Solemnity of Corpus Christi: Remembering
Last night my family attended Seton School’s high school graduation Mass and commencement. My oldest nephew was member of this class of 2015. My family has been part of this community since 1986, the year I graduated from the school, and continued to 2000 when my youngest brother graduated. That’s six of seven of us that claim Seton as our alma mater. My nephew is the first of the next generation of our family to graduate, and with many more to come.
The night was a bit of a homecoming. It was a homecoming not just to a school, but more to a family. Last night we took part in traditions that were established many years ago when my siblings were still attending. And we all remembered.
Dr. John Cuddeback, Chair of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College, gave the commencement address, which I highly recommend. He focused on the theme of remembering, both the past and the future, today. His theme applied not just to the graduates, but to everyone present. As we go through life we have to remember our friends, our faith, what we have been taught, and what we have learned by experience. To be a true success in life (not as the world judges) we have to have remember.
As he spoke, I realized how the habit of remembering as he focused on it is part and parcel of living the Liturgical Year. When we live the Liturgical Year we are:
- Building a personal relationship with Christ by entering more deeply in the liturgy,
- Building family relationships by external celebrations, both religious popular piety and physical expressions of food, drink, crafts, games and other types of celebration,
- Building faith by using feasts and seasons of the year to learn more about the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Using these touchstones of liturgy and piety helps us remember; it keeps our present rooted in the past and future. Furthermore, since the Liturgical Cycle repeats every year, reliving these elements for the feasts and seasons every Liturgical Year is another way we are remembering.
This Sunday (in the United States, other countries is Thursday) the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (often referred to as Corpus Christi). This is a feast day dedicated to celebrating the mystery of the Eucharist, “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #132). As a Catholic we need to remember all we learned about the Eucharist, and we also remember how the faithful celebrate this feast, and move forward by building on this memory.
There is a slight problem, because so many faithful didn’t learn much or anything about the Eucharist. There are gaps in the knowledge of Faith. Some didn’t have solid catechesis formation as a child. And so few homilies tell of the riches of the Eucharist. When is the last time a priest used and explained the word transubstantiation? Or how about teaching about reverence and genuflection and visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? When is the last time there was a refresher on how to receive Holy Communion properly (There is a fabulous video that can help with a refresher.) or having the right disposition (confession might be needed before receiving if one is in the state of sin)? This shows the gaps in our collective memory. How can one remember what wasn’t there at the beginning?
This is where the celebration of the Liturgical Year can fill those gaps and build the memory. The feast of Corpus Christi evokes all sorts of Popular Piety, including processions, and sawdust and flower carpets, with the First Communion children leading the procession. Not every parish or diocese has Eucharist processions, but if it is possible to attend one, it is a beautiful way to publicly acknowledge our belief of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and also a way to adore and reverence Christ.
The celebration continues with the family. Bringing home various ways of reminding the family of the great feast can be a springboard for discussions. Perhaps it is not heard from the pulpit, but the dinner table can be the place to talk about the riches of the Eucharist and even big words like transubstantiation.
As we build the family’s annual traditions for the Liturgical Year they become part of our memory. By remembering we can reach that success of sanctity that God intends for each one of us.
For more discussion on Corpus Christi traditions, see my post from last year: Feastday Highlights: Corpus Christi.
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