A blessed and happy Solemnity of Corpus Christi to everybody!

Thanks be to God who gives us His own Body as our bread of life, and seals with His own Blood the covenant of our eternal salvation.

I can’t express my joy and awe half so eloquently as my great and dearly beloved Dominican father, St. Thomas Aquinas, did in his glorious hymn, Pange Lingua:

PANGE, lingua, gloriosi
Corporis mysterium,
Sanguinisque pretiosi,
quem in mundi pretium
fructus ventris generosi
Rex effudit Gentium.
SING, my tongue, the Savior’s glory,
of His flesh the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our immortal King,
destined, for the world’s redemption,
from a noble womb to spring.
Nobis datus, nobis natus
ex intacta Virgine,
et in mundo conversatus,
sparso verbi semine,
sui moras incolatus
miro clausit ordine.
Of a pure and spotless Virgin
born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
then He closed in solemn order
wondrously His life of woe.
In supremae nocte cenae
recumbens cum fratribus
observata lege plene
cibis in legalibus,
cibum turbae duodenae
se dat suis manibus.
On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He the Pascal victim eating,
first fulfills the Law’s command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own hand.
Verbum caro, panem verum
verbo carnem efficit:
fitque sanguis Christi merum,
et si sensus deficit,
ad firmandum cor sincerum
sola fides sufficit.
Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
by His word to Flesh He turns;
wine into His Blood He changes;-
what though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
faith her lesson quickly learns.
Tantum ergo Sacramentum
veneremur cernui:
et antiquum documentum
novo cedat ritui:
praestet fides supplementum
sensuum defectui.
Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail;
Lo! o’er ancient forms departing,
newer rites of grace prevail;
faith for all defects supplying,
where the feeble sense fail.
Genitori, Genitoque
laus et iubilatio,
salus, honor, virtus quoque
sit et benedictio:
procedenti ab utroque
compar sit laudatio.
Amen. Alleluia.
To the everlasting Father,
and the Son who reigns on high,
with the Holy Ghost proceeding
forth from Each eternally,
be salvation, honor, blessing,
might and endless majesty.
Amen. Alleluia.

Many thanks to Michael Martin for providing the above and many other traditional prayers at his Thesaurus Precum Latinarum (Treasury of Latin Prayers) site.  It truly is a treasury!

This hymn does such a wonderful job of capturing the great mystery of the Holy Eucharist–the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ in what appears to all the senses to be simple bread and wine.  And not even the tastiest, most delicious bread and wine known to our palates.  There’s nothing “special” about it whatsoever.  Just pure wheat and water, pure grape wine.  Indeed, as I understand it, the Sacrament would not be valid were it otherwise.

But in that most simple bit of food, the heart discerns what, or rather Whom, we receive.  With the eyes of faith, we perceive truly the glory of the Sacrament.  And we can hardly help but fall down in adoration!

What seems to the world to be insane, blasphemous idol worship is to the faithful Catholic the most intimate encounter with God possible on this Earth, in this mortal life.  Whatever our separated brethren may mean by having a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” it surely pales in comparison with the relationship Catholics have with Him.  For that Sacrament that we adore, we are also given to consume in our very flesh.  I can’t conceive of a closer, more personal relationship than that.

In every way, Christ is our nourishment and strength.  I believe it was St. Augustine who pointed out that receiving the Eucharist is a stunning reversal of eating normal food.  That when we eat normal food, our eating consumes that food and transforms it into part of ourselves.  But when we eat the Blessed Sacrament, it is we who are consumed and transformed!  Just as lowly plants and animals become absorbed into us, so we lowly humans become absorbed in God.  And we don’t have to lose our lives first–to the contrary, we gain life more fully.

I think that’s a really interesting point and a marvelous way of contrasting and yet uniting the natural order and the supernatural order.  We humans live squarely within both.  That’s what makes us unique and superior among all creatures.

It’s all so amazing, when we take time to think about it!

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