VATICAN - YEAR OF THE EUCHARIST
Corpus Domini Procession: bringing Christ to the streets of the city in the Pope's words
Benedict XVI's homily for the celebration of Corpus Domini
Rome (AsiaNews) -- An occasion to bring the Christian presence to the streets of the city and the world, but also a rediscovery of the "real" enconter of our person with the person of Jesus: these the thoughts of Pope Benedict XVI in the homily that initiates his public presence in the city of Rome. At the Vatican, the Feast of Corpus Domini is celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday. Thus, as warranted by tradition, the Pope celebrated Mass this evening at 7 p.m. on the parvis of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, which concluded with the Eucharistic procession to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. Speaking before several thousands of people, Benedict XVI's words were profound and rich with biblical references, but he also launched a friendly and warm invitation to his listeners to centre their life on the person of Jesus Christ, who "overcomes the night", "becomes bread of life," and urges us on to mission in the world. The Pope indicated the two-fold "path in the following of Christ": "The true aim of our journey," he said, "is communion with God...But the only way to rise to this dwelling...is by taking to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel to all nations, bringing the gift of his love to the men of all times." And explaining the significance of the procession, he said: "With this gesture, we display to Him the suffering of the sick, the loneliness of the young and the old, our temptations, our fears -- our entire life. The procession means to be a great and public blessing for our city: Christ is, in person, the divine blessing for the world." Here is the complete text of the homily delivered by Benedict XVI to the faithful during the Eucharistic celebration on the parvis of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran (AsiaNews translation): "During the feast of Corpus Domini, the Church relives the mystery of Holy Thursday in the light of Resurrection. Holy Thursday has its own Eucharistic procession, with which the Church repeats Jesus' exodus from the Upper Room to the Mount of Olives. In Israel, the night of Passover was being celebrated, in the intimacy of family life, thus commemorating the first Passover in Egypt -- the night in which the blood of the Paschal lamb, sprinkled around the doors of homes, protected against the angel of death. Jesus, on that night, goes out and delivers Himself into the hands of the traitor, of the angel of death, and indeed overcomes the night, overcomes the darkness of evil. Only in this way does the Eucharist, established in the Upper Room, find its completion: Jesus truly gives His body and His blood. In crossing the threshold of death, he becomes the living Bread, true manna, inexhaustible nourishment, forever. The flesh becomes the bread of life. In the procession of Holy Thursday, the Church accompanies Jesus to the Mount of Olives: it is the heartfelt wish of the praying Church to keep vigil with Jesus, to not leave him alone in the night of the world, in the night of betrayal, in the night of indifference of so many. In the feast of Corpus Domini, we resume this procession, but in the joy of Resurrection. The Lord is risen and goes before us. In the recounting of the Resurrection there is a shared and essential feature; the angels say: "he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.' (Mat 28:7). Reflecting on this more closely, we can say that Jesus' "going before" involves two directions. The first -- as we heard -- is Galilee. In Israel, Galilee is considered the gate toward the world of pagans. And in fact it is precisely in Galilee, on the mount, that the disciples see Jesus, the Lord who tells them: "Go...and make disciples of all nations (Mat 28:19). The other direction of this going before, on the part of the Risen Lord, appears in the Gospel of Saint John, from the words of Jesus to Mary of Magdala: "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father..." (Jn 20:17). Jesus goes before us to the Father, he rises to the height of God and invites us to follow him. These two directions in the Risen Lord's journey do not contradict each other, but indicate together the way to follow Christ. The true aim of our journey is communion with God -- God Himself is the house with many dwelling places (cfr Jn 14:2). But the only way to rise to this dwelling is by going "toward Galilee" -- by taking to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel to all nations, bringing the gift of his love to all men of all times. This is why the journey of the apostles stretched to the "ends of the earth" (cfr Acts 1:6); thus Saint Peter and Saint Paul went as far as Rome, the city which at that time was the centre of the known world, a true caput mundi. Holy Thursday's procession accompanies Jesus in his solitude, toward the via crucis. The procession of Corpus Domini, instead, answers in a symbolic way to the mandate of the Risen Lord: I go before you to Galilee. Go the ends of the earth, bring the Gospel to the world. Of course, the Eucharist, for the faith, is a mystery of intimacy. The Lord established the Sacrament in the Upper Room, surrounded by his new family, by the twelve apostles, foreshadowing and anticipation of the Church of all times. Thus, in the liturgy of the ancient Church, the distribution of the holy communion was prefaced with these words: Sancta sanctis -- the holy gift is destined to those who are rendered holy. In this way, Saint Paul's warning to the Corinthians was answered: "A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup." (1 Cor 11:28). Yet, from this intimacy, which is a truly personal gift of the Lord, the power of the Eucharistic sacrament goes beyond the walls of our Church. In this Sacrament, the Lord is always travelling toward the world. This universal aspect of the Eucharistic presence appears in the procession of our feast. We bring Christ, present in the figure of the bread, to the streets of our city. We entrust these streets, these homes -- our daily life -- to his goodness. May our streets be the streets of Jesus! May our homes be homes for Him and with Him! May our everyday life be penetrated by His presence. With this gesture, let us display to Him the suffering of the sick, the loneliness of the young and old, our temptations, our fears -- our entire life. The procession means to be a great and public blessing for our city: Christ is, in person, the world's divine blessing -- may the ray of His blessing extend over us all! In the Corpus Domini procession, we accompany the Risen Lord in his journey toward the entire world -- as we have said. And, in doing precisely this, we also answer to his mandate: "Take and eat...drink from it all of you." (Mat 26:26-). The Risen Lord, present in the figure of the bread, cannot be "eaten" like a simple piece of bread. To eat this bread is to communicate, it is to enter into communion with the person of the living Lord. This communion, this act of "eating", is truly the encounter between two people, it is letting oneself be penetrated by the life of He who is the Lord, of He who is my Creator and Redeemer. The purpose of this communion is the assimilation of my life to His, my transformation and conformation to He who is living Love. Therefore, this communion involves adoration, it involves the will to follow Christ, to follow He who goes before us. Adoration and procession are therefore part of a single gesture of communion; they answer to his mandate: "Take and eat." Our procession ends in front of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, in the encounter with Our Lady, called by our dear Pope John Paul II "Eucharistic Women." Truly Mary, the Mother of God, teaches us what it is to enter into communion with Christ: Mary offered her flesh, her blood to Jesus and become the Word's living tent, letting herself be penetrated in body and spirit by His presence. Let us pray to Her, our Holy Mother, that She help us to open, ever more, all our being in the presence of Christ; that She help us to follow Him faithfully, day after day, on the streets of our life. Amen!