Mgr Follo, 2016 © Courtoisie De La Mission Du Saint-Siège À L'UNESCO

Archbishop Follo: Adoration and Proclamation of Love

With the feast of Corpus Christi, we celebrate the real presence of Christ and we are invited to imitate him in the gift of ourselves and in communion.

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CORPUS CHRISTI- Year A – June 14, 2020

Roman rite

Dt 8,2-3.14b-16a; Ps 148; 1 Cor 10: 16-17; Jn 6.51-58

Ambrosian rite

Dt 8,2-3. 14b-16a; Ps 147; 1 Cor 10: 16-17; Jn 6: 51-58

1) Love to adore and announce in procession.

On this Sunday the Liturgy makes us celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, whose traditional name is «Corpus Christi». It is a feast that arose in the thirteenth century and which has developed throughout the Catholic Church but that has more ancient roots. In fact, St. John Paul II saw the beginning of this feast in that first «procession» made by the Apostles with Christ after the Last Supper. Accompanying the Redeemer and, at the same time bringing him into their hearts as the Eucharist received a few moments earlier, the Eleven came out of the Upper Room and walked towards the Mount of Olives.

Leaving our Upper Room, with Christ in our hearts, let us go among men, friends or enemies alike. After celebrating the Eucharist in the Church and after «exiting» ourselves to worship the Lord, the living Bread of Heaven, we are invited to «go out» and walk the roads of the world to announce the love that truly nourishes our existence and gives life that does not die. Love is stronger than death and in Jesus Christ God it is among us.

Only if there is an answer to death, can man be truly happy. But, if this answer exists, then it is the effective and valid authorization to joy and what can truly constitute the foundation of a feast. In its essence the Eucharist is the answer to the problem of death, and the encounter with love, which is stronger than death. Corpus Christi is an answer to this nucleus of the Eucharistic mystery.

Moreover, if it is true that the Eucharist is the Sacrament of the deepest hiding of God (he hides under the species of bread and wine, and thus hides from man), it is equally true that the Eucharist is the Sacrament of a particular going out into the world and entering into men and in the midst of everything that makes up their daily lives. Christ’s presence in the consecrated Host is silent, hidden, low key, and yet anxious to meet the gaze of all men who await him even without knowing it. Let us accompany the outgoing Eucharistic procession with prayer, so that the desire to immerse ourselves in the mystery of the Eucharist may grow and that all the ways may be opened to this infinite love.

Today, this going out takes the form of the Eucharistic procession, in which we faithful participate along the streets of cities and towns, repeating the exodus of Jesus and his Apostles from the Upper Room to the Mount of Olives (In paragraph 3 I will write more about it). Then, it was a procession in the pain of the passion that began; today, it is a procession in the joy of the resurrection of Christ who blesses the world and comforts it. In fact, the Corpus Christi’s procession teaches us that the Eucharist wants to free us from all despondency and discouragement and wants us to get up again, so that we can resume the journey with the strength that God gives us through the risen Jesus Christ, Bread of life.

2)  Bread of Life and Bread of Love.

              To enter into the mystery of the Eucharist first of all we must remember the words of Jesus: «For God so loved the world that gave His Only Son so that the world might be saved through him» (Jn 3, 16).

The Eucharist is the sacrament which perpetuates this gift that comes from God’s faithful love.
This is why for the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord the Liturgy proposes as First Reading of today’s Mass a passage from Deuteronomy that is an invitation to remember that, during the Exodus, God has always been with the people of Israel. In His faithful love, God did not hesitate to test the Jews in the desert, but he was always near and gave them manna to continue the journey toward the Promised Land.
In the Second Reading, St Paul tells us of the aim of the Eucharist that is to “be one body» (1 Cor 17), to be all in communion with Christ and to be brothers and sisters, that is, the Church nourished by the shared Eucharistic bread. Communion means exchange and sharing. The fundamental rule of sharing is this: what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine. But what do I have that is truly «mine»? Misery and sin: only these are exclusively mine. And what does Jesus have that is truly “his”? Holiness, the perfection of all the virtues. Communion consists in the fact that I give Jesus my sin and my poverty and he gives me his holiness. The «wonderful exchange», as defined by the Liturgy, is fulfilled.
In the Third Reading, which contains a short passage taken from Chapter 6 of the Gospel of St. John, we are told about the will of Jesus to feed everyone with his flesh and quench their thirst with his blood to have life and have it abundantly.
When we receive Communion, the priest says «The Body of Christ» and the faithful respond «Amen.» We must, therefore, be members of the Body of Christ for our Amen to be true. It is a mystery of unity, compassion and charity. One bread, one body, made of many. Bread is not made with a single but with a large number of grains of wheat. «At baptism you have been soaked in water. The Holy Spirit came in you as the fire that bakes the dough: Be therefore what you see and receive what you are «(St. Augustine).
It is also important to point out some details that are not, however, irrelevant details. In John’s Gospel we note that the Apostle prefers the word «flesh»[1] to the word «body.» The writer probably wants to emphasize the realism of the Incarnation (truly» The Word was made flesh “) against the propensity to deny to the Son of God the opportunity to take a true and full human nature. Take note, then, of the universal dimension: this Holy Food is for the life of the whole world. Finally, there is an insistence that it is not fortuitous: to eat the flesh and to drink the blood is essential to have life. Christ is real food for the real life of humanity.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say to her sisters that they «must treat the sick as the priest treats the consecrated host», and, adding her experience, the fruit of Communion and Adoration, «When I adore Jesus in the Eucharist I see the poor and when I’m with the poor I see Jesus.»

3) Call, journey and worship.

The celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi does not consist only in the Mass celebrated in a particularly solemn way. It also entails a procession through the streets of the city or the village.
The Church, God’s people gathered around the Eucharist, in all the parishes of the Earth today advances in front of the whole world with the biggest claim that we can lodge: that of owning and offering in a piece of bread and in a sip wine the flesh and blood of Jesus, of the One who said he was the Christ, the Son of God made man, and of the One who is the Redeemer of man and of the whole world.
During the procession a bit of this «anointed» bread is placed in a precious monstrance and is carried by the hands of the priest along our streets to be worshiped as the sacrament in which the Lord is truly present in the world.
No one is forced to believe this. But the certainty of a people, growing and present in the world, challenges everyone to «verify» which possibility of truth may be in what is proposed to believe.

For everyone, believers or not, today is a great opportunity to rethink this faith of the Church. The believer must find the reasons to strengthen it in himself. The one who does not believe should compared himself with the reasons that are given to him. The biggest of these reasons is the «strength» of this faith that «makes” martyrs (they have calculated forty-five million in the twentieth century) and saints, who give their whole live for the love of this Christ present in the Church, the Eucharist, and in the brothers.
Today’s procession is not like the one of Holy Thursday, when, after the first Eucharistic Supper, the Apostles accompanied Christ to the Mount of Olives. It is a journey with the risen Christ, therefore full of joy, calm amazement and adoration, that is prayer that becomes gaze. «Worship is the prayer that prolongs the celebration and  the Eucharistic communion and in which the soul continues to nourish : it feeds on love, truth, peace; it feeds on hope because the One before whom we prostrate ourselves does not judge, doesn’t crush us but liberates and transforms us «(Benedict XVI, May 2, 2008).
In this Eucharist «exodus» the Consecrated Virgins in the world are of example. In the Eucharist, Christ is always walking towards the world, and these women devoted to Him go into the world with Him. It is part of their specific vocation to bring him, present under the species of bread and in their heart, in the streets of the world entrusting them to Him and to His goodness.  Following the example of our consecrated virgins may every one of us be home for him and with him, and may our life be penetrated every day by his presence.
They live of the Eucharist and witness that the Eucharist taken with faith leads to true communion with God and therefore with others. The consecrated and shared Bread is a visible sign of this communion. It is the sacrament of charity, and the act of breaking it and distributing it must be a sign of love and acceptance. The Eucharist is the daily bread for the daily journey of people gathered and called to praise God and live for Him
With the Eucharist, the Lord does not leave us alone in this journey. He is with us always. Rather, he wishes to share our destiny to the point of becoming one with us. Let’s not forget that it is not enough to progress. If there are no milestones, «progress» is likely to run us off the road. We risk ending up in a precipice, or at least to move away from the destination more quickly if He does not show us the way. God has created us free but has not left us alone. He has made himself «way» and came to walk with us so that our freedom may also have the criterion for discerning the right path and follow it.
Not only to walk with Christ is freedom; freedom is also to kneel before the Eucharist  because it is profession of freedom. Those who bow to Jesus cannot and must not bow to any earthly power, however strong. We Christians kneel in adoration only before the Blessed Sacrament because we know and believe this to be the only true God who created the world and so loved it that He gave His only begotten Son (cf. Jn 3:16).

Patristic Reading

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Exposition on Psalm 138

  1. «I will worship toward Your holy Temple» (ver. 2). What holy Temple? That where we shall dwell, where we shall worship. For we hasten that we may adore. Our heart is pregnant and comes to the birth, and seeks where it may bring forth. What is the place where God is to be worshipped?…»The Temple of God is holy,» says the Apostle, «which Temple you are.» 1 Corinthians 3:17 But assuredly, as is manifest, God dwells in the Angels. Therefore when our joy, being in spiritual things, not in earthly, takes up a song to God, to sing before the Angels, that very assembly of Angels is the Temple of God, we worship toward God’s Temple. There is a Church below, there is a Church above also; the Church below, in all the faithful; the Church above, in all the Angels. But the God of Angels came down to the Church below, and Angels ministered to Him on earth, Matthew 4:11 while He ministered to us; for, «I came not,» says He, «to be ministered unto, but to minister.» Matthew 20:28…The Lord of Angels died for man. Therefore, «I will worship toward Your holy Temple;» I mean, not the temple made with hands, but that which You have made for Yourself.
  2. «And I will confess to Your Name in Your mercy and Your truth.»…These also which You have given to me, do I according to my power give to You in return: mercy, in aiding others; truth, in judging. By these God aids us, by these we win God’s favour. Rightly, therefore, «All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth.» No other ways are there whereby He can come to us, no other whereby we can come to Him. «

[1] The Greek word used by St. John for «flesh» is «sarx«, which corresponds to the Hebrew «basar«. It is a Semitic word that indicates not so much flesh in a material sense as we understand it, but humanity, a person. In the biblical language, the expression «flesh and blood» means the human person in his historical reality and the whole man in his concrete manifestation. Therefore, the expression «eating flesh» is not to suggest cannibalism, it rather indicates the entry into full communion with the Savior.

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Archbishop Francesco Follo

Monsignor Francesco Follo è osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l'UNESCO a Parigi.

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