Corpus Christi in Rome

June 8, 2012

For most of the history of the feast of Corpus Christi, it was celebrated on a Thursday.  In this can be seen a certain connection with another very important Eucharistic Thursday–namely, Holy Thursday.  Given the sobriety of its place in the Triduum, the Church’s jubilant celebration of the institution of the Eucharist was, in a sense, transferred to this Thursday outside of Lent.  In the city of Rome, in the Basilica’s under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See, this date is maintained.  And so, the Holy Father celebrates the Solemnity of Corpus Christi not on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday, but what would have been (before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council) the first Thursday after the Octave of Pentecost, that is the first Thursday after the end of Easter. As has become the custom, the Pope celebrates Mass on the piazza of St. John Lateran, this being the Cathedral Church of Rome.  This piazza is also, for the people of Rome, a kind of public square.  It has been host to not only religious events, but civic and cultural events as well.  It is, for the Romans, one of the primary places for the people of the city to gather for an important event. In his homily, the Pope spoke movingly on the importance of Eucharistic adoration and its place in the life of the Church.  Lamenting those who continue to falsely interpret the Second Vatican Council as prohibiting Eucharistic adoration, the Pope reminded Catholics that “the Sacrament of the Charity of Christ must permeate the whole of daily life.”  In fact, our ability to enter more deeply into the meaning of Holy Mass is strengthened by time spent in adoration before the Eucharist.  “Only if it is preceded, accompanied and followed by this interior attitude of faith and adoration, can the liturgical action express its full meaning and value.”  To this end, the Holy Father emphasized the need to continue to recognize and show reverence for the sacred in ritual signs and gestures, especially in regards the Eucharist.  In sending his Son, God the Father did not remove ritual from the life of worship.  Quite to the contrary, “[He] brought it to fulfillment, inaugurating a new worship, which is, yes, fully spiritual but which however, so long as we are journeying in time, makes use again of signs and rites, of which there will be no need only at the end, in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will no longer be a temple.” After Mass there was a great procession, made especially of the various Eucharistic Confraternities of Rome (in all their various and colorful uniforms) as well as priests, seminarians, and religious.  The procession moved from the Basilica of St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major.  At the end of the procession–and in Catholic processions the most important person is usually at the end–was the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance accompanied by our Holy Father.  On the steps of the great Roman Basilica to Mary, the Pope offered Solemn Benediction  to all the gathered faithful. Following benediction and the reposition of the sacrament, the people of God showed their appreciation for our Holy Father by spontaneously shouting Viva il Papa! (Long live the Pope!) and clapping their hands in thanksgiving for him and his Pontificate. Below are some photos of the Mass and Benediction:

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