Thursday, May 31
Morning Prayer 9:00 am
Mass 12:00 noon
Evening Prayer 5:30 pm
Solemn High Mass, Procession, & Benediction 7:00 pm
The feast of Corpus Christi dates from the mid-1200s. The official date of this feast is the second Thursday after Pentecost, being the first free Thursday outside of the Great Fifty Days of Easter and the old octave of Pentecost. However, many Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches transfer the feast to the Sunday after Trinity Sunday. The feast itself does not commemorate an event in the life of Jesus Christ, but is devoted entirely to honoring the Eucharist.
Whereas Maundy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Eucharist along side the washing of the disciples’ feet, Corpus Christ has as its sole theme the Body and Blood of our Lord. As Maundy Thursday is the beginning of the Triduum, and the prelude to Good Friday, with the evening ending in darkness, Corpus Christi is an entirely celebratory day. On Maundy Thursday we end with the Stripping of the Altar. On Corpus Christi it is customary to follow mass with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. On Maundy Thursday, the Body of our Lord disappears and lies in wait at the Altar of Repose. On Corpus Christi, the Sacrament is joyfully venerated and exposed.
The liturgy for Corpus Christi was devised by Thomas Aquinas, and the collect in the BCP for the Eucharist is his work (BCP p. 201). He also wrote the texts for two famous hymns associated with the feast, now used for Benediction—O saving victim opening wide (Hymn 310, 311) and Therefore we before him bending (Hymn 329, 330, 331).
In the old calendars of the church, Corpus Christi was followed by an octave; during medieval times, many liturgical dramas were performed in association with this feast.