The New Testament covenant, ratified by the blood of Christ, is eternal because Christ is eternally faithful to it by doing the will of the Father to the end.
The feast of Corpus Christi is like an extension of the Holy Thursday
celebration when our Lord instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist during the last supper. It is commonly believed that the feast of Corpus Christi was established upon the insistent request of an Augustinian nun, now a saint, Juliana de Liege (Belgium, 1193-1252). For over twenty years, she repeatedly had a vision in which a bright full moon appeared to her. The moon was perfect except for some dark spots which Juliana interpreted, after long prayer and consultations, to be due to the absence of a feast of the Eucharist.
To make a long story short, the feast of Corpus Christi was introduced first in Liege in 1246; then it was introduced into the Church calendar in 1264.
Not too many Catholics know that the Eucharist has a twofold character, namely, it is a memorial banquet and also a memorial sacrifice. Emphasis on one or the other has determined the mood or expression of the Church’s spirituality through the centuries. For instance, during the Middle Ages, the sacrificial aspect of the holy Eucharist was stressed. It was called The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Awe, respect, silence and veneration were instilled in the hearts of the faithful Any expression of glee, like clapping of hands and the like, was frowned upon and considered improper. This form of Eucharistic spirituality appeals mostly to the “young once.”
In recent times, especially after the Second Vatican Council, the banquet or meal aspect of the Eucharist has been emphasized. We speak of the Mass as the Eucharistic Banquet. The ambo or lectern is called the table of the Word; the altar is called the table of the Eucharist. Since it is a family meal, the Eucharist must be a joyful celebration. Hence community singing is encouraged as well as full and active participation by the whole assembly. At Mass, there are no spectators, so the liturgical norms say: Everyone has something to do or to say. This form of Eucharistic spirituality appeals most to the young ones.
Nowadays, with the approval of the Latin Mass, as decreed by the Council of Trent (16th century) and the revision of the Ordinary of the Mass (effective the beginning of Advent this year) aimed to better express the centuries-old Latin text, there is a marked tendency to restore the sacrificial aspect or mood of the Eucharist, with emphasis on respect, silence and veneration.
Whether this is progress or retrogression, time will tell. We hope and pray for the best.
Today’s Mass readings, all three, speak of the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist. In the first reading from the book of Exodus, Moses tells the Israelites, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you.” In the Old Testament, covenants were ratified by slaughtering some animals; part of the blood (God’s portion) was set apart, while the other part (people’s portion) was sprinkled on the people-as we read in today’s passage.
The Letter to the Hebrews (second reading) tells us that we have been
redeemed, not with the blood, of goats and calves but with the blood of Christ, our high priest and mediator of a new covenant.
In the Gospel, during the Last Supper Jesus, in anticipation of his
death the following day, gave the cup to his disciples, saying: “This is my blood of the covenant which will be shed for many. ” The Old Testament covenant, ratified with the blood of animals, was broken again and again by the Israelites. The New Testament covenant, ratified by the blood of Christ, is eternal because Christ is eternally faithful to it by doing the will of the Father to the end.
Whenever we eat the body of Christ and drink his blood in the holy
Eucharist, we commit ourselves to observe the covenant which Jesus
ratified with his own blood. And if circumstances so warrant, we are
ready to shed our own blood for the covenant-as countless martyrs did.