Pope John Paul II  6 June 1996  Corpus Christi Mass and Eucharistic Procession


Pope John Paul II

Corpus Christi Mass and Eucharistic Procession Through Streets of Rome 6 June 1996

1. "And he ... fed you with manna" (Dt 8:3).

On the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we gather every year outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran to celebrate the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus himself invites us to take part in the Eucharistic banquet: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.... He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.... As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me" (Jn 6:56, 54, 57). Jesus spoke these words near Capernaum. With them he foretold the institution of the Eucharist, which he would accomplish at the Last Supper.

The words of the institution of the Eucharist, which we read in the Synoptics and in St. Paul and which the priest repeats at every Mass, are a synthesis of the announcement which John relates: "This is my body which will be given up for you". "This is the cup of my blood the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me" (cf. Lk 22:19-20 and par; 1 Cor 11:23-25).

Receiving these words with faith and gratitude, the Church becomes quite conscious of what she must do and she acquires a renewed awareness of what the Eucharist represents for her life and for the salvation of the whole world.

The Lord invites us to a sacred feast

2. Today, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Church rediscovers, so to speak, that the Eucharist is a pilgrimage, a journey. In the passage from Deuteronomy proclaimed in the first reading, Moses states: "And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these 40 years in the wilderness.... And he ... fed you with manna, ... that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord... who fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not know" (8:2, 3, 16).

Yes! At the time of the Exodus, God nourished his people with an unknown food. In the same way the Apostles, witnesses to the institution of the Eucharist, had no idea, when they began the supper on Holy Thursday, of what their Master would say a little later: that that bread was his true Body and that wine his true Blood. And when Jesus spoke, what did they understand? Only later did they fully realize that precisely in virtue of that food and that drink would man be able to undertake the journey to the definitive promised land. To the Father's house.

"O sacrum convivium...", "O sacred feast in which we partake of Christ: his sufferings are remembered, our minds are filled with his grace and we receive a pledge of the glory that is to be ours" (Magnificat antiphon for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi).

3. The Lord invites each one of us present here to partake with faith and love in the "sacred feast", in which he chose to make himself our food and our drink, in order to communicate his own divine life to us.

With this spiritual awareness, I would like cordially to greet Your Eminences my venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, you dear brothers and sisters who represent the parish communities, and the groups and associations with an apostolic and missionary involvement in our Diocese. I greet you, pilgrims who have wished to join our solemn expression of faith in Christ, the living bread for the salvation of humanity.

Many faithful from the Czech Republic in particular are present at this Eucharistic liturgy and will take part in the Corpus Christi procession. Our cordial greetings and our thanks for this act of ecclesial communion are addressed to them.

Eucharist is foretaste of the joy of heaven

Dear brothers and sisters, I bid you a hearty welcome. I am pleased to recall my pastoral visit a year ago to the Czech Republic, and those memorable days in which I experienced the strength of your country's tradition of faith and the progress of civilization.

May you look with hope to the future and draw from the deep Christian roots of your beloved nation. May the Lord, who is present here under the sacred species of bread and wine, fill you with his graces and lead you and your whole nation to lasting prosperity and peace.

4. "Behold, the bread of angels is become the pilgrim's food" (Sequence). How eloquently Corpus Christi helps us to deepen our understanding of the truth that the Eucharist is the sacrament of the human pilgrimage. This pilgrimage was prefigured in the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt to the promised land.

Perhaps precisely for this reason, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, the Church not only celebrates the Eucharist, but walks in procession with Jesus the Eucharist through the city streets. We too, here in Rome this evening, would like to commemorate, by our solemn procession wending its way from St. John Lateran to St. Mary Major, the presence of God who led his people through the wilderness to the promised land. We wish above all to proclaim that Christ the Eucharist guides the Church and all of us along the Way which is he himself, the Way that leads to the Father.

Does not our walking with him have God as its goal? Only through Jesus, who offers himself to us under the appearances of bread and wine, does the life of man reach its true fullness: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day".

Christ, you are the way that leads to the Father (cf. Jn 14:6)! You guide us on our daily pilgrimage to the heavenly homeland.

With your sacramental presence you give us a foretaste of the joy of complete and lasting participation in the Father's life at the eternal banquet.

In the sacrament of your Body and your Blood, "we receive a pledge of the glory that is to be ours". Stay with us!

Walk with us today and forever!


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
12 June 1996.

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