Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Mass for Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Sunday, May 29, 2016

WASHINGTON – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington celebrated Mass today for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Also known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, the feast day is marked by the Universal Church with expressions of faith such as public processions with the Eucharist to show devotion for the Church’s teaching that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist.

The cardinal began his homily by calling attention to the Holy Door for the Jubilee Year of Mercy at the entrance of the Basilica, which serves as a reminder that Jesus is the face of God’s mercy. “We are to look to Jesus to see the mercy of the Father, the love of the Son and the energizing power of the Holy Spirit,” said the cardinal.

“But the Scriptures show us the presence of Jesus under many aspects. He is teacher, who was called Master or Rabbi. He is the Good Shepherd, the one who gathers, leads and protects his flock nurturing and feeding them. He is also the crucified Lord whose face, crowned in thorns and etched in pain, is the picture of the price of our redemption,” he continued.

“Today we come to see Jesus in another way. We celebrate the continuing presence of Jesus in the Eucharist,” said Cardinal Wuerl.

The Eucharist is at the core of the Church’s life, the cardinal explained, “In the celebration of this mystery of faith, Christ himself is present to his people. Rich in symbolism and richer in reality, the Eucharist bears within itself the whole reality of Christ and mediates his saving work to us.” He added that when the Church gathers to worship and offer the sacrificial Eucharist, Christ is truly present in the bread and wine and is continuing to bring us salvation through his saving work.

“Our faith teaches us that what we proclaim in the Eucharist, Christ’s death and resurrection, is also re-presented in that very action by the power of God’s love and goodness. This is the heart of our faith in the sacrament we call the Eucharist, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the real presence of Christ,” said Cardinal Wuerl.

Cardinal Wuerl recalled Pope John Paul II’s last encyclical, Ecclesia de eucharistia, (On the Eucharist), where the now-saint reminded us, “When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and the work of our redemption is carried out.”

The cardinal continued, “This one great sacrifice was accomplished by Jesus, the priest and victim, who offered himself on the altar of the cross for our redemption. This sacrifice need not and cannot be repeated, but it can be re-presented so that we are able, sacramentally and spiritually, to enter it and draw spiritual nourishment from it.”

“Christ’s presence in the Eucharist challenges human understanding, logic, and ultimately reason. His presence cannot be known by the senses alone, but only through faith – a faith that is continually deepened through that communion which takes place between the Lord and his faithful in the very act of the celebration of the Eucharist,” said the cardinal.

“It is only, however, with the eyes of faith that we see this wondrous mystery taking place before us and the enduring sacramental presence of Christ with us,” he added.

Cardinal Wuerl stated that the real presence of Christ endures after the Eucharistic celebration concludes, and it is the reason there is a tabernacle in every Church. “Once communion has been distributed, the remaining hosts are placed in the tabernacle to provide communion for the sick and the absent and viaticum for those who turn to the Church in their final hour and also to provide a focal point for prayer and worship of Christ in this real presence,” said the cardinal.

“With the passage of time, however, reverent reflection led the Church to enrich its Eucharistic devotion. Faith that Jesus is truly present in the sacrament led believers to worship Christ dwelling with us permanently in the sacrament. Wherever the sacrament is, there is Christ who is our Lord and our God; hence he is ever to be worshipped in this mystery. Such worship is expressed in many ways; in genuflections, in adoration of the Eucharist and in the many forms of Eucharist devotion that faith has nourished,” Cardinal Wuerl explained.

“The popularity of the feast of Corpus Christi, with its joyful hymns and public processions, encouraged further development of Eucharistic devotion. At times the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the tabernacle in which it is ordinarily kept and placed upon the altar for adoration. These periods of exposition are sometimes extended into holy hours. Enjoying particular popularity is the parish tradition of a Eucharistic day or days with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and a homily calling particular attention to this glorious, divine gift,” he said.

Cardinal Wuerl recalled a Corpus Christi celebration in Genzano, a small Italian town south of Rome, that he attended as a student. “In a tradition that goes back to 1778, one of the principal streets of this community is covered with flower petals depicting artful designs and religious scenes that give the impression of a carpet of tapestries. People work with great care and skill to cover the entire roadway so that on the Feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord, the Blessed Sacrament can be carried from one church to another along this avenue of flowers, which becomes a fitting carpet for the Eucharist procession.”

Referencing one of the most practiced forms of public expressions of faith traditionally carried throughout the Universal Church on the feast of Corpus Christi, processions along city and neighborhood streets with the Eucharist, the cardinal concluded his homily, “We come together in a public act of faith to renew in our hearts what we believe and at the same time to offer public praise and adoration to our Eucharistic Lord who in the breaking of the bread is present to us and in the Eucharist remains always with us.”

After the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was carried out in a procession to the front steps of the basilica where prayers were said. This was followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the crypt church where the faithful were invited to spend some time in prayer and quiet reflection in the presence of Christ.


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi or Lindsey Frechou
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