Hubert van Eyck & Jan van Eyck
18 Mar 2023
The Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord
The Feast of Corpus Christi is a bit like a birthday. I mean: life is a process. We don’t often reflect on the fact that we have been born. We don’t often say with the Psalmist: ‘I thank you, Lord, for the wonder of my being.’ We mostly take it all for granted. But a birthday makes us pause, makes us look at the wonder of it all, makes us consciously celebrate the beginning of our lives and the passing of the years, and makes us reflect on where life is going.
In the same way the Feast of Corpus Christi invites us to reflect on what we do from Sunday to Sunday, perhaps from day to day, perhaps without reflecting on what is, after all, also an on-going process. The annual Feast makes us stop to reflect on the wonder of it all. It makes us think of our own childhood. We recall the thrill of our First Holy Communion, which we can now see as the beginning of a process that has extended throughout our lives. It is a process of transformation, a quiet, unnoticed assimilation to the person of Jesus, week by week, year by year. Only at the end of our lives, when time and space are no more, only then shall we understand what an astounding miracle has been taking place in us. For ‘we are being transformed from glory to glory’, as St Paul puts it, referring to this process. The Feast of Corpus Christi invites us to become more keenly aware of all this, to see with fresh eyes the thrill and the novelty of it, to be thankful and joyful, to be amazed at what Jesus is doing to us, and to want it more and more.
Which reminds me of an image from my student days, which has always remained with me. I was a student at the Rosminian house of studies at Porta Latina in Rome. The house is built around a central cortile, overlooked by a beautiful medieval bell-tower. The bell-tower is illuminated by very powerful flood lights fixed on the roof of the cortile. In midsummer, when darkness fell and the lights came on, there emerged from the darkness, every night without fail, a flock of swifts, that circled the cortile in rapid flight, drawn by the light. And as they approached the light, their rapid flight suddenly slowed to an ecstatic glide, wings motionless and outstretched, breasts turned to the light; and for those few moments they became something other than themselves, transfigured in the light, until the darkness covered them again, and around the cortile they darted once again, eager to glide once more into the light to enjoy those joyous moments. Unremarkable creatures they were, with no particular attractiveness, but they came out of the darkness to become things of beauty, transfigured by light.
That, I thought to myself, is the Eucharist, where we are taken up into Jesus’ worship, again and again, repeatedly throughout our lives, now just for a moment, but one day for ever, when our transformation will be complete.
This Feast Day is inviting you to reflect once again on the wonder of what is happening to you; to see your Holy Communion not as some weekly routine but as the process by which you are being transformed into Christ; and to rejoice and be grateful, because your vocation is very beautiful.
Fr Tom Deidun