I’m not being at all glib when I say that this passionate homily by Deacon Greg gave me chills. It is spot on, and difficult to excerpt, but here’s a taste:
Back in the 1970s, when there was a lot of liturgical innovation going on, Dorothy Day invited a young priest to celebrate mass at the Catholic Worker. He decided to do something that he thought was relevant and hip. He asked Dorothy if she had a coffee cup he could borrow. She found one in the kitchen and brought it to him. And, he took that cup and used it as the chalice to celebrate mass.
When it was over, Dorothy picked up the cup, found a small gardening tool, and went to the backyard. She knelt down, dug a hole, kissed the coffee cup, and buried it in the earth.
With that simple gesture, Dorothy Day showed that she understood something that so many of us today don’t: she knew that Christ was truly present in something as ordinary as a ceramic cup. And that it could never be just a coffee cup again.
She understood the power and reality of His presence in the blessed sacrament.
Which is really the sum and substance of what we celebrate on this feast, Corpus Christi. The reason for what we will do today – celebrating with the monstrance, the music, the procession – isn’t to glorify an inanimate object, a bit of bread contained in glass.
It is to remind the world that in that bread we have been given Christ.
Not an idea. Not a symbol. Not an abstract bit of arcane theology. No.
It is wider and deeper and more mysterious than that.
Look at that host — and you look at Christ.
I love his opening story. Dorothy Day (a convert and Benedictine Oblate) founded The Catholic Worker, and lived in voluntary poverty in solidarity with the poor of her day. She is often, and wrongly, dismissed as a “radical” by people who do not realize that Day was, in her own words, “an obedient daughter of the church,” and completely passionate about the grace-imparting sacraments given to us by Christ. Far from being “radical,” Day looked upon the Eucharistic Christ and recognized her King, just as even the earliest Christians knew him, the travelers who “recognized Jesus” in the breaking of the bread, and those Corinthians warned by St. Paul, (1 Corinthians 11:27) who wrote: Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
More Deacon Greg:
Look at the host, and you look at Christ.
Everything we are, everything we believe, everything we celebrate around this altar comes down to that incredible truth. What began two thousand years ago in an upper room continues here, and now, and at altars around the world. The very source of our salvation is transformed into something you can hold in the palm of your hand.
A lot of you know Sister Camille D’Arienzo, who has been here many times to speak. She tells the story of a priest who was pouring some unconsecrated communion wafers from a bag, to get ready for mass. Some fell on the floor. He bent down and picked up the stray hosts, just ordinary wafers, unconsecrated, to throw them out. And he held one between his thumb and forefinger and showed it to her. “Just think,” he said, “what this could have become.”
Just think what we become when we receive the body of Christ. We become nothing less than living tabernacles. God dwells within us. As the hymn tells us, we become what we receive. And what we receive becomes us. That is the great mystery, and great grace, the great gift of this most blessed sacrament.
My question on this feast: what will we do with that knowledge? Once we have been transformed, by bread that has been transformed, how can we leave this holy place without seeking to transform the world? How can we just go out and head to brunch, or dinner, or out to do yardwork or the weekly grocery shopping?
We carry something greater than ourselves. And that makes us instruments of God’s great work in the world – literally.
Read it all; you will be inspired. You may not want to head forth in the world armed, as Dorothy Day was, with only her breviary, her jar of instant coffee (she did not have the Mystic Monks) and her daily mass-and-communion, but you may find yourself moved to examine your own conscience (I know I was) and to consider what you might say to Christ, ask of Him, offer to Him, this weekend as you receive his Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity, into your own flesh and blood, where the two will commingle, where your cells will absorb the Blood of the King, until his Royal Blood runs within you.
The Source and Summit of our worship is also its Deepest Mystery; a Hypermystery of Divine Indwelling. We do not ponder it enough. We could not, in any case, but we don’t even try.
We need to focus, to quiet down, and to listen.