Friday, June 19, 2020

Reflections on the Octave of Corpus Christi
by Pope Benedict XVI

Entry 0282: Reflections on the Octave of Corpus Christi by Pope Benedict XVI  

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Sunday after the solemnity of the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ, on 29 May 2005, 18 June 2006, 10 June 2007, 25 May 2008, 14 June 2009, 6 June 2010, 26 June 2011, and 10 June 2012. Here are the texts of the eight reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and one homily delivered on these occasions.



Esplanade of Marisabella, Sunday, 29 May 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This solemn liturgical celebration marks the end of the 24th Eucharistic Congress of the Church in Italy. I wanted to be present at this great witness of faith in the divine Eucharist. I am delighted to tell you now that I was truly impressed by your fervent participation.

With deep devotion you have all gathered closely to the Eucharistic Jesus, at the end of an intense week of prayer, reflection and adoration. Our hearts are filled with gratitude to God and to all who have worked to bring about such an extraordinary ecclesial event, an event especially meaningful as it takes place during the Eucharistic Year, which had its prominent moment in the Congress.

Before the final blessing, we now recite the Angelus Domini, contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation, to which the mystery of the Eucharist is intimately connected. At the school of Mary, “Woman of the Eucharist”, as the late Pope John Paul II loved to call her, we welcome Jesus’ living presence in ourselves to bring him to everyone by loving service.

Let us learn to always live in communion with the Crucified and Risen Christ, allowing ourselves to be led by his and our heavenly Mother. In this way, nourished by the Word and Bread of Life, our existence will become entirely Eucharistic and thanks will be given to the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit.



Saint Peter’s Square , Sunday, 18 June 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, in Italy and in other countries, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi is celebrated, which already had its intense moment in Rome in the city’s procession on Thursday. It is the solemn, public feast of the Eucharist, the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ: on this day, the mystery instituted at the Last Supper and commemorated every year on Holy Thursday is manifested to all, in the midst of the fervour of faith and devotion of the Ecclesial Community.

Indeed, the Eucharist is the “treasure” of the Church, the precious heritage that her Lord has left to her. And the Church preserves it with the greatest care, celebrating it daily in Holy Mass, adoring it in churches and chapels, administering it to the sick, and as viaticum to those who are on their last journey.

However, this treasure that is destined for the baptized, does not exhaust its radius of action in the context of the Church: the Eucharist is the Lord Jesus who gives himself “for the life of the world” (Jn 6: 51). In every time and in every place, he wants to meet human beings and bring them the life of God. And this is not all. The Eucharist also has a cosmic property: the transformation of the bread and the wine into Christ’s Body and Blood is in fact the principle of the divinization of creation itself.  

For this reason, the Feast of Corpus Christi is characterized particularly by the tradition of carrying the Most Holy Sacrament in procession, an act full of meaning. By carrying the Eucharist through the streets and squares, we desire to immerse the Bread come down from Heaven in our daily lives. We want Jesus to walk where we walk, to live where we live. Our world, our existence, must become his temple.

On this feast day, the Christian Community proclaims that the Eucharist is its all, its very life, the source of life that triumphs over death. From communion with Christ in the Eucharist flows the charity that transforms our life and supports us all on our journey towards the heavenly Homeland. For this reason the liturgy makes us sing “Good Shepherd, true Bread.... You who know all things, who can do all things, who nourish us while on earth, lead your brethren to the heavenly banquet in the glory of your Saints”.

Mary is the “Woman of the Eucharist” as Pope John Paul II described her in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Let us pray the Virgin that all Christians may deepen their faith in the Eucharistic mystery, to live in constant communion with Jesus and be his effective witness.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 10 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which was celebrated last Thursday in the Vatican and in different Nations, invites us to contemplate the supreme Mystery of our faith: the Most Holy Eucharist, the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. Every time that the priest renews the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in the prayer of consecration he repeats: “This is my Body... this is my Blood”.

He says this lending his voice, hands and heart to Christ, who wanted to stay with us and be the heartbeat of the Church.   However, after the celebration of the divine Mysteries, the Lord Jesus remains alive in the tabernacle; for this reason special praise is given to him with Eucharistic adoration, as I wished to recall in the recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis ( see nos. 66-69).

Indeed, an intrinsic connection exists between celebration and adoration. In fact, Holy Mass is in itself the Church’s greatest act of adoration: “No one eats of this flesh”, as St Augustine writes, “without having first adored it” (Enarr. in Ps. 98,9: CCL XXXIX, 1385).

Adoration outside Holy Mass prolongs and intensifies what has taken place in the liturgical celebration and makes a true and profound reception of Christ possible.

Today, then, the Eucharistic procession is taking place in Christian communities in all parts of the world. It is a special form of public adoration of the Eucharist, enriched by beautiful and traditional expressions of popular devotion. I would like to take the opportunity offered to me by today’s Solemnity to warmly recommend, to Pastors and to all the faithful, the practice of Eucharistic adoration.

I express my appreciation to the Institutes of Consecrated Life as well as to the associations and confraternities that are especially dedicated to this practice; they offer to everyone a reminder of Christ’s centrality in our personal and ecclesial life.

Then I rejoice to see that many young people are discovering the beauty of adoration, both privately and in groups. I ask priests to encourage these youth groups in their adoration, but also to guide them, to ensure that the form of their community adoration is always appropriate and dignified and that they allow sufficient time for silence and listening to the Word of God.

In life today, often noisy and dispersive, it is more important than ever to recover the capacity for inner silence and recollection. Eucharistic adoration permits this not only centred on the “I” but more so in the company of that “You” full of love who is Jesus Christ, “the God who is near to us”.

May the Virgin Mary, the Woman of the Eucharist, introduce us into the secret of true adoration. Her humble and simple heart was ever pondering the mystery of Jesus, in whom she adored the presence of God and of his redeeming love. May faith in the Eucharistic Mystery, joy in participating in Holy Mass, especially on Sundays, and enthusiasm in witnessing to Christ’s immense love grow throughout the Church through her intercession.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 25 May 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today in Italy and in various countries is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which in the Vatican and in other nations was celebrated last Thursday. It is the feast of the Eucharist, wonderful gift of Christ, who at the Last Supper wanted to leave us the memorial of his Pasch, the Sacrament of his Body and of his Blood, a pledge of his immense love for us. A week ago our gaze was drawn to the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Today we are invited to fix our gaze on the consecrated Host: it is the same God! The same Love! This is the beauty of the Christian truth: the Creator and Lord of all things makes himself a “grain of wheat” to be sown in our land, in the furrows of our history. He made himself bread to be broken, shared, eaten. He made himself our food to give us life, his same divine life. He was born in Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means “House of bread”, and when he began to preach to the crowds he revealed that the Father had sent him into the world as “living bread come down from heaven”, as the “bread of life”.

The Eucharist is a school of charity and solidarity. The one who is nourished on the Bread of Christ cannot remain indifferent before the one who, even in our day, is deprived of daily bread. So many parents are barely able to obtain it for themselves and for their own children. It is an ever greater problem that the International Community has great difficulty in resolving. The Church not only prays “give us this day our daily bread”, but, on the Lord’s example, is committed in every way to “multiply the five loaves and the two fish” with numerous initiatives of human promotion and sharing, so that no one lacks what is necessary for life.

Dear brothers and sisters, the feast of Corpus Christi is an occasion to grow in this concrete attention to our brethren, especially the poor. May the Virgin Mary obtain this grace for us, from whom the Son of God took flesh and blood, as we repeat in a famous Eucharistic hymn, set to music by several great composers: “Ave verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine”, and which concludes with the invocation: “O Iesu dulcis, o Iesu pie, o Iesu fili Mariae!”. May Mary, who bearing Jesus in her womb was the first living “tabernacle” of the Eucharist,   communicate to us her same faith in the holy mystery of the Body and Blood of her divine Son, so that it may truly be the centre of our life. May we gather again around her, this coming 31 May at 8: 00 p.m., in St Peter’s Square, for a special celebration to conclude the Marian month.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 14 June 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Corpus Christi, the feast of the Eucharist in which the Sacrament of the Body of the Lord is solemnly carried in procession, is being celebrated today in various countries, including Italy. What does this feastday mean to us? It does not make us think of the liturgical aspect alone; actually Corpus Christi is a day that involves the cosmic dimension, the heavens and the earth. It calls to mind first of all at least in our hemisphere this season which is so beautiful and fragrant, in which Spring is already turning into Summer, the sun is high in the sky and the wheat is ripening in the fields. The Church’s feasts like the Jewish feasts are associated with the phases of the solar year, the sowing and the reaping. This is particularly evident in today’s Solemnity, at the heart of which is the sign of bread, a fruit of the earth and of Heaven. The Eucharistic Bread is thus a visible sign of the One in whom Heaven and earth, God and man, became one. And this shows that the relationship with the seasons is not something merely external to the liturgical year.

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is closely linked to Easter and Pentecost: the death and Resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are its premises. Furthermore, it is directly linked to the Feast of the Trinity that was celebrated last Sunday. It is only because God himself is relationship that there can be a relationship with him; and only because he is love can he love and be loved. Thus, Corpus Christi is a manifestation of God, an attestation that God is love.

This feast speaks to us in a unique and special way of divine love, of what it is and of what it does. It tells us, for example, that it is regenerated in self-giving, that it is received in self-giving, that it is never lacking nor can it be consumed as a hymn by St Thomas Aquinas sings: “nec sumptus consumitur”. Love transforms all things and we therefore understand that the centre of today’s Feast of Corpus Christi is the mystery of transubstantiation, a sign of Jesus Christ who transforms the world. Looking at him and worshipping him, we say: “yes, love exists and because it exists things can change for the better and we can hope”. It is hope that comes from Christ’s love which gives us the strength to live and to deal with difficulties. For this reason let us sing as we carry the Most Holy Sacrament in procession; let us sing and praise God who revealed himself concealing himself in the sign of the Bread broken. We are all in need of this Bread, as the journey to freedom, justice and peace is long and difficult.

We can imagine with what great faith and love Our Lady must have received and adored the Blessed Eucharist in her heart! For her it must have been every time like reliving the whole mystery of her Son Jesus: from his Conception to his Resurrection. The “Woman of the Eucharist”, my venerable and beloved Predecessor John Paul II called her. Let us learn from her to renew our communion with the Body of Christ ceaselessly so that we may love one another as he loved us.

(JUNE 4-6, 2010)



Nicosia, Sunday, 6 June 2010

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

At the midday hour it is the Church’s tradition to turn in prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, joyfully recalling her ready acceptance of the Lord’s invitation to become the mother of God. It was an invitation that filled her with trepidation, one which she could scarcely even comprehend. It was a sign that God had chosen her, his lowly handmaid, to cooperate with him in his saving work. How we rejoice at the generosity of her response! Through her “yes”, the hope of the ages became a reality, the One whom Israel had long awaited came into the world, into our history. Of him the angel promised that his kingdom would have no end ( see Lk 1:33).

Some thirty years later, as Mary stood weeping at the foot of the cross, it must have been hard to keep that hope alive. The forces of darkness seemed to have gained the upper hand. And yet, deep down, she would have remembered the angel’s words. Even amid the desolation of Holy Saturday the certitude of hope carried her forward into the joy of Easter morning. And so we, her children, live in the same confident hope that the Word made flesh in Mary’s womb will never abandon us. He, the Son of God and Son of Mary, strengthens the communion that binds us together, so that we can bear witness to him and to the power of his healing and reconciling love.

I would now like to say a few words in Polish on the happy occasion of the beatification today of Jerzy Popiełuszko, priest and martyr.

Serdeczne pozdrowienie kieruję do Kościoła w Polsce, który dziś raduje się wyniesieniem na ołtarze księdza Jerzego Popiełuszki. Jego ofiarna posługa i męczeństwo są szczególnym znakiem zwycięstwa dobra nad złem. Niech jego przykład i wstawiennictwo budzi gorliwość kapłanów i rozpala miłość wiernych.

[I send cordial greetings to the Church in Poland which today rejoices at the elevation to the altars of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko. His zealous service and his martyrdom are a special sign of the victory of good over evil. May his example and his intercession nourish the zeal of priests and enkindle the faithful with love.]

Let us now implore Mary our Mother to intercede for all of us, for the people of Cyprus, and for the Church throughout the Middle East with Christ, her Son, the Prince of Peace.

(JUNE 4-6, 2010)



Eleftheria Sports Centre Elefteria – Nicosia, Sunday, 6 June 2010

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I greet with joy the Patriarchs and Bishops of the various ecclesial communities of the Middle East who have come to Cyprus for this occasion, and I thank especially the Most Reverend Youssef Soueif, Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus, for the words that he addressed to me at the start of Mass.

Let me also say how glad I am to have this opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist in the company of so many of the faithful of Cyprus, a land blessed by the apostolic labours of Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas. I greet all of you most warmly and I thank you for your hospitality and for the generous welcome you have given me. I extend a particular greeting to the Filipino, Sri Lankan and other immigrant communities who form such a significant grouping within the Catholic population of this island. I pray that your presence here will enrich the life and worship of the parishes to which you belong, and that you in turn will draw much spiritual sustenance from the ancient Christian heritage of the land that you have made your home.

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood. Corpus Christi, the name given to this feast in the West, is used in the Church’s tradition to designate three distinct realities: the physical body of Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, his eucharistic body, the bread of heaven which nourishes us in this great sacrament, and his ecclesial body, the Church. By reflecting on these different aspects of the Corpus Christi, we come to a deeper understanding of the mystery of communion which binds together those who belong to the Church. All who feed on the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist are “brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit” (Eucharistic Prayer II) to form God’s one holy people. Just as the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, so too the same Holy Spirit is at work in every celebration of Mass for a twofold purpose: to sanctify the gifts of bread and wine, that they may become the body and blood of Christ, and to fill all who are nourished by these holy gifts, that they may become one body, one spirit in Christ.

St Augustine expresses this process magnificently ( see Sermon 272). He reminds us that bread is not made from a single grain of wheat but from a multitude of grains. Before all these grains become a loaf of bread they must be ground. Here he is alluding to the exorcism to which catechumens had to submit prior to their Baptism. Each one of us who belongs to the Church needs to emerge from the closed world of his or her own individuality and to accept the “companionship” of others who “share the bread” with us. We must no longer think of “me” but, rather, of “us”. This is the reason why, every day, we pray “Our Father” for our daily bread. Breaking down the barriers between ourselves and our neighbours is the prerequisite for entering the divine life to which we are called. We need to be liberated from all that encloses and isolates us: fear and defiance in our relations with others, greed and selfishness, unwillingness to expose ourselves to the risk of vulnerability to which we are susceptible when we open ourselves to love.

Once the grains of wheat have been ground, they are kneaded into dough and baked. Here St Augustine is referring to immersion in the waters of Baptism followed by the sacramental gift of the Holy Spirit which kindles the fire of God’s love in the hearts of the faithful. This process that unites and transforms the separate grains into a single loaf conveys to us an evocative image of the unifying action of the Holy Spirit on the members of the Church, eminently achieved through the celebration of the Eucharist. Those who take part in this important sacrament become the ecclesial Body of Christ, while they are nourished by his Body in the Eucharist. “Be what you can see”, St Augustine said, encouraging them, “and accept what you are”.

These strong words invite us to respond generously to the appeal to “be Christ” for those around us. We are now his Body on earth. To paraphrase a famous remark attributed to St Teresa of Avila, we are the eyes with which his compassion looks at those in need, we are the hands he holds out to bless and to heal, we are the feet he uses to go and do good and we are the lips through which his Gospel is proclaimed.   However, it is important to realize that when we participate in his salvation in this way we do no more than pay tribute to the memory of a dead hero by prolonging what he has done: on the contrary, Christ is alive within us, his Body, the Church, his priestly People. By nourishing ourselves with him in the Eucharist and by receiving the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we truly form the Body of Christ that we have received, we are truly in communion with him and with each other and genuinely become his instruments, bearing witness to him before the world.

“Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). In the first Christian community, nourished at the Lord’s Table, we see the effects of the Holy Spirit’s unifying action. They shared their goods in common, all material attachment being overcome by love for the brethren. They found equitable solutions to their differences, as we see for example in the resolution of the dispute between Hellenists and Hebrews over the daily distribution ( see Acts 6:1-6). As one observer commented at a later date: “See how these Christians love one another, and how they are ready to die for one another” (Tertullian, Apology, 39). Yet their love was by no means limited to their fellow believers. They never saw themselves as exclusive, privileged beneficiaries of divine favour, but rather as messengers, sent to bring the good news of salvation in Christ to the ends of the earth. And so it was that the message entrusted to the Apostles by the Risen Lord was spread throughout the Middle East, and outwards from there across the whole of the world.

Αγαπητοί εν Χριστώ αδελφοί και αγαπητές αδελφές, σήμερα είμαστε καλεσμένοι σαν ένα σωμα και μιά ψυχή να εξετάσουμε σε βάθος την κοινωνία μας με τον Κυριον και με τον πλησίον και να τον μαρτυρήσουμε μπροστά σε ολο τον κόσμο. [ Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called, just as they were, to be of one heart and one soul, to deepen our communion with the Lord and with one another, and to bear witness to him before the world.]

We are called to overcome our differences, to bring peace and reconciliation where there is conflict, to offer the world a message of hope. We are called to reach out to those in need, generously sharing our earthly goods with those less fortunate than ourselves. And we are called to proclaim unceasingly the death and resurrection of the Lord, until he comes. Through him, with him and in him, in the unity that is the Holy Spirit’s gift to the Church, let us give honour and glory to God our heavenly Father in the company of all the angels and saints who sing his praises for ever. Amen.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 26 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, Corpus Christi is being celebrated in Italy and in other countries. It is the Feast of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, which he instituted at the Last Supper and which is the Church’s most precious treasure. The Eucharist is, as it were, the beating heart that gives life to the whole mystical body of the Church: a social organism wholly based on the spiritual yet concrete link with Christ. As the Apostle Paul said: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:17).

Without the Eucharist the Church quite simply would not exist. Indeed, it is the Eucharist which makes a human community into a mystery of communion that can bring God to the world and the world to God. The Holy Spirit, who transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, also transforms whoever receives it with faith into a member of the body of Christ so that the Church is truly the sacrament of unity, of human beings with God and among themselves.

In an ever more individualistic culture, such as the one in which we are immersed in western society and which tends to spread throughout the world, the Eucharist constitutes a sort of “antidote” that works in the minds and hearts of believers and continually sows in them the logic of communion, service and sharing, in short, the logic of the Gospel. The first Christians in Jerusalem were a visible sign of this new lifestyle, because they lived in brotherhood and shared their possessions so that no one was in need ( see Acts 2:42-47). What does all this derive from? From the Eucharist, that is, from the Risen Christ, really present in the midst of his disciples and acting with the power of the Holy Spirit.

And also in the following generations, in spite of human limitations and errors, the Church has continued down the centuries to be a force of communion in the world. Let us think especially of the most difficult and trying periods, for example, of what the possibility of gathering together at Sunday Mass meant to countries subjected to totalitarian regimes! As the ancient martyrs of Abitene said: “Sine Dominico non possumus” — without “Dominicum” [Sunday], that is, without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live. But the void produced by false freedom can be equally dangerous, then communion with the Body of Christ is a medicine for the mind and the will, to rediscover the taste for the truth and the common good.

Dear friends, let us invoke the Virgin Mary, whom my Predecessor, Bl. John Paul II defined the “Woman of the Eucharist” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, nos. 53-58). At her school, may our life too become fully “Eucharistic”, open to God and to others and capable of transforming evil into good with the power of love, reaching out to foster unity, communion and brotherhood.



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, in Italy and in many other countries, Corpus Christi is celebrated, that is, the solemn feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the Eucharist. The tradition of holding solemn processions with the Blessed Sacrament through the streets and squares is still alive. In Rome this procession took place at the diocesan level on Thursday, the precise day of this feast, which every year renews in Christians joy and gratitude for the presence among them of Jesus in the Eucharist.

The feast of Corpus Christi is a great act of public worship of the Eucharist, the Sacrament in which the Lord also remains present after the moment of the celebration, to stay with us always, in the passing of the hours and days.   St Justin, who left us one of the most ancient testimonies of the Eucharistic liturgy, stated that after the distribution of Communion to those present the deacons took the consecrated bread to the absent ( see Apologia, 1 65).

Consequently the most sacred place in churches is the very place where the Eucharist is kept. In this regard I cannot but think with emotion of the many churches that have been seriously damaged by the recent earthquake in Emilia Romagna and of the fact that in some cases the Eucharistic Body of Christ in the tabernacle is still lying beneath the rubble. I pray with affection for the communities which have to gather for Holy Mass with their priests in the open air or in large tents; I thank them for their witness and for all they are doing to help the entire population.

It is a situation that makes even clearer the importance of being united in the Lord’s name and the strength that comes from the Eucharistic Bread, also called “the bread of pilgrims.” Also born and renewed from sharing this Bread is the ability to share life and possessions, to bear each other’s burdens and to be hospitable and welcoming.

In addition, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord presents to us once again the value of Eucharistic adoration. The Servant of God Paul VI recalled that the Catholic Church professes worship of the Eucharist “both during Mass and outside of it, by taking the greatest possible care of consecrated Hosts, by exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and by carrying them about in processions to the joy of great numbers of the people” (Encyclical Mysterium Fidei, no. 56).

The prayer of adoration can be personal, pausing in recollection before the tabernacle, or can be made as a community, also with Psalms and hymns, but always giving priority to silence in which to listen inwardly to the Lord who is alive and present in the Sacrament.

Moreover the Virgin Mary is also the teacher of this prayer because no one has been able better than Mary to contemplate Jesus with a gaze of faith and to accept in his or her heart the deep resonance of his human and divine presence. Through her intercession a genuine and deep faith in the Eucharistic Mystery spreads and grows in every ecclesial community. 

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