Date: Sunday, June 11, 2023
Early Monday around 5 AM getting my morning paper, I saw a full moon low in the western sky. It appeared to be orange in color but muted with haze -- caused by smoke from forest fires in Canada. Native Americans call this late Spring moon: the “Strawberry Moon” since it coincides with the picking of strawberries. You may say I am moonstruck, but I am not alone.
Back at the end of the 12th century, a young girl, named Juliana of Liege, living in a convent in Belgium, while praying before the Blessed Sacrament, had a vision of a moon, full and beautiful, but it was crossed with a dark line. The vision occurred several times. Juliana understood the dark line across the moon to signify a missing feast day in honor of the Eucharist. Her task was to labor to establish this feast day. Slowly the feast of Corpus Christi began to be celebrated in various dioceses. Juliana died in 1258. Six years later, the former archdeacon of Liege became Pope Urban IV. He extended the new feast of Corpus Christ to the universal Church. Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi, Latin for Body of Christ. Scriptures chosen for the Liturgy are a good source of reflection on the sacred mystery of the Eucharist.
After feeding the multitude with loaves of bread and a few fish in chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, Jesus explains the significance of the miracle to the crowd, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” At the Last Supper, Jesus will give his disciples bread and say, “Take and eat this is my body.” He will share the cup of wine and say, “Take and drink this is my blood that will be poured out for you.” Jesus is offering us his very life and sacrificial love that he will offer on the cross. Jesus is truly present in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Our reception of Holy Communion is participation in the Paschal Mystery, the death, and resurrection of Christ.
St. Paul in his Letter to the Corinthians underscores something we often miss. Not only do we receive Christ in Holy Communion. We are the Body of Christ. St. Augustine, a great theologian, tells those who are to receive the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, “Be what you see, and receive what you are.” In another sermon he says, “If you receive worthily, you are what you have received.”
In our first reading, Book of Deuteronomy, the author reminds the Jewish people how God provided manna and water for them as they journeyed through the vast and terrible desert. Holy Communion is spiritual nourishment for all of us in our trials and tribulations on earth and the taste of the heavenly kingdom to come.
The feast of Corpus Christi highlights the Mass as the source and summit of our Catholic Faith. We have the special tradition of keeping some Holy Communion in the Tabernacle for the sick and elderly unable to attend and as a centering place and focus for prayer. The sanctuary light reminds people in church that they are in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We also have the beautiful custom of Adoration. When a large host is taken from the tabernacle and inserted in the monstrance for adoration, the holder or vessel is called, the “luna.” “Luna” in Latin means “moon.” Like the strawberry moon that catches our attention in the Spring, seeing the consecrated host at Mass or Adoration affords us the opportunity to meditate on the precious gift of the Eucharistic. In response, with faith, reverence and gratitude, we say, “Amen.”