Ritual Reflections & Musical Musings

by Steve Raml, Director of Liturgy & Music

Recovering Something Precious

On the first weekend in June, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. We often shorten this to the Latin phrase “Corpus Christi” – but that’s only half the feast!

That phrase translates to “Body of Christ”, but the full Latin phrase really should be “Corporis et Sanguinis Christi” – “Body AND BLOOD of Christ”, because in this feast, we celebrate Christ giving of himself completely for our sake.

We marked this special Solemnity by recovering something quite precious: offering the Blood of Christ in the Chalice for the first time in four years! Yes, the COVID crisis certainly set us back while we practiced caution in our liturgical celebrations. We had to limit how close we could be to one another, stopped embracing and touching each other during the Sign of Peace. And the pandemic was especially detrimental to our Communion when we could no longer share a common cup as a sign of our common union. All these restrictions were necessary as a caution during the crisis, but we ended up losing something very precious to our spiritual life.

We refer to the substance in that shared Chalice as “the Precious Blood”. All of our language surrounding it shows exactly how precious. As we hear during consecration at every Mass, it is “the Blood of the New and Everlasting Covenant” poured out for us for the forgiveness of our sins. It is the cup of salvation that we long to take up as we sing in the Responsorial Psalm of the day, from Psalm 116. It is the source of our redemption, as we read in the letters of St Paul, St Peter and St John and in the letter to the Hebrews. In the vision from the book of Revelation, we find several references that we are saved “by the blood of the Lamb”.

Very precious indeed!

The General Instruction on the Roman Missal and the Catechism of the Catholic Church use the same language about the reception of both the Body and Blood: “the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly.” (GIRM 240, CCC 1390)

This is because our reception of Christ in the Eucharist directly follows his command at the Last Supper. He said, “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you.” But Jesus did not stop there, he took the chalice and continued, “Take this, all of you and drink from it, for this is the cup of my blood, which will be poured out for you…” And he told us to “do this in memory of me”.

That’s why this is so precious – it is Jesus giving himself totally to us. The challenge is: we each much decide how precious we believe this gift is.

There may be those still hesitant to receive from a common cup, even though studies throughout the years have found very little risk of transmitting virus because there is still alcohol in the wine that becomes the Precious Blood, and we wipe and turn the cup after each communicant. Very little risk is still risk, and Jesus told his disciples there would be a risk to following him, even challenging James and John by asking “can you drink of the cup that I must drink” (Matthew 20: 22).

Each person has a choice about receiving from the Chalice, because the Church teaches that receiving only a bit of the host or a sip of the Chalice is to receive the fullness of Christ, his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is the Real Presence of Christ.

It is especially appropriate that we recover this precious treasure during this time of Eucharistic Renewal, when the Bishops of the United States have called on us to a renewed reverence for the Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species.

Bishop John Dolan lifted the restriction of offering the Chalice last year, but left it up to parishes to decide both when and how best to reintroduce the practice. We chose this special Solemnity to offer the Blood of Christ once again. We did this after much prayer and planning, and extended training for our Extraordinary Ministers.

And that brings us to the need for MORE Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. By offering the Blood of Christ, we need twice the number of ministers than before. Unfortunately, we have about HALF the ministers we had before the pandemic.

So I would ask that you prayerfully consider becoming an Extraordinary Minister and helping us to serve the Body and Blood of Christ to the Body of Christ gathered at Mass. You can contact me through the parish office to initiate your training.

I hope you’ll join me in welcoming the return of the Precious Blood at Mass, as we take up this cup of salvation, and share more completely in the Eucharist.


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