiful sequence for Corpus Christi the Lauda Sion we hear sung, “Signs, not things, are all we see… here beneath these signs lie hidden priceless things.”

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 old 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” (

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 MiÅ‚ośći 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 WojtyÅ‚a 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 Holy Communion the priest once said or says now in the 1962MR, and may say with the 1970MR in a shortened 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 percipiendamLet 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 fruition 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.

I will post the full texts of the articles as time allows.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Cathy_of_Alex says:

    Father: I will be at the Corpus Christi procession at St. Agnes on Sunday.

    Your presence will be missed.

    Signed: Under 40 and Lovin’ the Old-Tyme Religion,

  2. Would you kindly say a prayer for me during the Mass and procession?

  3. Cathy_of_Alex says:

    I will joyously pray for you, Father.

  4. Andrew says:

    Today (the feast of Corpus Christi) I rose early and made my way to a certain church to a morning Mass, before heading for the office. But the priest did not show up and the Mass did not take place.
    Later on, at the end of the day, on my way home, as I drove past the same church I saw the parish priest walking his doggie across the street from the same church.

    This is not a joke. I am describing actual events. Make your own conclusions (as I did).
    Not everyone gets to live near St. Agnes.

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