WDTPRS – Body and Blood of the Lord: His yoke is “sweet” and “light”

In the traditional Roman calendar for the 1962 Missale Romanum today, Thursday, is the Feast of Corpus Domini, or Corpus Christi.  In the post-Conciliar Missal’s calendar today is also Corpus Christi.

In the Novus Ordo and the traditional calendar many people will observe Corpus Christi on Sunday, which ensures that more people will 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 a comparatively new development: it was established in the 13th century.

In any event, there can be “external” celebration of Corpus Christi on Sunday in the Extraordinary Form as well.

ASIDE: Attached above 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.

Some history….

In 1246 the Bishop of Liège, Robert of Thourotte instituted in his diocese a feast now known as Corpus Christi at the request of an Augustinian nun, Juliana of Cornillon, who composed liturgical texts for it.  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 in 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.

There’s a story that St. Bonaventure, who was together at the papal court with Thomas, also was composing texts for the new feast.  When he read was Thomas was working on, he tore up his own.

The Collect for today’s Mass, also used at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, 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 from Hell 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. There is also the deep influence of Summorum Pontificum, which is spurring a recovery of our patrimony.  The customs of Corpus Christi processions, Forty Hours Devotion, and Eucharistic Adoration seem to be 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, or authentic “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. Nan says:

    i recently encountered a Catholic who bad never heard of Adoration so was in the odd position of explaining it to a Catholic, and was happy to do so.

  2. PostCatholic says:

    Light, sweet vs crude? Couldn’t resist the pun.

  3. Spade says:

    If I recall correctly, the recent USCCB survey of this years newly ordained diocesan priests indicated that the two biggest personal prayer things done by them, by a wide margin, were regular Adoration and the Rosary.

    I got a hunch that if we asked non-diocesan priests and religious we’d get similar answers.

  4. Mike says:

    I was overwhelmed yesterday by the thought that in the universal Church (although, as far as I know, never in the United States), the Feast of Corpus Christi is still a Holy Day of Obligation. Imagine stores being closed and everyone hearing Mass and participating in public devotions on this distinctly festive day.

    How much have our nominal shepherds allowed our culture, our Catholic culture, to be eviscerated by minimalizing and marginalizing the distinctly Catholic celebrations that define it.

  5. Suburbanbanshee says:

    St. Juliana of Liege, aka Juliana of Cornillon in her lifetime. Her day is April 6.

  6. Fr_Sotelo says:

    In the 70’s, hardly a parish was to be found which had a Corpus Christi procession. The newly ordained at that time rarely ever thought of offering Holy Hours and Benediction. So, even with the bad news that there is in the Church these days, the revival of Eucharistic devotion is a soothing balm. I am simply delighted to see how many young priests now love to offer Benediction and do so in quite triumphalist vestments LOL. And the seminarians are watching and waiting with baited breath for their turn!

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