Happy Corpus Christi!

Happy Corpus Christi!

Today, we celebrate the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Which is a hard teaching to really comprehend… even many of Jesus’s disciples questioned it in the famous Bread of Life discourse that occurs in the Gospel of John!

See, after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish in which Jesus transformed five loaves of bread and two fish into enough to feed thousands of people, Jesus left the people to pray. So, the people looked for and found Jesus to ask for more bread. After He told them that He is the Bread of Life and that they must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood for eternal life, most of them left. Then Jesus turns to the Twelve, who were still there, and asks them if they too want to leave. St. Peter replies, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

The Twelve later get a taste of what this means when Christ shares the first Eucharist with them in which He transforms the bread and wine into His Body and Blood! Check out this gospel, which also happens to be the gospel of the day:

If those words are familiar, it’s because we say them every time before the sacrifice of the mass in the Eucharistic feast! See, we too celebrate in this Eucharist.

Now, a lot of saints have said a lot of beautiful things about the Eucharist.

St Francis of Assisi said, “Let the entire man be seized with fear; let the whole world tremble; let heaven exult when Christ, the Son of the Living God, is on the altar in the hands of the priest. O admirable height and stupendous condescension! O humble sublimity! O sublime humility! that the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that for our salvation He hides Himself under a morsel of bread.”

St. John Chrysostom said, “When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar.”

St. Gregory the Great said, “The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

St. Jean Vianney said, “There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us.”

And finally, St. Maximilian Kolbe said, “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”

As you can imagine, artists have tried to capture the glory of the Eucharist! These artists use their artistic talents to make what appears to us as a simple wafer and transform it into a glimpse of the glory of God. Here’s one particularly beautiful image:

Allegory of the Eucharist, c. 1676-1725. Museo Cerralbo, Madrid, Spain. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
Allegory of the Eucharist, c. 1676-1725. Museo Cerralbo, Madrid, Spain.

There are so many biblical allusions in this picture that it’s hard to know where begin. However! I’ll try to point out a couple that I see…

The Trinity

First of all! The Holy Trinity is shown here as a triangle, with the Holy Spirit, personified as a dove, coming out of it, to represent that the Holy Spirit is present in the tabernacle!

The Veil

Two angels are lifting up a reddish curtain to expose the Host. This is a reference to this biblical reference:

But, unlike the Old Testament, in which there was a definite physical barrier between us and God, the veil has been lifted and we have intimate access to Christ through His Flesh and Blood. St. Paul explains in his Letter to the Hebrews:

Incense

The smoke of incense is everywhere! This too is biblical:

In the New Testament, St. John describes his vision of Heaven in Revelation, saying:

And so, as we pray, we lift up incense as a reminder of the prayers of the saints, whom we believe share in the glory of the mass, as well as offer our own prayers.

Bread and Wine

In this picture, you’ll see cherubim holding wheat and grapes below. This is a reference to this line!

Melchizedek is both king and high priest whom Abraham met! And then there is a prophecy in the Psalms that brings up Melchizedek again in Psalms 110! So, clearly he is a very important guy!

Later in the New Testament, St. Paul reinforces Melchizedek’s role with a whole chapter in Hebrews 7!

Lamb

There, we also see a lamb on an altar. Throughout the Old Testament, we see a pure and unblemished lamb being offered for sacrifice, from the sacrifice of Isaac (which ended up with the sacrifice of a sheep), to the first Passover. When St. John the Baptist first sees Jesus, he says, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

But it is Revelation in which the Lamb of God is referred to extensively, and it should be no surprise that the mass takes much of Revelation as its source for worship. Check out this passage:

Speaking of this bible passage… look at the picture again! The lamb is sitting on a book with seven seals. This is a representation of the scrolls with seven seals (referenced in this passage!) that the Lamb is able to open!

The Host

And finally! Adorned in gold is the Host, the Holy of Holies! Its appearance is but a simple circular white wafer, and yet… in this simple wafer, God is present. Really and truly present.

If that doesn’t astonish you, I don’t know what will!

 

Here’s hoping you had a blessed feast day!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

One thought on “Happy Corpus Christi!

  • February 26, 2020 at 2:17 am
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    WOW. I’ve never seen this piece of art before. Absolutely beautiful! And your reflections on it were so helpful and insightful.

    Thank you for this awesome blog and website!

    Keep up the great work!

    In Christ,
    Greg

    Reply

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