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

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.

I noted that His Eminence Marc Card. Ouellet said the other day that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament Cardinal “must not be belittled as a pious but now outdated custom.” It is, instead, “a development of the living tradition, which felt the need to express faith in Christ’s real presence in the sacrament in this way.”

In our efforts for any new evangelization, open and fervent and even public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament must be promoted.

On that note, here are some thoughts which I have offered up in the past, but which I share with you veteran readers again, and with you new readers in a fresh way.

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.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. APX says:

    Before the Eucharist, Jesus my God and King, I am content to kneel until with His own hand He raises me.

    It’s too bad that for at least the Feast of Corpus Christi, there couldn’t be some universal requirement people to kneel and receive on the tongue. I don’t doubt that there would be resistance, whining, and mass hijinx, but I think for those who never have knelt to receive, or haven’t in a while and forgotten the difference it makes, might be more open to it on a regular basis. I know I had my hang ups before I started to, and now I can’t bring myself to do it.

  2. APX says:

    *That should be “I can’t bring myself to NOT do it.

  3. akp1 says:

    Beautiful post, thanks Father.

  4. NoraLee9 says:

    Amen, Pater, amen. Me too. Not just my feet, but my head and my hands also!

  5. JLCG says:

    Several years ago our pastor, now a bishop, revived the Corpus Christi procession and benediction.
    I participated and many of my co parishioners participated eagerly. The priest had acquired a fine canopy and he proceeded with the Sacred Form followed by the church choir singing I believe the Pange Lingua and then there was benediction.
    What I remember very clearly is that there was something culturally false in this festival. We proceeded between lanes of cars along the parking lot and then we entered into the school gymnasium. Frankly it didn’t feel like Seville or Rome. It was not natural, it was contrived.
    Then the pastor departed and there has been no more Corpus Christi celebration besides the mass.
    I believe that the forms of worship have to be very precisely adapted to the present day situation.

  6. Joseph-Mary says:

    In my former parishes we always seemed to have a money mission appeal at Corpus Christi. Why?
    And even in my good parish it appears we have a priest here from India to do a mission appeal. However we did get permission to invite a priest to speak about the Real Presence and help with sign ups for adoration and he comes in 2 weeks. It took almost 3 years of asking for this to happen.

    We cannot love who we do not know. Why isn’t adoration of our Blessed Lord promoted more? Time with Jesus! Come, let us adore Him!

  7. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: JLCG — Anything is going to seem “artificial” the first time you do it.

    Emmanuel parish in Dayton has a locally famous Corpus Christi procession. It’s a block long, back and forth along the street between the church and the school next door. But the entire street is covered with Eucharistic art done in colored wood chips, and the smell of incense mingles with the smell of cedar. I understand Old St Patrick’s in Columbus does something similar, except they have a brass band as well as the choir.

    Obviously it’s better to have a whole freaking parade through town, or throughout the entire parish territory. Same thing could be said for all sorts of processions. But it’s better to have one procession, however small, than no procession. Especially since if there’s no procession, people will never learn by having them!

  8. Father:

    Thanks for your inspiring post.

    You make mention of what liturgists and others–in the spirit of the post-Vatican II era–were saying as they waved away Eucharistic devotion (among other things).

    In light of what’s happening in recent days, it occurs to me there’s a need to document those things. Can you say if anyone has actually done this work? Documented the liturgists who advocated these things?

    Let me explain.

    Last week the priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati had it’s five-year convocation. The topic, in so many words, was “what’s up with the differences between Vat2 priests and JPII priests?” While I won’t air it all out here for obvious reasons, it is fair to say that there are priests of the post-council generation who are trying to understand more recent trends, and not always happy about them. And when someone–such as a newly ordained priest–talks about bad experiences growing up in that period, there is some head-scratching.

    Along the way, there are some interesting memory lapses. Yes, there was a little experimentation, but, that’s over now isn’t it? When did anyone say ___? When was ____ forbidden? I don’t remember that… And so it goes.

    Some might argue it isn’t polite–or pleasant–to recall it all; but it seems to me that when folks say they don’t know what all the fuss is about and why anyone would say the 70s and 80s weren’t just wonderful, it may be that some actual facts must be recalled and carefully laid out. One of the older priests made this comment: whatever happened to 40 Hours? I chose not to comment.

    I do find that when parishioners ask me questions, I explain things I was told–and they are in disbelief. Such as the assertion that tabernacles must be moved because the “static” presence of the Lord is a distraction from the “dynamic” presence (i.e., on the altar). Yes, they really said those things.

    So I think perhaps things must be written down, so that folks can understand both those times, and also the effect they had on many laypeople, including many vocations therefrom.

  9. JLCG says:

    @ Suburbabanshee.
    I am very old. I had my first communion on Corpus Christi day in 1943. I have watched and participated in more processions than you will ever do. Don’t tell me that I have to experience the thing.
    The spirit of Disneyland has taken possession apparently of many souls.

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Well, then, I’m glad you’ve had a chance to go to processions. Personally, I’ve had a chance to attend… four processions. I’ve been a Catholic my whole life, and I’m 41, and it’s only the past ten years that I knew anybody ever had such things, except in historical novels about medieval and Renaissance times. Even May crownings were something weird and mysterious out of the distant past, the one time my parochial school held one.

    So if you know about processions experientially, as you clearly do, maybe you should pass some of that along. Because otherwise, people are going to either have to: A) muddle along, or B) do without and not know what they’re missing. And 99% of American parishes since Vatican II have consistently gone with B.

  11. ContraMundum says:

    I’ve been a part of the “parking lot” processions.

    I’ll grant you that it’s not as nice as what used to be done in Europe, but there are 3 reasons why we can’t have the kind of processions through the city center. 1. The Catholic population is not large enough. That’s true whether you mean “nominal” or “practicing”: in many parts of the country, we’re a minority. That means we need to get out and evangelize. 2. The relationship between Church and State in this country, even at its best, makes such events more awkward here than in medieval Europe. 3. European cities are much, much more compact than American cities. American cities are laid out with the automobile in mind, not processions on foot.

    That said, even a procession around the parking lot is better than no procession at all.

  12. Joe in Canada says:

    ps the Latin iugum has survived, in English-speaking Jesuit High Schools, as the infamous Jug, known as ‘detention’ in other places. It is sometimes derived as Justice Under God, but that leaves the door open to mercy and compassion.

  13. MominTexas says:

    We had a procession!

    It was around the church grounds, etc. But you know what? I loved it- to take Christ “out” into the world, to show that we really do believe Christ is present in the Host, to provide a witness to all who may have been on the highway, in neighborhoods nearby, etc… I thought it was wonderful.

    We said a rosary, sang several songs, etc, throughout the procession.

  14. nemo says:

    I attend an FSSP parish. We had a beautiful procession outside around the church. Everybody was giving homage to Our Lord in their own way–girls spreading rose petals, altar boys incensing the Blessed Sacrament and ringing the bells, men holding the canopy over the Blessed Sacrament, the choir singing Pange Lingua, Ave Verum Corpus, Adoro Te Devote, and other hymns, ending up with Benediction. It was a grace-filled opportunity to honor Our Lord. I felt so privileged and grateful to be Catholic.

  15. Clinton R. says:

    “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.”

    Another development that illustrates the aftermath of Vatican II can be considered the Second Protestant Reformation. Thankfully, the tide is turning little by little. I am 35 years old and do not have post -V2 baggage and I desire all the good things of our Catholic patrimony. I love the Holy Church and all her beautiful prayers and traditions. +JMJ+

  16. capchoirgirl says:

    Yup! I go to St. Pat’s in Columbus and we are indeed having a procession today! We also have one on St. Patrick’s Day (or whenever we have that special Mass, depending on the day of the week the feast falls on that year), and for May Crowning. The choir sings and passes out sheets w/ the hymn on it so we can all participate. It’s great to see so many people processing behind Father as he carries the Blessed Sacrament under the canopy held by our very well-trained Altar Boys!
    The first time, yes, it felt a little odd, but now I really like it. Ours is short–our parish is situated in downtown Columbus, and our block is pretty busy–but we do actually go on a street for a bit before doing the parking lot thing and then back into the church itself.
    As for kneeling–we also have a communion rail, which is lovely, and almost everyone receives on the tongue.

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  18. cl00bie says:

    I have just finished the Formation for Ministry program in my diocese, and I was required to take 8 classes as part of the formation. One overriding theme I found in the classes and class materials was:

    1. There wasn’t an Imprimatur to be found.
    2. Each of the books minimized the divinity of Jesus and promoted His humanity. Likewise each of the books minimized the Real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and promoted the presence of Jesus in the Word and Community (didn’t both to mention the Priest).

    I have a call into the director of formation to voice my concerns. Another very telling experience I’ve had is when my former church was “renovated”. They worried so much about the big gold seated “welcoming” Jesus in the front, and the “eucharistic chapel” on the side (to get who was REALLY Jesus out of the way), they neglected to install a sacrarium, and as a matter of fact, the baptismal pool flushed into the sewer. :(

    We got a new pastor who immediately after communion would carefully purify each of the chalices. He would ask the Music Director / Liturgy Director to play quietly for him when he was doing it, and she refused. We would sit there while father purified the chalices for 2 minutes and 20 seconds (ask me how I knew :)).

    She even went to the Diocese’ Director of Liturgy and brought him down for a presentation and Q&A and asked him if our pastor was supposed to purify those cups. The requirement was he purify the main cup, but there was no requirement preventing him from attending to every droplet of the precious blood.

    His attention to the Eucharist in the face of community hostility, and his reverent style of celebrating Mass helped me revert back to the Catholic faith (I was quite lukewarm up until then), and he is a big (if not overriding) reason that I’m applying to the Permanent Diaconate formation program (if they will have me).

    Fathers, never underestimate the impact of simple pious attention to our Lord and Savior. :)

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