Corpus et Sanguis Christi, Solemnity of
CORPUS ET SANGUIS CHRISTI, SOLEMNITY OF
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, historically observed Thursday after Trinity Sunday where it is a holy day of obligation. In the United States and other parts of the world where the solemnity is not observed as a holy day of obligation, it is assigned to the Sunday after Trinity Sunday. This feast, still known popularly as Corpus Christi, celebrates the mystery of the enduring presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
The name Corpus Christi ("the body of Christ") is an abbreviation of the name of the feast in the Missal of Pius V (1570), festum sanctissimi corporis christi ("the feast of the most holy body of Christ"). Older names for the feast include Nova sollemnitas and Festa Domini, the latter survives in the Romance languages as Fête Dieu, etc. The renewal of the name of the feast Sollemnitas Corpus et Sanguinis Christi ("Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ") correlates with the renewal of eucharistic theology and practice at Vatican II.
History. The history of the feast is inseparable from the social and political context of belgium and medieval eucharistic devotion and practices. In response to debates about the Real Presence and infrequent communion, there was a great development of eucharistic devotion. The feast was established in 1246 in Liège (Luik), Belgium, by Bishop Robert of Turotte, in response to the call of Julianna of Cornillon (ca. 1193–1258) and Eve of St. Martin (ca. 1210–1265). In 1208 Julianna reported a vision through which she understood that Jesus lamented the absence of a particular feast in the Church's calendar focused on his sacramental presence on the altar. Her vision launched a campaign on the part of the Beguines for a feast centered on the presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, which met with reluctance on the part of some clergy. Inspired by the Beguine's piety and concern for orthodoxy, the other clergy soon promoted the feast. While it seemed to pass popularly with Julianna's death, her powerful confessors kept it alive in Liège and led to its reception in the schools of Paris. A key figure was the former archdeacon of Liège, Jacques Pantaléon, who later became Pope Urban IV (1261). He adopted the feast… etc. (Aug. 11, 1264, is date of Transiturus; text in J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio ; reprinted and continued by L. Petit and J. B. Martin, 23:1077f.) Noteworthy is the bull's call to communion on the feast, harkening back to a central motivation among the Beguines for its institution. Urban IV died before he could stir up Roman enthusiasm for a universal feast. However, it was repromulgated by Clement V (1305–1314) in his letter Si Dominum, and the feast spread more steadily through Europe.
The early office and texts for the feast composed by John of Cornillon and Julianna were replaced by Urban IV with new texts assembled by Thomas Aquinas, some of which he may have composed himself. Noteworthy is the sequence Lauda Sion, that remains part of the Mass in the revised Missal of Paul VI. There is no mention of eucharistic procession or exposition connected with the feast by its official promulgators. However, the procession came to be a hallmark of the feast for many local churches and contributed to the popularlity of the feast through the fourteenth century. Rome later adopted the practice. The eucharistic procession came to have great social and commerical signficance as well as an expression of popular religiosity.
Present-day Celebration. The 1969 sacramentary introduces new lections, while retaining the medieval sequence, Lauda Sion. Its euchology and antiphons express many facets of eucharistic theology: memorial, presence, and eschatological dimension. The liturgical guidelines for the procession long associated with the feast are found in the Ceremonial of Bishops, nos. 385 through 394 and Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharistic Out-side of Mass, nos. 101 through 108.
Bibliography: p. m. gy, "L'Office du Corpus Christi et Saint Thomas d'Aquin. Etat d'une recherche," Revue des Sciences philosophiques et theologiques 64 (1980) 491–507; reprinted in idem, La Liturgie dans l'histoire (Paris 1990). a. haquin, ed., Fête-Dieu (1246–1996). Vol. 1, Actes du colloque de Liège, 12–14 septembre 1996 ; vol. 2, Vie de sainte Julienne de Cornillon (Louvain-la-Neuve 1999). j. lamberts, "The Origin of the Corpus Christi Feast," Worship 71 (1996) 432–446. m. dudley, "Liturgy and Doctrine: Corpus Christi," Worship 66 (1992) 417–426. m. rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (New York 1991). n. mitchell, Cult and Controversy: The Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass (New York 1982). g. macy, Treasures from the Storeroom: Medieval Religion and the Eucharist (Collegeville, Minn. 1999).
[m. f. connell]