How appropriate that this year the Solemnity of Corpus Christi falls just two days before the Feast of the Visitation. You could say that the Visitation was the first Corpus Christi procession, and surely the longest one, since Our Lady traveled somewhere between 80 and 100 miles from Nazareth to the Hill Country of Judea. In fact, as I was praying the rosary yesterday, it struck me how this celebration of Our Lord’s Real Presence is a joyful mystery, which actually encompasses all the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.
Annunciation – In one sense, the Eucharist is a continuation of the mystery of the Incarnation. God, in an extraordinary and mysterious way, comes to His beloved children, to be physically with them and among them. This happened first at the Incarnation and it happens every time the Eucharist is confected at Mass. God’s love compels Him to do something which is beyond our comprehension, and just as His Divinity was hidden from us during His earthly life, so too, It is veiled behind the forms of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist.
Visitation – Our Lady takes the love which God has lavished on her, His own Divine Love, the fruit of which is Jesus, and shares that with her cousin Elizabeth. Our Lady, from a young age according to tradition, has been consecrated to God. Her complete self-giving to God bears this fruit: she is completely other-oriented; she takes Jesus to her cousin and serves her both spiritually and physically, by lending her care and support as she nears childbirth. As I mentioned above, her long trek to Elizabeth’s home was the first Corpus Christi procession. Just as today Jesus is hidden in the Blessed Sacrament, at the Visitation He was also hidden in Mary’s womb, although by the power of the Holy Spirit and faith Elizabeth and John both recognized the presence of their Savior.
Nativity – We are present at Calvary, stepping out of time and into that eternal moment, each time we attend Mass. But the Crucifixion began at the Incarnation and is visible to us first at the Nativity of Our Lord. Each Christmas we are reminded of the link between the birth of Our Lord and His passion and death. The wood of the manger presages the wood of the Cross. Not to mention, the word manger means “to eat” and, as Our Lord is first laid in the trough where animals are fed we see a prefigurement of the Eucharist, in which He gives Himself to us as food. He was born in Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread.” It was at the Birth of Our Lord that He was first looked upon and adored. Each time we adore Him in the Eucharist we are joining with Mary and Joseph in that first “Holy Hour”.
Presentation – The infant Jesus was presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph. On Corpus Christi He is presented to the world, though it is a hidden presence behind the appearance of bread, as we process with Him through the streets.
Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple – Just as Mary and Joseph were so relieved to find Him after a stressful search, we find Him always in the tabernacle. Jesus waits for us there, just as He waited for his Mother and foster-father to come to Him in the temple. We are blessed because for us He is never “lost”, He is always present and He waits patiently for us to “find” Him.
The overflowing love of the Church for her Eucharistic Lord gives us this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, as well as all of the Eucharistic devotions which have arisen over the lifetime of the Church. All of Her Eucharistic devotions are a response to the extraordinary love of God for us which compels Him to remain with us until the end of time. Our Lady was a beautiful mirror of God’s love, reflecting back to Him in a most perfect and pure way His own Divine Love. May Our Lord find a reflection of His love, His abiding love which abides with us in the Blessed Sacrament, reflected back to Him by our loving devotion to His Eucharistic Presence. Let us ask Our Lady, the first monstrance, the first Corpus Christi procession, the first to adore the Word made flesh, to help us grow in our love for Jesus truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.