This Sunday’s Music: Corpus Christi
Riding off our blog post from last week, we now move from honouring and blessing the Trinity to celebrating the, like, most Catholic-est of all Catholic solemnities: the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (or simply “Corpus Christi”, which in Latin means “the Body of Christ”). Traditionally celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday but “perpetually” shifted to the following Sunday in the United States, Corpus Christi is — yet again! — a profound culmination of extensive liturgical development since the beginning of Lent. What other massive feast fell on a Thursday? Oh yeah… Holy Thursday! The night of the Last Supper when our Lord charged us with celebrating the Eucharist “in remembrance of Me”. Well, today, without all the somberness that surrounds Holy Thursday but with great joy and thanksgiving, we give due ceremony and exaltation to the perfect Sacrament: the Real Presence of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, in the Eucharist — a defining theological tenet that distinguishes us from our Protestant and Orthodox brethren.
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At the Lamb’s high feast we sing
Aptly following in that come-full-circle motif, we open today’s celebration with singing our Communion hymn from Resurrection Sunday: that nineteenth-century hymn of praise for the Paschal Victim. What better summarises today’s central image than the first verse?
At the Lamb’s high feast we sing
Praise to our victorious King,
Who hath washed us in the tide
Flowing from His piercèd side.
Praise we Him whose love divine
Gives His sacred blood for wine,
Gives His body for the feast
Christ the victim, Christ the priest.
And what a beautiful transition that was! So, what is all this priest talk? And who is this Melchizedek dude, whose name is no easy feat to pronounce correctly? Well, the latter can easily be answered in our First Reading from Genesis 14:18-20. The former is the real point of discussion. In short, King Jesus is both the priest who offers the sacrifice and the sacrifice that is offered. No more have we need for the bloody sacrifices of yore that were carried out by the high priests in the Temple of Jerusalem. Rather, in the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus the Christ, which is truly present in the Eucharist, have we the perfect sacrifice, through which we are redeemed and nourished. There is a plethora of thoughts on how important is Melchizedek— meaning in Hebrew “king of righteousness” — in the Messianism of both Judaism and Christianity, and we’ll leave it to you to read up on that lengthy discussion. But it is interesting to add that some view this Genesis figure either as a prototype of the Christ or as an actual Christophany.
Even though we will neither sing nor recite the sequence today, it is worth writing briefly about it. So, as we mentioned on Pentecost Sunday, “a sequence is a liturgical poem that expands on the central theme of the solemnity and sets the day apart from all others through its special addition”. Once upon a time, most major feasts had their own appointed sequences — which did make a lot of sense in the old Tridentine Mass, which we now call the “Extraordinary Form” of the Roman Rite —, but after the Counter-reformation and the establishment of the Roman Missal, the appointed sequences were reduced to four although a fifth was later added. Today’s sequence, together with a few other devotional hymns penned by St. Thomas Aquinas, is one of the three that actually still regularly make a cameo and has been reduced to optional. It is also one of the longest sequences still in existence.
I love to praise him
What more can we do on this day than to praise Him, to lift high that wonderful, holy Name? It guides, and it saves. And don’t we at SFDS love this old gospel hymn? Sing it loud and sing it proud!
FILL MY CUP, LORD
In this classic gospel hymn, which we have sung many times, we touch upon today’s Gospel from Luke 9, in which Jesus miraculously feeds the five thousand gathered with only five loaves and two fish. “And they did eat, and were all filled” (Luke 9:17a). In today’s Gospel’s versicle, we hear John the Evangelist putting forth Jesus’ words: “I am the living bread which came from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). So, as we sing that refrain, let us beseech the good and gracious Lord, the “Bread of heaven”, to “feed [us] ‘til [we] want no more”.
IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME
We heard this hymn last on Holy Thursday, and fittingly, today we will again meditate upon this classic song by Ragan Courtney and Buryl Red. With words lifted from today’s Second Reading from 1 Corinthians, we are challenged so: if we break this bread and drink this wine in remembrance of our Lord, then we musy also “heal the sick” and “feed the poor” in His example. The song and its message further commission us, like our Master and Teacher, to open the door to our brothers and sisters, to search for truth, to love always and, at the climax, to look not above but within our human hearts for God. As our pastor, Fr. Kelly, reminds us time and time again, we are a Church not confined to four walls but boundless within the world that has needs that we, in the image and likeness of our God, can fill. Even inside the walls of the sanctuary, we extend our hands to one another, we lift our voices together in praise, and we partake in the Eucharist as a family. Only through doing so do we celebrate properly the Mass. At the moment of our Baptism, we were anointed priests, prophets and kings. Let us take that ordination into the world.
ALL HAIL THE POWER OF JESUS’ Name
While this hymn is tied to today’s theme and message, it has also another significance for us at SFDS. Throughout Eastertide and its “extension” to the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we have been making uncharacteristic albeit appropriate use of the organ to highlight and bolster our roaring march-like hymns. Today, we end our liturgy with the organ until we make use of it again at a later time as an audible sign of festive majesty. On this day that raises, in an even more special way, the perfect sacrifice of God Most High and His Real Presence in our Eucharistic celebration every single day, let us sing with exaltation this mighty hymn. Let us echo the words of Melchizedek in our First Reading: “Blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered [our] enemies into [our] hand” (Genesis 14:20). There is power in the name of Jesus, and we shall lift Him high in the face of our foes. Our Lord and our King gave His life for us on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Resurrection Sunday. He opened for us the gates of Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. From Him and the Father, the Holy Ghost has descended upon us, and it is now our charge as priests, prophets and kings to bring His message to the world with our love, our mercy, our justice and all other good things that we model upon the example of our Lord. Let all hail the power of His Name, before which even the demons cower and over which Hell has no control. Let us crown Jesus Lord of all on earth and in Heaven!