Taste and See: Feed us still, still keep us thine

Pelican

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.
Amen. Alleluia.

  • 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.

Taste and See: The mystery of the Eucharist

41

One of the defining qualities of human beings is that we are rational. It is not always evident – but reason is a constitutive feature of human life.

And one of the principal ways we exercise our reason is by questioning.

Asking what, who , when , why – all these actions help us to think and to know, and to live. That, finally, is their point and purpose, their final end: to help us to live.

Many questions can be asked of the Eucharist.

What is it? (A question maybe best answered when we appreciate that the answer is more about who it is and not merely what it is). It is sacrament of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ: but most importantly, being sacrament, it is Jesus Christ present for us.

Contemplation of the answer what/who can fill hours of prayer time – as we acknowledge the wonder of Eucharist and the humility and love of the Lord.

But a lot of time in the Church has been put into considering the ‘how’ question. How is this Bread and Wine Jesus present for us? How does the bread change to become the living Bread, and so on. In the gospel we heard yesterday, those asking ‘how’ questions did not get too far!

‘How’ questions have their place but tend to lead to rather specialised and rarefied conversations and, too often, to disputes in which God’s gift of Eucharist loses place to human pride and faithful living corrupted by disunity.

All questions have their place, but knowing the place and priority of the variety of questions requires a sense of balance and wisdom.

The scriptures have their questions too – and to the fore in the scriptures is not ‘how?’ but ‘why?’ The ‘how’ is addressed, and usually briefly answered: ‘By God’.

Of much greater interest in the scriptures is the question ‘why? Why does God do this?’

Each of the passages in yester day’s Liturgy of the Word seeks to provide a why for the mysteries of God in his heavenly feeding of his people.

Look again at the Gospel.

  • Jesus tells us the ‘what’ straight-off.
  • The ‘how’ questions seem to be a distraction.
  • The answers to ‘why’ questions are full of good news and hope.

Jesus said to the Jews:
‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said.

Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

John 6:51-58

  • What most strikes you in the passage?
  • Does it challenge you? Give you hope?
  • How can you respond to that in your life this day?

The image of the Lamb of Sacrifice is taken from a window in a former religious house, now a conference centre in Eindhoven, Netherlands

Speak Lord: Living bread for eternal life

Image

The Gospel for Corpus Christi confronts us with the enormity of what God does for us in Jesus Christ: feeding us with his body and blood, his life.

In the sacramental communion we receive at Mass, it is easy to miss the extraordinary quality of what Jesus does for us. In the Gospel, Jesus repeats the point again and again. He seems to want to provide no point of escape for those who find his words puzzling and offensive.

Jesus said to the Jews:
‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said.

Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

John 6:51-58

  • What is the importance of Jesus giving us his body and blood to eat and drink?
  • How do you draw life from Jesus?
  • What is it to live for ever? When, how, does that life begin? What are its characteristics for you now?

The image is The Blood of the Redeemer by Giovanni Bellini, part of the collection of the National Gallery, London.

Speak Lord: One bread, one body

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The Second reading at the Mass of Corpus Christi tomorrow speaks clearly about the connection between the community and Christ, symbolised in the Eucharistic food and drink.

The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

It is often observed that our contemporary Catholic experience is very unlike that of the early Christian communities known by Paul. We use little individual breads, not a single loaf and many (most?) shun or refuse the blessing-cup. We say we form a single body in the Lord, but we don’t necessarily live that way, and for sure we rob ourselves of a powerful symbol of the unity we are offered in Christ.

  • What symbolises your unity with those you are missioned with?
  • With whom do you share the common life? How is that expressed?

 

Speak Lord: Sing, Jerusalem!

Image

The Psalm for Sunday’s Mass of Corpus Christi has the Church assume the role of the New Jerusalem.

We do this surely in fear and trembling, mindful of the many faults and stumblings which have afflicted the earthly Jerusalem, and aware of how far we are yet from the heavenly Jerusalem.

And yet we sing…
Hopeful and thankful because of God’s mercy.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem!

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem!
Zion, praise your God!
He has strengthened the bars of your gates
he has blessed the children within you.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem!

He established peace on your borders,
he feeds you with finest wheat.
He sends out his word to the earth
and swiftly runs his command.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem!

He makes his word known to Jacob,
to Israel his laws and decrees.
He has not dealt thus with other nations;
he has not taught them his decrees.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem!

Psalm 147:12-15,19-20

  • Pray for Jerusalem and its peoples.
  • Pray for the Church?
  • Pray for the renewal of your own life and vocation.