Today, in many parts of the world, the Church celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi, also known as Corpus Domini. It is regarded as the “spiritual Holy Thursday,” which is meant to remind believers of the presence of the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and nurture a strong devotion to him in the hearts of all.
Today is also the formal launch of the Eucharistic Revival of the bishops of the United States.
The Second Vatican Council, as the paramount source of Church teaching in the contemporary era, gave strong instructions on the Eucharist.
In its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Vatican II taught: “The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with the paschal sacraments, to be one in holiness; it prays that they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith; the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire.”
And in its Constitution on the Church, Vatican II also taught: “Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It.”
As we return to the Eucharistic mystery of the Lord’s presence, we see the preeminent role of the Second Vatican Council. Before our current crisis of Eucharistic belief, Vatican II taught and confirmed us in the faith of our forebears. It echoed the faith of our fathers and mothers before us that the Lord Jesus is truly present with us. Such teaching is greatly needed today and will serve as a foundation for our renewal in Eucharistic belief.
Beginning with the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, every era of Church history has been marked by a renewal that has been brought about by a return to the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord Jesus. In fact, our feast today of Corpus Christi was instituted to assist with a waning devotion to the Eucharist in the thirteenth century. The feast was broadened in the 16th century and served as a much-needed help to the Church in the midst of the Protestant Reformation.
In the Church’s own history in the United States, Corpus Christi (with its resplendent processions), along with the 40 Hours Devotion, was a source of assistance to the bishops in responding to a culture of intimidation created by anti-Catholicism. Eucharistic belief and devotion became rallying points for displaying the faith of Catholic citizens and served to strengthen the zeal and Eucharistic belief of a beleaguered people.
In these different examples, the point is emphasized: The Eucharist is both the sacrament of unity and the sacrament of Church renewal. As Vatican II prophetically taught us, the Eucharist renews the covenant between the Lord and humanity. It draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets us on fire. It is the Eucharist that is the heart of any true reform.
Such a realization is encouraging today, as we see Eucharistic belief in contention. Pew research indicates that many Catholics in the United States do not believe in the central teaching of the Lord’s true presence among us in the Blessed Sacrament. Such a state of affairs is both disturbing and alarming. It compels action.
Today’s spiritual crisis calls for spiritual action.
And so, once again, the Church humbles herself and returns to her Eucharistic Lord. The Church in the United States is initiating a three-year process of Eucharistic Revival. We are called as a people to go to the fount that feeds our way of life. We are summoned to seek the summit that elevates who we are as God’s people. We are hearkened to the Eucharist, to the great mystery of God’s presence among us, to the visible declaration of his love and care for us.
We turn to the Eucharistic Lord, who told us: “Greatly have I desired to eat this Passover with you,” and, “I will not leave you orphans.”
As we return to the Eucharistic Lord, we are inspired by the simple prayer of the centurion, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” In our revival as a people, we come before the very mystery that is questioned and we petition for the grace of faith, for ourselves and our fellow believers.