Thursday, May 22, 2008

Corpus Christi in Rome

The Holy Father celebrated Mass today for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi and led the ensuing procession from the Lateran to St. Mary Major. While we may see more photographs of the occasion later, the most conspicuous element of today's celebration was the manner in which Holy Communion was received from the hands of the Pontiff:

This practice of receiving Holy Communion kneeling had not been seen in papal liturgies for quite some time. Readers may remember the book of Bishop Athanasius Schneider with a foreword by Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith which advocates for a return to this practice. And the Holy Father did not let this opportunity pass without also mentioning and expounding upon kneeling before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in his homily:

We find in this the third constitutive element of Corpus Domini: to kneel in adoration in front of the Lord.

To adore the God of Jesus Christ, who, out of love, became bread to be broken, is the most valid and radical remedy against the idolatries of yesterday as well as today. To kneel in front of the Eucharist is a profession of freedom: whoever bows before Jesus cannot and should not prostrate himself before any earthly power, no matter how strong.

We Christians only kneel before God, before the Most Blessed Sacrament, because we believe and know that the one true God is present, who created the world and loved man so much that for his sake, he gave his only begotten Son (cfr Jn 3,16).

We prostrate ourselves before a God who was the first to bend down to man, like the Good Samaritan, to help him and give him back life, who knelt before us to wash our dirty feet.

To adore the Body of Christ means to believe that he is truly present in that piece of bread, Christ who gives sense to life - to the immense universe as to its littlest creature, to the entire human history as to the briefest of existence.

Adoration is a prayer that prolongs Eucharistic celebration and communion, during which the soul continues to nourish itself: it feeds on love, on truth, on peace. It feeds on hope, because he before whom we bow, does not judge us, does not crush us, but frees and transforms us.

Read the entire homily in a translation by Teresa Benedetta on the Papa Ratzinger Forum here (scroll down).

Let us hope that this manner of reception of Holy Communion will become a regular feature in papal Masses, and that the pope's words and example are heeded everywhere.

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