Corpus Christi is Latin for ‘Body of Christ’.
Our Lord instituted the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday. The words which he has commanded the Church to use in the Eucharist, “This is my Body, This is my Blood”, are called the Words of Institution and they are recited at the Consecration of the Bread and Wine. When the priest, acting as Our Lord’s own representative, says these words, then the forms of Bread and Wine on the altar, and Our Lord’s Risen and Ascended Body and Blood in Heaven, become one. The consecrated Bread and Wine which hide Our Lord’s Body and Blood, we call the Blessed Sacrament.
Although every year on Maundy Thursday we rejoice and give thanks for the Eucharist, yet with the imminence of Good Friday our joy is tempered with a sense of sadness at all Our Lord’s sufferings. And at the end of the evening Eucharist on Maundy Thursday the altar is stripped to remind us of Our Lord’s desolation in his Passion and then we watch with him in the Garden of Gethsemane.
So we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi on another Thursday, the one after Trinity Sunday. And on this day there are no shadows – all is bright and we can rejoice with exceeding great joy and offer our adoration to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and our heartfelt thanks for the precious gift of Holy Communion. The liturgical colour is white or gold.
There is a long tradition of having Processions of the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi. Flowers were thrown on the streets and garlands hung from the windows and walls of houses and other buildings. (1) In Arundel Cathedral, West Sussex, the parishioners lay a Carpet of Flowers along the nave for the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament. In 2011 the Carpet of Flowers was dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham, this year being the 950th anniversary of the vision that took place there in 1061. On the next page there are some photographs of the Carpet and the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham in the Cathedral.
1. Wright, A.R. and Lones, T.E. (editor) (1936) British Calendar Customs. England. Vol I, movable feasts, London: William Glaisher Ltd.
Short talks for Corpus Christi entitled Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, One Bread, One Body and The Body of Christ, Church and Sacrament are available in this section of the Holy Faith website. See also The Lord's Body.