The Angelus

Volume 10, Number 26

From Father Mead: Corpus Christi

The church owes its celebration of Corpus Christi (officially, the Feast of the Most Holy Body of Christ) primarily to the devotional practices of the laity in the midst of the growing theological emphasis in the West on the real presence in the Eucharist during the thirteenth century.  When the Church began to stress the whole and complete real presence of Jesus in the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist, the people reacted by demanding that they be able to see our Lord.  To this we probably owe the elevations during the Mass and the practice of Eucharistic Exposition (displaying the Sacrament for the people).

In the midst of the rapidly growing Eucharistic cult, a nun, Juliana of Liège, took up the cause.  It is said that she had a vision of the moon with a dark spot on it, which, she was informed, signified the lack of a specific celebration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Eventually her relentless campaigning led the local bishop, Robert of Liège, to decree that a feast be celebrated within the diocese.  It was celebrated the next year, in 1246 A.D.  However, it was not celebrated again in Juliana’s lifetime because the bishop died and his successor did not share her enthusiasm for an additional feast in the calendar – in fact, it appears that the new bishop did not appreciate Juliana herself: she was soon exiled from Liège and died in 1258.

Her effort was not in vain: after her death support for her cause grew to the point where Pope Urban IV (formerly Archdeacon of Liège) wrote the Bull ‘Transiturus’ which decreed that a feast of the Body of Christ be observed throughout the Church on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.  Unfortunately, Urban IV died less than a month after the decree, and the feast failed to catch on outside of Liège and a few other dioceses.  At the Council of Vienne in 1311, Pope Clement V once again ordered that the feast be adopted throughout the church.  Clement’s order may have been clear, but apparently it went mostly unheeded.  The feast finally caught on at the continued urging of Clement’s successor, Pope John XXII.

Though a procession was not originally decreed with the feast, it did not take long for elaborate processions with the Sacrament to become important features of local celebrations.  Taking the Holy Sacrament outside has always unnerved some people: it is thought that the development of the monstrance is directly related not only to the desire of people to see the Sacrament but also to the desire of the clergy to protect the Host while it was processed outside.  Today, the celebration of Corpus Christi often includes an indoor or an outdoor procession.  I think that an outdoor procession underscores both our identity as the Body of Christ in the world and Christ’s real presence with us at all times.

Corpus Christi is essentially a duplication of Maundy Thursday, and knowledge of this probably played a role in its somewhat slow popularity.  Maundy Thursday is, of course, the primary commemoration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, but its place within the Easter Triduum and its relation to the celebration of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ probably leaves some wiggle room for a specific celebration of the Sacrament.  To reinforce the link to Maundy Thursday, the first Thursday after Trinity (the first convenient Thursday after Maundy Thursday) was chosen.  Thursdays within the Easter Season were rightly left undisturbed by a thematic feast, and the Thursday after Pentecost was not open because it fell within the (now defunct) octave of Pentecost.  Observance of an octave is the practice of continuing a festal celebration for eight days.  The observance of an octave allows a feast to be celebrated on the following Sunday (i.e. “All Saints’ Sunday”, “Ascension Sunday”, etc.).  This is especially important in places where Christian Holy Days are not identical to national holidays and many parishioners are unable to attend a midweek celebration.

Since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church, Corpus Christi in the United States (where the day is not a national holiday) is most often celebrated on the Sunday within the octave of Corpus Christi.  At Saint Mary’s Corpus Christi is the only major feast that is transferred to the Sunday within its Octave.  In our parish, since the 1960s, the feast has been celebrated variously on Thursday, on Sunday, and on both Thursday and Sunday.  Our current observance on Sunday is influenced primarily by two things: 1) on Sunday morning we can process outside, whereas it is impossible to process through Times Square on a Thursday evening due to the crowds; and 2) the majority of those in the United States who celebrate Corpus Christi celebrate it on Sunday.

Corpus Christi is one of my favorite feasts.  If you are able, I hope you’ll be able to celebrate it somewhere this year.  If you’ve never celebrated Corpus Christi at Saint Mary’s, mark your calendar for next year now: Corpus Christi will be celebrated on Sunday, June 14, 2009.  Matthew Mead

PRAYER LIST . . . Betty, Esther, Carol, Marietta, Philip, Ovidiu, Doreen, Brooke, Allison, Bill, Eugene, Terry, Mary, Gert, Kevin, Gloria, William, Gilbert, Rick, Carl, priest, and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Benjamin, Katharine, Keith, Dennis, Terrance, Andrew, Patrick, Brenden, Steven, Christopher, and Marc; and for the repose of the soul of T.C. . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 23: 1959 Edith May Place Bennett; May 28: 2007: Eileen Louise Whittle; May 29: 1992 Robert William Anderson; May 31: 1995 Louis Stephen Stancill.

IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . T.C. Tompkins, the brother of Ptolemy Tompkins, died this week.  Please pray for T.C., for Ptolemy, for Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, and for all who mourn.

THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, May 25, 11:00 AM: The Body & Blood of Christ: Corpus Christi: Solemn Mass, Procession & Benediction.  Our guest preacher will be the Reverend Alan Moses, vicar, All Saints Church, Margaret Street, London . . . The annual end-of-season picnic for the parish guilds will follow Solemn Mass on Corpus Christi.  The party will take place on the Mead family roof terrace on the fifth floor of the parish house.  Members of all parish guilds are invited . . . The Summer Sunday Schedule begins on Sunday evening, May 25: Evening Prayer at 5:00 PM, Said Mass at 5:20 PM. . . . Monday, May 26, is Memorial Day.  We will observe our Federal Holiday Schedule.  The parish office will be closed.  The church will be open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.  The only services will be the 12:00 PM Noonday Office and the 12:10 PM Mass . . . Thursday, May 29, Eve of the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Said Mass at 6:20 PM. The feast is celebrated on Friday, May 30, with a Sung Mass at 12:10 PM . . . Friday, May 30, Eve of the Feast of the Visitation: Sung Mass at 6:00 PM.  The feast is celebrated on Saturday, May 31, with a said Mass at 12:10 PM . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, May 24; Father Mead will hear confessions on Saturday, May 31.

COMING EVENTS . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study wrap-up party will take place on the Mead family roof terrace on Wednesday, June 11, 2008.  Please RSVP to Father Mead.

AROUND THE PARISH . . . On Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19, nearly thirty Saint Marians walked to support the effort to combat HIV and AIDS.  Thanks to all who raised money, represented the parish at the walk, and to all those who supported the team.  Thanks also to MaryJane Boland for organizing the team’s efforts this year.  If you would still like to make a contribution, please contact MaryJane ( . . . Congratulations to Rick Ellis who has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans.  The museum’s new home at the Riverwalk Marketplace opens on Saturday, June 7 . . . Parish administrative assistant, Sandra Schubert, will be on vacation from Friday, May 23, until Sunday, June 1.  She will return to the office on Monday, June 2 . . . Attendance: Trinity Sunday 334.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR OUTREACH . . . As many of you know, food prices are rising at an alarming rate, both in this country and around the world.  If you are thinking about ways to help, you might think about making a contribution to Episcopal Charities ( and “get more bang for your buck”: specially designated offerings between now and June 1, 2008, will help support the 33 parish-affiliated feeding programs throughout the Diocese and Trinity Church, Wall Street, has offered to match all such gifts up to a total of $50,000.00. J.R.S.

INTERIM MUSIC DIRECTOR SEARCH . . . Christine Hoffman was our consultant for the search which brought us Robert McCormick in 2001.  She’s been active in music in New York for many years.  I’ve asked Christine to assist me in the search for a new interim and for a new permanent parish musician.  Between us, we think we know enough people in our area to find an excellent person for the interim position without doing a wider search.  Then, I plan to put my efforts into the search for a permanent person.  I hope this permanent person will be in place by July 1, 2009.  S.G.

NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Fanfare (1952) by John Cook (1918-1984).  The postlude is Fugue sur le thème du carillon des heures de la cathédrale de Soissons, Opus 12, by Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986).  The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa brevis (1977) by James MacMillan (b. 1959), a Scottish-born Roman Catholic who has become one of Britain’s finest living composers of liturgical music.  His music is always eloquent and deeply prayerful, displaying a reverence and care for the liturgy.  This setting for unaccompanied choir is an early work, composed while MacMillan was a student, and published for the first time last year, with very little revision.  Motets sung during Communion and during preparation for the procession are, respectively, Ave verum corpus (1952) by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) and O sacrum convivium (1937) by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) . . . Many, many thanks to the extraordinary members of Saint Mary’s professional choir on this final Sunday of the choir “season.”  Each one of them is a highly accomplished musician and a truly fine human being as well.  It has been an incredible honor and pleasure to work with them, as well as a wider network of professional singers who have acted as “subs” and “ringers,” during this season and throughout my seven years at Saint Mary’s.  The full choir will sing under the direction of the interim music director on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, and will return on Sunday, October 5.  Robert McCormick

The Calendar of the Week

Sunday                    The Body And Blood Of Christ: Corpus Christi

Monday                      Augustine, First Archbishop of Canterbury, 605

Memorial Day – Federal Holiday Schedule

Tuesday                      Weekday

Wednesday                Weekday

Thursday                   Weekday

Eve of The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Friday                        The Sacred Heart of Jesus                                     No abstinence
  Eve of the Visitation

Saturday                   The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Sung Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Said Mass.

Monday–Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 6:00 PM Evening

Prayer, 6:20 PM Mass.  Saturday: 11:30 AM Confessions, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass,

4:00 PM Confessions, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass.