THE EUCHARIST IS THE MEMORIAL OF GOD’S LOVE – THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI: THEN AND NOW

In case you did not see my earlier tweet or FB note, it was annnounced today by the press office director, Greg Burke, that Pope Francis will visit Chile and Peru in January 2018 – specific schedule and details to be announced.

THE EUCHARIST IS THE MEMORIAL OF GOD’S LOVE

On Sunday, the feast of Corpus Christi, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at St. John Lateran basilica, his cathedral as Bishop of Rome, followed by a procession to St. Mary Major Basilica. This annual procession has traditionally taken place on the Thursday before the feast of Corpus Christi but Pope Francis asked that it be moved this year to the actual feast day itself.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the word “memory,” noting that “remembering all that the Lord has done for us is the foundation of our own personal history of salvation.”

“Memory is important,” said Francis, “because it allows us to dwell in love, to be mindful, never forgetting who it is who loves us and whom we are called to love in return.  Yet nowadays, this singular ability that the Lord has given us is considerably weakened.  Amid so much frantic activity, many people and events seem to pass in a whirl.  We quickly turn the page, looking for novelty while unable to retain memories.  Leaving our memories behind and living only for the moment, we risk remaining ever on the surface of things, constantly in flux, without going deeper, without the broader vision that reminds us who we are and where we are going.  In this way, our life grows fragmented, and dulled within.”

And yet, he said, “today’s Solemnity reminds us that in our fragmented lives, the Lord comes to meet us with a loving ‘fragility’ which is the Eucharist.  In the Bread of Life, the Lord comes to us, making himself a humble meal that lovingly heals our memory, wounded by life’s frantic pace of life.  The Eucharist is the memorial of God’s love.

“There, ‘Christ’s sufferings are remembered’, and we recall God’s love for us, which gives us strength and support on our journey.  This is why the Eucharistic commemoration does us so much good: it is not an abstract, cold and superficial memory, but a living remembrance that comforts us with God’s love.  The Eucharist is flavored with Jesus’ words and deeds, the taste of his Passion, the fragrance of his Spirit.  When we receive it, our hearts are overcome with the certainty of Jesus’ love.  In saying this, I think in particular of you boys and girls, who recently received First Holy Communion, and are here today in great numbers.”

After Mass, the Holy Father travelled by car to St. Mary Major where he welcomed the huge procession carrying the Blessed Sacrament. For the first time, the Monstrance was carried on a platform, instead of placed in an open truck, held aloft on the shoulders of four men, alternating with others at points. A canopy was held over the Eucharist by 8 other men.

In 1994, when Pope John Paul began to have difficulty walking, a truck became the means of transportation for the pontiff and the Eucharist. Both a chair and a kneeler were planed in the open vehicle for the Pope. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI followed suit in the truck.

Pope Francis did walk behind the Eucharist in 2013 but since then has been driven to the basilica of St. Mary Major.

THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI – THEN AND NOW

The solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, known in many countries as Corpus Christi or Corpus Domini, is always a holiday in the Vatican. For years, the public celebration occurred on the Thursday before the Sunday feast of Corpus Christi and the main event on the papal schedule that day was Mass at 7 p.m. in the square outside the Pope’s cathedral church of St. John Lateran, a procession with the Blessed Sacrament down Via Merulana to St. Mary Major Basilica and a blessing of the crowd gathered there.

In March 2017, Pope Francis moved the traditional celebration in Rome of the feast of Corpus Christi from Thursday to the following Sunday.  One of the reasons seemed to be the Pope’s desire to attract more people to this annual Mass and procession, including people who would have Sunday as a day off of work.

After the Corpus Christi Mass on June 18, 2017,  the Holy Father travelled by car to St. Mary Major where he welcomed the huge procession carrying the Blessed Sacrament. For the first time, the Monstrance was carried on a platform, instead of placed in an open truck. It was held aloft on the shoulders of four men, alternating with others at points. A canopy was held over the Eucharist by 8 other men.

Let’s look back at the history of this important feast day.

Via Merulana, originally called Via Gregoriana, was laid out by Pope Gregory XIII during the Holy Year 1575. There is a Via Gregoriana in Rome today but it is located near the famed Spanish Steps. Among Pope Gregory’s achievements: He reformed the calendar, founded the papal observatory, as well as several colleges and seminaries, including the Gregorian University, and built the Quirinale Palace, for years the summer residence of Popes and now home to the president of Italy.

The procession between the two Roman basilicas began in the 1400’s. Its current itinerary began in 1575 when Pope Gregory XIII built the street that links them, originally named Via Gregorian and now called Via Merulana. This route was followed for more than 300 years until the procession fell into disuse until 1979 when St. John Paul revived the custom, He processed the distance on foot every year except 1981, after the attack on his life in St. Peter’s Square, and 1994 following hip surgery. Starting in 1995 he rode in an open, canopy-covered vehicle, seated before a small altar bearing the monstrance and host.

Pope Benedict XVI continued this tradition.

The feast of Corpus Christi is due in part to the visions of a 13th century Augustinian nun, Julianna of Lièges, known for her devotion to the Eucharist. In one vision, Our Lord appeared to her, reminding her there was no solemnity honoring the Blessed Sacrament and she began to promote such a feast. Pope Urban IV, who also wished to honor the Eucharist, wrote a Bull in 1264 in which he spoke of the love of Our Lord and Savior as expressed in the Holy Eucharist, ordering Corpus Christi to be celebrated annually on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Indulgences could be gained, he wrote, by attendance at Mass and reciting the Office composed at Urban’s request by St. Thomas Aquinas, which many say is the most beautiful office of the Breviary.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, about this same time in history – which was a period of infrequent communion – the elevation of the chalice and host came into being at Mass as well as placing the host in a monstrance for Eucharistic adoration. Corpus Christi is a moveable feast and in some countries is observed on the first Sunday following Trinity Sunday.

I am often asked: What is the difference between a solemnity and a feast day in the Church? Liturgy is, of course, the Church’s public worship and includes all rites and ceremonies by means of which the Church expresses her worship of God. The principal acts of liturgy that would immediately come to mind to all of us would be the seven sacraments, called sacramental liturgies.

There are also categories of liturgical days. The three technical categories are, in descending order: Solemnity, Feast and Memorial.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, a feast is “technically, one category of liturgical day, a lesser rank than ‘solemnity’ and a higher rank than ‘memorial’. In popular usage, however, ‘feast’ is applied indiscriminately by the faithful to all liturgical days on which the Church commemorates a mystery of Our Lord or Our Lady, or keeps the memory of a saint.” Thus, these days mark an event in the life of Jesus or Mary or a saint. The Vatican is very careful to make the distinction between solemnity, feast or memorial: Corpus Christi is a solemnity.

Often the observance starts on the vigil, that is, the evening prior to the actual date. Many solemnities occur on fixed dates such as January 1 – Mother of God, January 6 – Epiphany, March 25 – the Annunciation, June 29 – Sts. Peter and Paul, August 15 – the Assumption, December 8 – the Immaculate Conception. Others are movable dates: Easter, the Ascension, Pentecost and Corpus Christi – which Pope Benedict marks today, May 22, in Rome.

A memorial refers to the so-called lowest type of feast found in the Church’s liturgical calendar. There is the obligatory memorial that must be celebrated and the optional memorial that is celebrated at Mass at the priest’s discretion. May 10th was, for example, an optional memorial of Saint Damien de Veuster of Molokai, the priest who treated lepers.

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VATICAN INSIDER: THE ACTON INSTITUTE AND MICHAEL NOVAK – POPE FRANCIS MAKES HISTORIC CHANGE IN CORPUS CHRISTI FEAST

VATICAN INSIDER: THE ACTON INSTITUTE AND MICHAEL NOVAK

Join me this weekend on Vatican Insider for Part II of my conversation with Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Acton Institute’s Rome Office. We talk briefly about the mission and work of the Institute but this week’s focus is principally on one of our favorite people and friends, the late, great Michael Novak, and his impact on the world, on Acton and on our personal lives. Part I aired last weekend.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

POPE FRANCIS MAKES HISTORIC CHANGE IN CORPUS CHRISTI FEAST

It is subtle and has come without an official explanation – so far.

Pope Francis has moved the traditional celebration in Rome of the feast of Corpus Christi, known as Corpus Domini here, from Thursday to the following Sunday this year. The traditional Mass and procession from St. John Lateran to St. Mary Major along Via Merulana will now take place on Sunday, June 18.

An article in the online Italian language journal, FarodiRoma (Rome’s Lighthouse), cited by Aleteia, calls the news “an unprecedented move” by Pope Francis.

The editors explain in their article on Corpus Christi that one of the reasons seems to be Pope Francesco’s desire to attract more people to this annual Mass and procession.

I follow the papal calendar month by month by going to the Prefecture of the Papal Household (where people get tickets for papal events: http://www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/en/biglietti_en.html) and, for liturgical ceremonies, to Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff (http://w2.vatican.va/content/liturgy/en.html

I wanted to verify the new date for this feast but could not find a calendar beyond April. I was advised to go to the prefecture site, to the upper right corner where, in very small letters, a hard to see white on gray, appears the word ‘Audiences’. It’s actually a misnomer because when you click on it you see audiences, the Angelus, liturgies, etc. – it probably should be named Agenda 2017.

There it is: JUNE 2017 – Sunday 18, Corpus Domini Mass and Procession at 19:00 in St John Lateran Square (no tickets required)

It does not mention Via Merulana or St. Mary Major but I suppose that’s a given – at least to Romans who know this tradition well.

Let’s see if and when the change is explained. Will Pope Francis issue a bull to change that of Pope Urban IV? Urban wished to honor the Eucharist and, in August 1264, wrote the Bull Transitus, ordering Corpus Christi to be celebrated annually on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Urban died on October 2, 1264.

Urban IV with Saints Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas –

Following is a piece I wrote a few years back and publish every year on the feast of Corpus Christi:

One of the most evocative liturgical celebrations of the year in Rome is the feast of Corpus Christi. Dating back to 1246, this solemnity is marked by an evening papal Mass on the esplanade at St. John Lateran Basilica and a Eucharistic procession along Via Merulana to St. Mary Major Basilica where the Pope imparts his blessing. This feast is celebrated in many beautiful, similar ways in dioceses throughout the world.

Via Merulana, originally called Via Gregoriana, was laid out by Pope Gregory XIII during the Holy Year 1575. Among Pope Gregory’s achievements: He reformed the calendar, founded the papal observatory, as well as several colleges and seminaries, including the Gregorian university, and built the quirinale palace, for years the summer residence of Popes and now home to the president of Italy.

The procession between the two basilicas began in the 1400’s. Its current itinerary began in 1575 when Gregory XIII built Via Merulana, and this route was followed for more than 300 years until the procession fell into disuse. John Paul II revived this custom in 1979. The feast of Corpus Christi is due in part to the visions of a 13th century Augustinian nun, Julianna of Lièges, known for her devotion to the Eucharist.

In one vision, Our Lord appeared to Julianna, reminding her that there was no solemnity honoring the Blessed Sacrament, and she began to promote such a feast.

Pope Urban IV, who also wished to honor the Eucharist, wrote a Bull in 1264 ordering Corpus Christi to be celebrated annually on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday

(JFL: The “lighthouse” in the journal’s name (which also publishes pieces in Spanish) refers to the lighthouse on the Janiculum hill that rose where the battles took place for the defense of the Roman Republic of 1849, and dominates Italy’s capital with its 20-meter height. The monument’s construction was financed by the Italian community in Argentina to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Italy’s unification in 1911, just over a century before the arrival of an Argentinian to the papacy, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis.)