When Corpus Christi rolls around I always think of Saint Thomas Aquinas and his great eucharistic hymn Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium written by Saint Thomas at the command of Pope Urban IV to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi instituted by the Pope in 1263. It says something vastly significant about the Church that perhaps the greatest intellect of all time, Saint Thomas Aquinas, was not only a Doctor of the Church, but also capable of writing this magnificent hymn.
The last portion of the hymn, Tantum Ergo, has vast significance for my family. My wife, who is a far better Catholic in my estimation than I am, is a convert. A Methodist when we married, she converted to the Church a few years later. She had questions regarding the real presence, and this line from Tantum Ergo resolved them: Faith tells us that Christ is present, When our human senses fail. When our kids came along she would whisper at the Consecration to them: First it’s bread, now it’s Jesus. First it’s wine, now it’s Jesus.
I also think on Corpus Christi of Saint Justin Martyr:
Justin Martyr was born in Flavia Neapolis, ancient Shechem, modern day Nablus, in Judaea circa 100 AD. He was brought up a pagan. Having enough money to pursue the study of philosophy, he encountered the teachings of Christ, after a long and methodical search for the true philosophy, and became a convert. Having found the true philosophy, he traveled around the Roman Empire, spreading it, garbed in his philosopher’s gown. Eventually he settled in Rome. He wrote eight treatises defending Christianity. His best known work is his First Apology which he addressed to the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius, one of the best of the emperors, who reigned from 138-161 AD. This Apology was a plea for the Emperor to stop persecuting the Christians. In this Apology he gives us many details as to how Catholics worshiped in Rome during the middle of the Second Century. His description of the Eucharist is a treasure for all Catholics on Corpus Christi:
There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to so be it. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.
And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do in remembrance of Me, Luke 22:19 this is My body; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is My blood; and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.
Here the Real Presence is asserted matter of factly as what all Christians believe. This by a man who was doubtless taught the Faith by people who had received the Faith from those who had heard Christ with their own ears and seen Him with their own eyes. Something to recall on Corpus Christi.