“I am the food of those fully grown. Grow and you shall feed on Me. But you will not change Me into your own substance, as you do with the food of your body. Instead, you shall be changed into Me.”
These words come from St. Augustine’s Confessions (VII.10), that remarkable review of how God led him from darkness to light, from sin to holiness, from the restlessness of human success to the peace of God’s mercy in the scandal of the Cross. Augustine understood these words spoken to him by Jesus in his long search for truth. What he found was not ideas and concepts and theories, but a living Person, the Word made flesh, Truth itself, through Whom all things were made. And that Word comes not only to the mind, but to the body in the mystery of the Eucharist. That most basic need of life – to eat – is the path Jesus uses to enter our souls. Later in the book, Augustine also says of the Eucharist: “The price of my redemption is always in my thoughts. I eat it and drink it and minister it to others: and as one of the poor I long to be filled with it, to be one of those who eat and have their fill” (X.43).
You shall be changed into Me. This is the inner meaning of our sharing in the Eucharist, to enter into such a perfect Communion of life that we not only consume the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ, the Church. While the Church has celebrated the Eucharist from the very beginning, and Eucharistic devotion is already evident in the New Testament, today’s Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (sometimes shortened to “Corpus Christi” or “the Body of Christ” in Latin) was instituted by Pope Urban IV in 1264. He had been introduced to this particular devotion of a group of nuns in Liege, Belgium, especially Juliana of Liege; and when he was elected Pope, he extended this diocesan observance to the universal Church.
The prayers and hymns for this feast were composed by St. Thomas Aquinas, who had been commissioned by Pope Urban. They remain among the most enduring expressions of Catholic faith in the Eucharist. Like St. Augustine, St. Thomas’ words not only speak to the mind of this beautiful mystery – that Jesus gives us Himself, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity – but also speak to the heart, for this Gift of Jesus is the perfect gift of His love. We receive this Gift in Communion, made one with the Lord; we worship this Gift in Eucharistic adoration; but above all, Christ invites us to live this Gift in daily works of prayer and mercy: “Do this in memory of Me.”
The Eucharistic Revival parish year begins this weekend
around the country. Its goal remains for the Church and the world to be renewed in love for Jesus, our Redeemer, always present among us through the Eucharist. Like St. Augustine, we do not value the Eucharist as a thing, an idea, a concept, but as a Person.
Many parishes conduct a procession with the Blessed Sacrament after the Mass is complete. It is a vivid witness to our desire to follow Jesus and bring His love out into the world. But while the procession happens on this solemnity, it is no different than the command Jesus gives us at every Mass: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord; Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
As Jesus invited the Apostles when He appeared to them by the lake, so He invites us:” Come, eat your meal” – Come to Me, He says; come to this sacred Communion that makes you live forever. You shall be changed … into Me.”