Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. The Church asks us to reflect on the great mystery of the Eucharist. But where to start? Perhaps I have told this story before, but the English author Hilaire Belloc was once making a pilgrimage to Lisieux, the home of St Therese. Sitting outside the convent, reflecting on the spiritual giant who had resided within its walls unknown to the rest of the world, he commented to his friend: “People think they know what is going on in the world.” When it comes to reflecting on the mystery of the Blessed Sacrament, such a comment hits even deeper.
In the ancient world, Christianity was a scandal because it demanded to be treated differently to all other religions. It proclaimed that God had taken flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. That God has spoken God’s one word. That is still scandalous today. That scandal is present here and now.
In the Jewish world, Christianity was a scandal because it claimed that the one true God, the Lord of hosts, the creator of the universe, the burning fire that destroyed all that was unholy, that held everything in the palm of its hand, Christianity was a scandal because that God had been so meek as to become a child, so humble as to be publicly executed by those that oppressed God’s chosen people, reduced to ignominy through the worst possible torture and death, crucifixion beyond the city gates. This humility is still scandalous. That scandal is present here and now.
In the world of today, Christianity is a scandal because it claims that not only is there definite meaning to life, that life is bodily and that life is good, and moreover that the fullness of truth has been revealed once and for all time in Jesus Christ and so taught by the Church. But also that that same Christ makes himself into food so as to become not only digestible, but also so as to remain physically close with his beloved Spouse, the Church. Scandalously God loves and wants every part of us. That scandal is present here and now.
When we to confession, bless ourselves with holy water and pray our penitential rite at the beginning of our liturgy, we confess our sins, pleading with God to purify us so that we can celebrate these sacred mysteries, aware that without such purification, we are in mortal danger. As St Paul reminds us, no-one should approach the table of the Lord without such purification. We enter the lion’s den here and now.
When we listen to the Word of God, we believe that what is preached in our scriptures, what is lived out in our tradition, what is present in our charity, all this reaches its zenith in the celebration of the Eucharist. We believe that all of this is one cloth, one cloth that like that which Christ wore at his crucifixion, that cloth that world constantly seeks to gamble with and undermine, that this one cloth, this one truth stands and falls together. The great drama of truth, of a moral life, the great call to holiness: all this is present here and now.
Our society speaks of evolution. It speaks both of evolution in the natural world and evolution in the intellectual world. It speaks of progress, of transcending our limits, of moving to the next cultural level, whether that be artificial intelligence, universal governance, space travel or whatever. All these are at best steps towards the real goal of creation: the deification of creation, creation is fully transformed into the Body of Christ. When through the second person of the Trinity, as part of redeemed creation, that redeemed creation that we call the Church, we participate in the life of God. That transformation is taking place here and now. That life of God is present here and now.
All this and more than we can imagine, more than the greatest works of art can hope to contain, deeper than our greatest telescopes or microscopes than peer, more than our hearts can even dream of desiring: all that and more is contained in the Blessed Sacrament, Christ come to us, closer than we can believe.
J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote to his son that
[o]ut of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament . . .There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death. By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste—or foretaste—of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every heart desires.
Imagine if people knew what we know. Imagine if people believed what we believe. Imagine if people could see what we can see with the eyes of faith: the Blessed Sacrament: the treasure that can change the world, that is changing the world: Jesus Christ, the life of the World.
Let us adore Him and proclaim Him, present here among us.