The Sequence for Corpus Christi, Lauda Sion, was commissioned by Pope Urban II for the, then, new feast. It was one of five songs written about 1264 by St Thomas Aquinas – the others being the Pange lingua, Sacris solemnis, Adoro te devote and Verbum supernum.
The song of praise witnesses to the Church’s faith in the Eucharist, and the wonder at the sacramental presence of Christ – the same, entire, present in the transformed Bread and Wine; the same present to each and every communicant; for each offering the gift of the fullness of life now and for ever.
Sing forth, O Zion, sweetly sing
The praises of thy Shepherd-King,
In hymns and canticles divine;
Dare all thou canst, thou hast no song
Worthy his praises to prolong,
So far surpassing powers like thine.
Today no theme of common praise
Forms the sweet burden of thy lays –
The living, life-dispensing food –
That food which at the sacred board
Unto the brethren twelve our Lord
His parting legacy bestowed.
Then be the anthem clear and strong,
Thy fullest note, thy sweetest song,
The very music of the breast:
For now shines forth the day sublime
That brings remembrance of the time
When Jesus first his table blessed.
Within our new King’s banquet-hall
They meet to keep the festival
That closed the ancient paschal rite:
The old is by the new replaced;
The substance hath the shadow chased;
And rising day dispels the night.
Christ willed what he himself had done
Should be renewed while time should run,
In memory of his parting hour:
Thus, tutored in his school divine,
We consecrate the bread and wine;
And lo – a Host of saving power.
This faith to Christian men is given –
Bread is made flesh by words from heaven:
Into his blood the wine is turned:
What though it baffles nature’s powers
Of sense and sight? This faith of ours
Proves more than nature e’er discerned.
Concealed beneath the two-fold sign,
Meet symbols of the gifts divine,
There lie the mysteries adored:
The living body is our food;
Our drink the ever-precious blood;
In each, one undivided Lord.
Not he that eateth it divides
The sacred food, which whole abides
Unbroken still, nor knows decay;
Be one, or be a thousand fed,
They eat alike that living bread
Which, still received, ne’er wastes away.
The good, the guilty share therein,
With sure increase of grace or sin,
The ghostly life, or ghostly death:
Death to the guilty; to the good
Immortal life. See how one food
Man’s joy or woe accomplisheth.
We break the Sacrament, but bold
And firm thy faith shall keep its hold,
Deem not the whole doth more enfold
Than in the fractured part resides
Deem not that Christ doth broken lie,
’Tis but the sign that meets the eye,
The hidden deep reality
In all its fullness still abides.
Behold the bread of angels, sent
For pilgrims in their banishment,
The bread for God’s true children meant,
That may not unto dogs be given:
Oft in the olden types foreshowed;
In Isaac on the altar bowed,
And in the ancient paschal food,
And in the manna sent from heaven.
Come then, good shepherd, bread divine,
Still show to us thy mercy sign;
Oh, feed us still, still keep us thine;
So may we see thy glories shine
In fields of immortality;
O thou, the wisest, mightiest, best,
Our present food, our future rest,
Come, make us each thy chosen guest,
Co-heirs of thine, and comrades blest
With saints whose dwelling is with thee.
- How does the Eucharist reveal Christ to you?
- What aspects of the Eucharist most impress themselves on you?
- When has the Eucharist had particular importance in your life?
Image of the Pelican, wounding its breast to feed its young with its blood, is one of the traditional images for Christ’s nourishment of his people through the gift of his Body and Blood (c) Allen Morris.