Saturday, June 17, 2017

Corpus Christi or The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a
Ps 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
1 Cor 10-16-17
Jn 6:51-58

This feast is a personal milestone that marks my first Mass on Corpus Christi,  10 June 2007,  the day after ordination.  That was more than two thousand Masses ago.  It was a great joy to celebrate that first Mass on the day that celebrates and meditates upon the great gift of the Body and Blood of Christ, truly and substantially present in the bread and wine consecrated upon the altar. 

A soon-to-be priest has no opportunity to practice celebrating Mass.  As is true of hearing confessions for which there is also no practice, the first Mass is the first time, the very first time, he will get up in front of a congregation and begin, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  He can (and should) practice the movements and the words but it doesn't "count."  It is not a Mass.  It is not even close.  It is daunting to pronounce the words of consecration for the first time while the oil of consecration is still metaphorically fresh on his hands.  Only now, from the perspective of ten years, do I realize it is equally daunting the two thousandth time as I suspect it will be the three thousandth time I pronounce the sacred words.

The moment of the consecration is, or should be, one of overwhelming awe for all.  It is a moment that should never ever be rushed. The words should never tumble out indistinctly, mumbled, or muttered.  The cadence of speech must be slowed.  The words must be distinct and audible.  The most important thing about Mass in the vernacular is that the congregation has the opportunity to hear the words of consecration in its own language.  That privilege must never be taken from the congregation by a sloppy celebrant.

"Take this all of you and eat of it
for this is my Body
which will be given up for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins." 

"Vzemite in jejte od tega vsi,
to je moje telo,
ki se daje za vas."

Because Corpus Christi was celebrated on Thursday here in Slovenia our readings on Sunday will be those for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary time.  Thus the English Language Mass congregation will hear some of the most consoling words St. Paul ever wrote in his Letter to the Romans, words that echo those of the consecration.  "For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly.  . . .  only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." 

Without the Church there is no Eucharist.  Without the Eucharist there is no Church.  The Church's most important role is not the struggle for justice or the rights of the current group du jour, however that might be defined.  The priest's most important role is not that of community organizer, social justice warrior, bingo caller, or anything else.  The priest's most important role is as celebrant of the sacred mysteries of the Mass. No other role comes close in importance to that, a role that includes under that rubric  administering the sacraments of the Church that are reserved to him.  Everything else, as nice and relevant as it is, is a mere grace note.  Without the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ the Church has nothing.  Without the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist the Church can offer nothing.  Without offering the Mass and other sacraments regularly and when needed, the priest is just another schlepper--pop open a cold one, sit back, and watch the game schlepper-- regardless of anything else he does.

"Take this, all of you, and drink from it,
for this is the chalice of my blood,
the blood of the new and eternal covenant,
which will be poured out for you
and for many
for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in memory of me."

"Vzemite in pijte iz njega vsi,
to je kelih moje krvi
nove in večne zaveze,
ki se za vas in za vse preliva v odpuščanje grehov.
To delajte v moj spomin."

Do this in memory of me.

This is the most important mandate the Church received.  Without the Mass the Church has no meaning or function.  

Pay careful attention to the readings for Corpus Christi on Sunday.  None of them is particularly long.  Listen to the Gospel from John.  You will hear the radical statement,

". . . my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink. 
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him."

This is what we celebrate today.  

 Got back to Pleterje with some time to shoot more photos.  I will miss the opportunity to visit on a regular basis.  The day was cloudy but not particularly dark.  That made some of the shots easier as there was no risk of 'blow out.'  

There is something wonderful about stucco, even when it is getting rough and peeling.  The ochre paint or tint is very common.  It adds warmth that changes as a function of the light.  Some of the shots were through windows that could use a bit of washing.  The windows act like natural filters to change the experience of the photo.

 Opening the window changed the feeling of the shot compared with the one above taken of the same basic scene.

The handle and partial hinge on the main door to the monastic church. 

 The door to one of the cloister halls.  The primary colored block are not stained glass but plastic.  

I like the bit of color on the arches in the cloister walk.

A partial crucifix with only the torso of the corpus.

A medallion-icon on one of the doors.

The rope for the bell.  As a man comes into the church he takes the rope from whoever is ringing the bell and pulls a few times before passing it off.  The last man in choir puts the rope in this diagonal position.  It takes four or five hard tugs on the rope to get enough inertia so that the bell rings.   It takes a bit of time to get the bell to stop as well.

Looking across the front of the altar from left to right.  The candlesticks are very all even without the candles.

Two views from the loft.  The flowers in the second shot appeared at some point after noon.  Thursday was the celebration of Corpus Christi, a solemnity that will be observed in the U.S. on Sunday.  A few hours after I took this I joined the community for solemn vespers

The rose window over the loft.  There is no narrative or figurative stained glass. 

There is always a vase with some fresh-cut flowers in the room I use. 

I was playing with them.  this is a longish exposure during which I moved the camera slowly from top to bottom.

Approaching the town of Sevnice as seen from the moving train.

Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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