Friday, June 19, 2009

The great feasts of summer, pt. 2: Corpus Christi

Here at last is my long-overdue post on Corpus Christi. We were at the Cathedral again this past Sunday, but the homily, while good, did not give me as much food for meditation. They had a visiting Holy Cross missionary priest who shared stories about his time in Africa. Inspiring, yes - but the connection to Corpus Christi was somewhat tenuous.

My attention was instead captured by the reading from the Old Testament. Moses tells the Israelites about the Law - and they promise to keep it. Then the oath is sealed in blood:
Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites
to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls
as peace offerings to the LORD,
Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls;
the other half he splashed on the altar.
Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people,
who answered, "All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do."
Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying,
"This is the blood of the covenant
that the LORD has made with you
in accordance with all these words of his."
Powerful stuff, but the tale of a blood sacrifice seems nearly pagan to our modern sensibilities. What to make of this? I think it makes clear the sacramentality of our faith - God making himself present through the material things of this world. Surely an all-powerful God has no need for holocausts or the blood of young bulls. But the Jewish people needed that visible sign of their covenant, that unbreakable oath to their God.

And in the Gospel reading, we go on to the New Covenant - sealed not with the blood of mere animals, but the blood of God's only Son. Again God makes himself present, this time in an unbloody sacrifice of bread and wine - a miracle and mystery beyond our human comprehension.

How was the Passover sacrifice completed? The Jewish families ate the unblemished lamb. This type for Jesus' flesh and blood could not make itself more clear. And so I pray for a greater faith in the Real Presence. "Lord, I believe - help my unbelief!"

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