Corpus Christi | Reflections from Rome 2022
Eucharistic Procession in Orvieto
This Sunday, 11 of us had the immense privilege of serving the Corpus Christi Mass at the cathedral in Orvieto. We processed in to the sight of radiant stained glass and the sound of a thundering organ with over 5000 pipes. The choir sang “Christus vincit” (“Christ conquers”). What made all this so profound was not simply that it was a beautiful cathedral built in the 14th century. It was also the site of the original Corpus Christi Mass and Eucharistic procession, beginning in 1264 after a Eucharistic miracle took place in the small nearby town called Bolsena. There, a priest was celebrating Mass and having some doubts about the Eucharist and, right after the consecration, the host began to bleed all over the corporal. The miracle was confirmed shortly after, and the pope ordered the liturgy of Corpus Christi to be instituted to deepen Eucharistic belief. Then the cathedral in Orvieto was built to give a proper home to the miraculous corporal. So now every year on the feast of Corpus Christi for the past 758 years there has been a procession through the streets of Orvieto with the miraculous corporal and with the Blessed Sacrament.
Thanks to God’s Providence, we got to serve this Mass at the cathedral and to participate in the procession through the town. It was incredibly inspiring to see thousands of people both in the procession and lining the streets for the nearly 2 hours that we walked around singing hymns and reciting litanies in praise of our God for his goodness to us in the Eucharist. For those hours the entire town was basically shut down and everyone’s attention was turned towards the procession. I couldn’t help but think that this is what should be happening in every town throughout the world on Corpus Christi. I thought: “What would it take for every city to stop and give praise to our Lord in the Eucharist like this? Does it take a miracle like a bleeding host?” We might be tempted to think that God should let more miracles like this happen so that more places can be transformed and convinced of his presence in the Eucharist.
But Thomas Aquinas, who wrote the hymns for the feast of Corpus Christi, says that Christ’s greatest miracle is the Eucharist itself. Of course that’s right! Every single day at every Mass, the appearances of bread and wine remain while the substance becomes the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. While we might prefer something more obvious, something harder to doubt, God’s ways are not our ways. Those words that we heard at the start of Mass – “Christus vincit” (“Christ conquers”) – are true. But he does not conquer with military power, but through humility, truth, and love. He conquers by letting himself be conquered out of love for us. The Eucharist is the memorial and real presence of that all-conquering love. Truly his greatest miracle! Perhaps we would have more cities that stop everything to reverence Christ in the Eucharist if we let ourselves be conquered by his love and transformed into the saints he wants us to be.
Deacon Kevin Kolker
Diocese of Dallas