This Thursday we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, and this year it seems more important than usual that we keep this feast. Corpus Christi is Latin for the Body of Christ, and on this day we celebrate our Lord's presence in the Eucharist. Unlike many churches of the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church does not celebrate this feast explicitly, but rather our celebration is implicit. The readings and prayers for this feast are those of the BCP votive mass "of the Holy Eucharist." If you open your prayer book to page 252, you will find the collect, and the readings may be found on page 927. Take special notice of the rubric on page 252 which states, "especially suitable for Thursdays." This is because on Maundy Thursday our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
When we talk about the Body of Christ, Corpus Christi, we mean many things. There is the bread that is transformed at the Eucharist, there is the actual body of Jesus of Nazareth, and there is the body that is the people of God. When we talk about one of these bodies, we must also speak of the other two. All three coexist together, and this is what we experience every time we partake of the mass. Furthermore, all three of these bodies of Christ are worthy of our adoration. In our world today this is an increasingly difficult charge. Jesus has been co-opted by portions of the wider church to represent judgment and discrimination. The Eucharist is often viewed as a quaint ritual of a past event that holds no power for today. Humans are more interested in competing with their neighbors than loving their neighbors.
This Thursday will be a counter-cultural event. Jesus will be adored as the God who loves us unconditionally, the Eucharist will be celebrated as a life-transforming act in the present, and even people, with all of their dysfunctions and problems, will be adored for the Christ carried within them. We often call the people of God the Body of Christ as if it is no big deal. Truthfully, it is stunning that God would place such trust in each of us.
It is a tradition in many churches on Corpus Christi to end the mass with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. This is a beloved tradition at St. Mark's, and this Thursday the evening high mass will end with Benediction in the Parish Garden. We often think that during Benediction we are the only ones doing the adoration. We look lovingly upon the presence of Christ in the Sacrament as the host is enthroned in the monstrance. Do not forget that Benediction is a two-way economy. As we adore Christ's presence in the bread, the Trinity is adoring each one of us. God is adoring the Body of Christ present in his beloved children. Despite our cognitive abilities, God is always the greatest presence in our lives, and God knows each one of us better than we know ourselves. Corpus Christi celebrates that when we enter into the adoration of Christ's presence, God's adoration of us is always greater. It also becomes clear that we must increase our adoration of our neighbors, for these are the ones that Christ deeply loves.