Entering into communion
A reflection for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), Year B
by Gerard Gallagher
Corpus Christi is one of those enduring feast days within the Church’s calendar. Around the world many parishes and communities will gather in processions. It is a staple Catholic tradition that is slowly disappearing in our modern world.
In days gone past in Old
Catholic Ireland, many parishes held Corpus Christi processions. These were wonderful community events. Many children who had recently made their First Holy Communion got a chance to "dress up" again and process in a very pious manner in public. Much of this nostalgia is gone. Modern Ireland is a very different place, and our public worship of faith is now a side piece in the contemporary cultural landscape.
Within all these changes it is to be noted that Ireland has hosted two International Eucharistic Congresses (1932 & 2012). Both of these events bookended a period of our history. In the 1930s, the Church in Ireland was a very powerful and influential institution. In 2012, the Church here was dealing (and still is) with the effects of successive scandals.
Understanding Eucharist and the Body of Christ is much more complicated that holding a procession. There is a need for everyone to reflect deeply on our understanding of the Body of Christ. We are all part of this body, and we enter into communion with each other when we attend Mass. We enter into communion after Mass when we try to live the Gospel in our daily lives.
Over the last year or so, this idea has been challenged in a new way for many of us. During our global pandemic under COVID-19 restrictions, public worship in Ireland and in other countries has been curtailed as a public health measure. Many of us would agree that the past year has been a very strange one for almost everyone in the world. It is amazing to think of how we were all forced to change our ways. Trying to be in communion while staying apart was a challenge for us all. The rupture of attending Mass, being part of a Eucharistic community has led to deeper reflection. This period and process has not ended.
At the time of writing, here in Ireland, we have moved from Christmas to Easter with no public worship. This has had an impact on our parishioners. Neighbours and parishioners have been disconnected for such a long time. The Body of Christ has not gathered for quite a while.
Attending Mass and why we attend Mass is more than just an obligation. It is how we as a community of faith share and live our faith with each other. Conversations are now beginning to take place about returning to public worship.
Just like the disciples sent ahead, we all can reflect on how we "make the preparations" for us all to gather again. We have all been impacted in celebrating faith online. Pope Francis has encouraged us to begin to move from the virtual to the real. How we gather in a real way will have been changed. We are all looking forward to going up to our local Jerusalem in our local church to celebrate in person the Body of Christ.
Doing something to remember something is very important. Doing something as a memorial is crucial for the gathering of the Easter people. We will give thanks when we can gather again with each other. It really will be a "thanksgiving sacrifice". The sacrifices we have all made due to COVID-19 are a form of communion with each other in Christ. However, the Body of Christ needs each other. We all need each other.
Maybe this year on Corpus Christi we can link with those communities who are unable to gather for worship. There are parts of the world where there are parishes without priests. There are also communities living with the threat of persecution or injury for gathering for Mass.
The celebration of Eucharist is a privilege and needs to be treated likewise. The Body of Christ needs all of the community. Corpus Christi is more than just getting ready to celebrate Mass and processing. It is one of the oldest feast days on our liturgical calendar where we are asked to reflect deeply on our understanding of Eucharist. Eucharist is central to our faith. It is the gathering of the people in their local parish connecting with the upper room and the institution of the first Eucharist. Eucharist is a remembrance. As we gather to "do this in memory", let us sing the song of the psalmist giving thanks for the "goodness of the Lord" for our faith and for the faith of each of us gathered together. Separate and apart we are all in communion with the Body of Christ.
The readings for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), Year B, are
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Gerard Gallagher works as pastoral coordinator in the Archdiocese of Dublin. He is author of a number of books including
Are We Losing the Young Church? (2005) and, most recently,
Return to Me with All Your Heart (2020). He has directed pilgrimages to World Youth Day for over 20 years! He works mainly with young adults.