This Sunday the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, traditionally known by its Latin title, Corpus Christi. It is an occasion every year to remember especially what a great gift Jesus left us in the Holy Eucharist – the abiding sign of His Redemption and His Presence among us.
Corpus Christi is a day when the Church pulls out all the stops. Many parishes organize Eucharistic processions through the streets. There the Eucharistic Lord, held in the monstrance by the priest, is escorted by candles, canopies, incense, choirs, altar servers, and worshipers. And there are many beautiful Eucharistic hymns from the Church’s tradition that are sung with particular love on this great feast. My favorite among these is the Adoro Te Devote. This particular prayer is attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote the proper texts for the medieval Mass and Office of Corpus Christi when the Feast was first instituted, and who is the great teacher about the Eucharist.
Reading, praying, and singing the words of the Adoro Te are a great way to immerse ourselves in the saving mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood. Let us spend some time savoring these words (here in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ beautiful English rendition) as we prepare to taste and see the goodness of the Lord in His Sacrament this Sunday.
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.
Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.
On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.
I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.
O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.
Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran—
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.
Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight. Amen.
Image: Unknown Artist, Allegory of the Eucharist