I am with you always - Corpus Christi

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This feast of Corpus Christi and the procession of the Blessed Sacrament traces its origins back to the thirteenth century.

An Augustinian nun, whose name was Juliana, born in Liege in Belgium in 1191, was drawn to contemplative prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. She had a profound sense of the Lord’s presence. The words of Scripture that particularly captivated her heart was the promise of the Lord, “and behold I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). From the age of 16 she had a vision of the Blessed Sacrament that repeated itself over the years ahead and she was asked to promote a feast which would enable believers to adore the Blessed Sacrament. She carried this as a secret for 20 years before the opportunity came to present the idea to the bishop of the diocese, who after some hesitation declared a diocesan feast. 

Forty years later an Archdeacon of Liege became Pope Urban IV and in 1264 he ordered an annual celebration of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday for the whole Church. Thus has this feast become part of our Catholic heritage.

Not only was the liturgical feast established but the practice of holding processions of the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of villages and towns became an important means of publically expressing devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Today in our Walk with Christ we have given expression to our gratitude for such a wonderful gift: The Risen Lord abides amongst us in the Blessed Sacrament. Carrying the Blessed Sacrament through a city or town declares that Christ is still among us, and among us in the reality of our daily lives. He walks the streets of Hobart as he walked the streets of Jerusalem.

Today we have taken Christ onto the streets of our city giving witness to our faith. We are continuing a hallowed Catholic tradition which is currently experiencing a resurgence across the world. On this day in Rome Pope Francis will lead a Eucharistic procession through the streets processing from St John Lateran to St Mary Major.

This Sacrament declares one thing above all others: the Risen Lord wants to be in continual communion with each of us. Indeed at Mass we come into a “Holy Communion” as we receive the Eucharist. Jesus expressed this union when he said, “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him”.

Saint Augustine describes the dynamics of Holy Communion in these words, when referring to a vision he experienced in which Jesus said to him: "I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me"(Confessions, VII, 10, 18). When we eat bodily food it is assimilated by the body but the Eucharist is a different food: we do not assimilate it, but it assimilates us to itself, so that we become conformed to Jesus. We come to live in him as he lives in us!

Today let us fix our gaze on the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us offer our prayers of adoration and praise.

Let us allow the faith and devotion of the thirteenth century Catholics captured so wonderfully in the words of the Eucharistic hymns written by St Thomas Aquinas stir us to greater love and devotion to the Real Presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Down in adoration falling
This great sacrament we hail
Other ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail
Faith for all defects supplying
Where the feeble senses fail.


Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, June 6, 2015