On this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we focus on the ultimate sacrifice of Our Lord, and just as much on His ultimate miracle. In the Eucharist, Christ feeds us with His very Body and Blood, the same that was given on the Cross for our salvation. He gives us food for eternal life while perpetuating that one perfect sacrifice which ushered in the New Covenant.
Our First Reading, recounting the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant upon the Israelites in the desert, shows us the importance of Christ’s sacrifice. In the Old Covenant, blood was considered to hold the life of the animal. The sprinkling rite in Exodus was not simply a reminder of punishment for not following the covenant — it was moreso a purification, as Paul points out in our Second Reading: “If the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ … cleanse our consciences” (Heb 9:13–14).
Christ’s Blood, shed for us on the Cross, is also a cleansing agent, but one infinitely more potent than that of sacrificial cattle. While their blood sanctified legally, His sanctifies thoroughly. But as Paul is at pains to explain, Jesus follows in the same tradition, building upon it while at the same time surpassing and perfecting it. His is the definitive sacrifice, and He commands it to be re-presented in the action of the Mass.
It is enough for us to attend Mass to participate in this sacrifice. But to truly experience its fruits in the most extraordinary way, to have life within us, we must receive His Body and Blood. As most of us know, this is not a metaphor at all. The Eucharist is truly Jesus Christ’s, God’s, Body and Blood.
Through transubstantiation, the changing of the substance of bread and wine into His Body and Blood, we can receive Him without having to experience the potentially-nauseating taste of human flesh and blood. He preserves the accidents, the non-essential features proper to bread and wine: taste, shape, color, smell, and the like. How this is possible may be difficult to understand, but we know that it is true, at the very least from Christ Himself in John 6 and in our Gospel passage, and again from the infallible definitions of the Council of Trent.
This ultimate sacrifice made present to us is a profound gift, allowing us to experience and participate in the New Covenant in the same practical, visceral way that the Jews did in the desert. The Cross and its fruits are not something abstract, thanks to God’s providence: they are present at every Mass throughout the world, available to us day after day.
Corpus Christi is a wonderful time to reflect on the Eucharist. Though I cannot go into it here, I strongly suggest reading over the full Sequence, read between the Second Reading and the Gospel, for today. Take your time, look up the words you don’t know, and pray over the words detailing God’s providence and His impressive design in the Eucharist. Happy Solemnity!
David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feature Image Credit: emiliogb, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/17727-jesus-doble-entrega