High Mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi with outdoor Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, will be celebrated at St James'. Archbishop Skelton will be the preacher.
Since the mid-thirteenth century the Thursday after Trinity Sunday has been observed in the West as a day of thanksgiving for the gift of the Blessed Sacrament in the life of the church. This observance has been restored to the Calendar of many Churches of the Anglican Communion, including our own, in the liturgical renewal of the last century. Known often by its shortened Latin name, Corpus Christi, it is the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Of course we give thanks for the Institution of Holy Communion in Holy Week, on Maundy Thursday. Then, though, we are caught up in the solemn events of the Lord’s Passion, with the washing of the feet, the watch in the garden, and the betrayal of Jesus set before us in the context of the Last Supper.
Corpus Christi gives us the opportunity to focus our thanksgiving on the sacramental presence of Christ in the life of the church, how we are joined together as the Body of Christ by our feeding on the Bread of Life and drinking from Christ the Vine, how we draw our life and strength from him, how we receive here the pledge and foretaste of the banquet of heaven.
Remember Jesus’ words: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the day; for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” [John 6.53-58, NRSV]
A traditional part of the celebration has been a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, clergy and people together taking the consecrated host (in what is called a Monstrance, from the Latin “to show”: see photograph) with them into the neighbourhood. This witnesses to the presence of Christ in the sacrament, of course, but its intent is more than that: it is a procession of witness to Christ present in the midst of God’s people, to Christ present in God’s creation, and to Christ’s love for all.
This year St James’, together with the DofNW Chapter of the Society of Catholic Priests, extends a warm invitation to people from across the diocese to join with our Bishop in this celebration and act of witness.