Corpus Christi (feast)
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|Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Corpus Christi procession. Oil on canvas by Carl Emil Doepler
||as a public holiday in Austria, Brazil, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, East Timor, parts of Germany, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, parts of Spain and Switzerland, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago
||Thursday after Trinity Sunday; 60 days after Easter, or the Sunday immediately following this
Rock of the Eucharistic Miracle in Bolsena 1263
The Feast of Corpus Christi
for "Body of Christ
") is the Roman Rite
celebrating the real presence
of the body and blood of Jesus Christ
, the Son of God
, in the Eucharist
—known as transubstantiation
. Two months earlier, the Eucharist is observed on Maundy Thursday
in a somber atmosphere leading to Good Friday
. Corpus Christi emphasizes the joy of the Eucharist being the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
The feast is liturgically celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday
or, "where the Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is not a holy day of obligation
, it is assigned to the Sunday after the Most Holy Trinity as its proper day".
At the end of Holy Mass
, there is often a procession
of the Blessed Sacrament
, generally displayed in a monstrance
. The procession is followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
. A notable Eucharistic procession is that presided over by the Pope
each year in Rome
, where it begins at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran
and passes to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major
, where it concludes with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
The celebration of the feast was suppressed in Protestant
churches during the Reformation
because they do not hold to the teachings of transubstantiation.
Depending on the denomination, Protestant churches instead believe in
differing views concerning the presence of Christ in the Eucharist
or that Christ is symbolically or metaphorically part of the eucharist.
Today, most Protestant denominations do not recognize the feast.
The Church of England
abolished it in 1548 as the English Reformation
progressed, but later reintroduced it.
St. Juliana of Liège
The institution of Corpus Christi as a feast in the Christian calendar
resulted from approximately forty years of work on the part of Juliana of Liège
, a 13th-century Norbertine canoness
, also known as Juliana de Cornillon, born in 1191 or 1192 in Liège
Belgium, a city where there were groups of women dedicated to
Eucharistic worship. Guided by exemplary priests, they lived together,
devoted to prayer and to charitable works. Orphaned at the age of five,
she and her sister Agnes were entrusted to the care of the Augustinian
nuns at the convent and leprosarium of Mont-Cornillon, where Juliana
developed a special veneration for the Blessed Sacrament
She always longed for a feast day outside of Lent in its honour. Her
vita reports that this desire was enhanced by a vision of the Church
under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which
signified the absence of such a solemnity.
In 1208, she reported her first vision of Christ
in which she was instructed to plead for the institution of the feast
of Corpus Christi. The vision was repeated for the next 20 years but she
kept it a secret. When she eventually relayed it to her confessor, he
relayed it to the bishop.
Juliana also petitioned the learned Dominican Hugh of St-Cher
, and Robert de Thorete
, Bishop of Liège
. At that time bishops
could order feasts in their dioceses
so Bishop Robert ordered in 1246 a celebration of Corpus Christi to be
held in the diocese each year thereafter on the Thursday after Trinity
Hugh of St-Cher travelled to Liège as Cardinal-Legate in 1251 and,
finding that the feast was not being observed, reinstated it. In the
following year, he established the feast for his whole jurisdiction
(Germany, Dacia, Bohemia, and Moravia), to be celebrated on the Thursday
after the Octave of Trinity (one week later than had been indicated for
Liège), but with a certain elasticity, for he granted an indulgence for
all who confessed their sins and attended church "on a date and in a
place where [the feast] was celebrated".
Jacques Pantaléon of Troyes was also won over to the cause of the
Feast of Corpus Christi during his ministry as Archdeacon in Liège. It
was he who, having become Pope as Urban IV
in 1264, instituted the Solemnity of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Pentecost as a feast for the entire Latin Church
, by the papal bull Transiturus de hoc mundo
The legend that this act was inspired by a procession to Orvieto in
1263, after a village priest in Bolsena and his congregation witnessed a
of a bleeding consecrated host
has been called into question by scholars who note problems in the
dating of the alleged miracle, whose tradition begins in the 14th
century, and the interests of Urban IV, a former Archdeacon in Liège.
Though this was the first papally imposed universal feast for the Latin
it was not in fact widely celebrated for half a century, although it was adopted by a number of dioceses in Germany and by the Cistercians
, and in 1295 was celebrated in Venice
It became a truly universal feast only after the bull of Urban IV was
included in the collection of laws known as the Clementines, compiled
under Pope Clement V
, but promulgated only by his successor Pope John XXII
While the institution of the Eucharist is celebrated on Holy (Maundy) Thursday
, the liturgy on that day also commemorates Christ's washing of the disciples' feet
, the institution of the priesthood
and the agony in the Garden
So many other functions took place on this day that the principal event
was almost lost sight of. This is mentioned in the Bull Transiturus
as the chief reason for the introduction of the new feast. Hence, the
feast of Corpus Christi was established to create a feast focused solely
on the Holy Eucharist.
Three versions of the office for the feast of Corpus Christi in
extant manuscripts provide evidence for the Liège origins and voice of
Juliana in an original office, which was followed by two later versions
of the office. A highly sophisticated and polished version can be found
in BNF 1143, a musical manuscript devoted entirely to the feast, upon
which there is wide scholarly agreement: the version in BNF 1143 is a
revision of an earlier version found in Prague, Abbey of Strahov MS
D.E.I. 7, and represents the work of St. Thomas Aquinas
following or during his residency at Orvieto
from 1259 to 1265. The office can also be found in the 1343 codex Regimen Animarum
This liturgy may be used as a votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament on weekdays in ordinary time.
The hymn Aquinas composed for Vespers
of Corpus Christi, Pange Lingua
or another eucharistic hymn, is also used on Maundy Thursday during the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose
The last two verses of Pange Lingua
are also used as a separate hymn, Tantum Ergo
, which is sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
. O Salutaris Hostia
, another hymn sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, comprises the last two verses of Verbum Supernum Prodiens
, Aquinas' hymn for Lauds
of Corpus Christi. Aquinas also composed the propers
for the Mass
of Corpus Christi, including the sequence Lauda Sion Salvatorem
. The epistle
reading for the Mass was taken from Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians
(1 Corinthians 11:23-29
), and the Gospel
reading was taken from the Gospel of John
When Pope Pius V
revised the General Roman Calendar
(see Tridentine Calendar
), Corpus Christi was one of only two "feasts of devotion" that he kept, the other being Trinity Sunday.
In that calendar, Corpus Christi was celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.
The feast had an octave
until 1955, when Pope Pius XII
suppressed all octaves, even in local calendars, except those of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost (see General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII
From 1849 until 1969, a separate Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ
was assigned originally to the first Sunday in July, later to the first
day of the month. This feast was removed from the General Roman
Calendar in 1969, "because the Most Precious Blood of Christ the
Redeemer is already venerated in the solemnities of the Passion, of
Corpus Christi and of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and in the feast of the
Exaltation of the Holy Cross. But the Mass of the Most Precious Blood of
Our Lord Jesus Christ is placed among the votive Masses".
Roman Catholic Church
The feast of Corpus Christi is one of five occasions in the year on
which a diocesan bishop is not to be away from his diocese unless for a
grave and urgent reason.
By tradition, Catholics hear Mass then go in procession through the
streets of their parish church’s neighborhood, all whilst praying and
singing. The Eucharist, known as the Blessed Sacrament, is placed in a
monstrance and is held aloft by a member of the clergy during the
procession. After the procession, parishioners return to the church,
where Benediction usually takes place.
The celebration of Corpus Christi was abolished in England in 1548.
The Church of England
always keeps the celebration, known also as The Day of Thanksgiving for
the Institution of Holy Communion (Corpus Christi). This is assigned
the status of a Festival
The feast is also celebrated by Anglo-Catholic
parishes, even in provinces of the Anglican Communion that do not officially include it in their calendars. McCausland's Order of Divine Service
, the most commonly used ordo
in the Anglican Church of Canada
, provides lections for the day.
spoke out against transubstantiation
as well as the elevation
(ritual raising) of the consecrated
elements. He was further mortified by Corpus Christi as he believed the festival was idolizing the sacramental bread
. In one of his postils
(homilies), he wrote
I am to no festival more hostile ... than this one. Because it is the
most shameful festival. At no festival are God and his Christ more
blasphemed, than on this day, and particularly by the procession. For
then people are treating the Blessed Sacrament with such ignominy that
it becomes only play-acting and is just vain idolatry. With its
cosmetics and false holiness it conflicts with Christ's order and
establishment. Because He never commanded us to carry on like this.
Therefore beware of such worship!
The feast was retained in the calendars of the Lutheran Church
until about 1600.
, followers of the Reformed tradition
do not observe the feast.
Corpus Christi is also celebrated by the Old Catholic Church
, the Liberal Catholic Church
and by some Western Rite Orthodox
Christians. It is commemorated in the liturgical calendars of the more Latinized Eastern Catholic Churches
In medieval times in many parts of Europe, Corpus Christi was a time for the performance of mystery plays
. The plays in York, England
were performed on Corpus Christi Day for some 200 years until
suppressed in the sixteenth century during the Protestant Reformation.
, Corpus Cristi is celebrated with the tradition of the dancing egg
. There is evidence this tradition dates from the 16th century.
In the village of Castrillo de Murcia near Burgos
, the celebration includes the practice of El Colacho
In the southern highlands of the Cusco Region
, the festival of Quyllurit'i
is held near Corpus Cristi in the Sinaqara Valley. As many as 10,000
pilgrims come from neighboring areas. Culminating on Trinity Sunday,
this festival marks the return in the sky of the Pleiades
constellation, known in the Quechua language
, or "storehouse", as it is associated with the upcoming harvest and New Year.
Corpus Christi is a moveable feast
, celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday
or, in countries where it is not a holy day of obligation
, on the following Sunday.
The earliest possible Thursday celebration falls on May 21 (as in
1818 and 2285), the latest on June 24 (as in 1943 and 2038). The Sunday
celebrations occur three days later.
Corpus Christi is a public holiday in some countries with a predominantly Catholic population
including, amongst others, Austria
, parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina
, Dominican Republic
, East Timor
, (Jerusalem) Israel
, parts of Germany
, parts of Puerto Rico
, San Marino
, parts of Switzerland
, Saint Lucia
, Trinidad and Tobago
, parts of the United States
, and Venezuela
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Code of Canon Law, canon 395 §3
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CC as Church of England Festival
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