Corpus Christi 2020: Important Date, History of Corpus Christi, Meaning, Significance, Traditions, Customs

Corpus Christi: 11 June 2020 is observed as the feast of Corpus Christi. It is an important Catholic festival that celebrates the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the actual body of Christ during Holy Mass. This article will tell you more about the History, Significance of the day, How is Corpus Christi observed, Where is Corpus Christi celebrated, Who observes it.

Updated: Jun 09, 2020 18:03 IST

Corpus Christi 2020: Important Date, History of Corpus Christi, Meaning, Significance, Traditions, Customs

Suganya Vedham

What is Corpus Christi?

The day of the  Feast of Corpus Christi is also called the day of the ‘Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ’. It is primarily an occasion that is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church to pay a tribute to the Catholic belief in the actual presence of the body of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a sacred consecrated element of the Christian service, particularly the bread of Holy Communion. It is not a fixed day observance, as it falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, which is around 60 days after Easter. It is observed in many parts of the world.  It almost always falls between 21 May and 24 June.

What is the History & Meaning of Corpus Christi?  

The celebration of the day of Corpus Christi as a Christian feast can be traced back to the second half of the thirteenth century. It is believed to be the product of the endeavours of a nun named Juliana of Liège. Ever since she was a child, Juliana claimed  that God had instructed her that there must be a feast day especially for the Eucharist. She requested the Bishop of Liège, who, In those days could institute feasts in the dioceses of their locality. The bishop consented and facilitated a celebration of Corpus Christi that would be held every year.

However, The Corpus Christi celebration became widespread only after both Juliana and the Bishop had passed away. Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull Transiturus in the year 1264 by which the day of Corpus Christi was recognized as a feast throughout the global Latin Rite.

The day is primarily a Roman Catholic feast, but it is mentioned in the roster of some Anglican churches, the most notable of which is the Church of England. In Medieval Europe, Corpus Christi was an occasion that was used to put up mystery plays. The Roman Catholic Bishops have a duty of being present at their respective cathedrals at Corpus Christi, in addition to other important Christian periods like Lent and  Advent, and also festivals like Easter and Christmas.

Corpus Christi comprises one of the major festivals in Valencia, Spain. The day was first celebrated in 1335 and continued regularly since the year 1372. The occasion is rich with symbolism about the mystery of life and harks back to the mystery plays that were characteristic of the middle ages. The festival is observed in Valencia on the eighth Sunday that follows Easter Sunday.

What is the significance of Corpus Christi?

Corpus Christi is of much significance for celebrating Catholics as they celebrate the idea that the death of Jesus Christ was to provide salvation for the whole world, of which the consecrated wafer is a symbol. Religious processions and Special masses are important ways of observing this day in the Catholic church. Since Protestants do not believe in the doctrine that Corpus Christi commemorates, they are not likely to actively participate in these events unless purely for the sake of enjoying the community aspects of these festivities.

Some countries celebrate this day fervently. The more famous Corpus Christi Day processions are seen in Switzerland and take place in Fribourg, Lotschental, and Erschmatt. Public parades are common and People often dress in colourful and traditional attire. Usually, there will be numerous colourful banners insight and much excitement in the air.

What are the Customs of Corpus Christi?

The most notable feature of the Corpus Christi celebrations is a liturgical procession in which the sacred Eucharist (the bread consecrated during the Mass) will be carried out of the Church to allow believers to engage in a  public profession of faith with their community. However, the custom is now hardly common in the UK, where traditional religious processions began declining in the 1970s, post the Second Vatican Council. Although there have recently been attempts to bring back the tradition in some towns and villages.

While in the papacy, Pope John Paul II conducted a Corpus Christi procession from St Peter's Square, the Vatican to the streets in Rome, every year. Traditional Catholics are in favour of such processions being adopted everywhere in the world, following the Pope’s example. During the procession, the sacred bread is displayed from within a 'monstrance' and is shaded from the sun with the help of a canopy.
The procession is conducted along the length of local streets, ending by entry to another church, or returning to the church where it started.

Corpus Christi Special Quotes

Corpus Christi recapitulates the sacrifice of Jesus, his body offered and his blood poured, by which we are reconciled to God. - Bishop Robert Barron

The Eucharist is the secret of my day. It gives me strength and meaning to all my activities of service to the church and the whole world. - Pope John Paul II

 In the first place, through the reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ himself, the cause of grace becomes present in man. - Saint Thomas Aquinas

I believe that the most necessary thing to do on the festival of Corpus Christi is not to explain some aspects of Eucharist, but to revive wonder and marvel before the mystery. - Raniero Cantalamessa

Without the Eucharist, the Church does not exist. - Pope Benedict XVI 

He is motivated by his love and by his desire to teach us to love others Jesus come on earth and has stayed with us in Eucharist.

Jesus, we are grateful for the gift that you gave us, and the way you teach us how to live for others, may we always feel your presence in every corner of the world.

Corpus Christi - FAQ

1. Is Corpus Christi a public holiday?

Corpus Christi is a public holiday in  Brazil, Australia, Trinidad, and Tobago, and it is a major day on their calendar. Other places celebrate it in the normal course of the week. It is a  moveable feast that is celebrated on Thursday that comes after Trinity Sunday. In other countries where it is not obligatory, it is observed on the following Sunday.

2. What is Corpus Christi regarding?

It is a Christian festival day where believers celebrate the Holy body of Christ in the form of the sacred bread. The occasion is celebrated differently in various regions of the world. The commonality is that bread and wine are considered a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion.

3. What do you do for Corpus Christi?

Many people participate in colourful parades that are organized on the day. In the Catholic faith, it is observed on the streets in the form of a procession. It is a Church centred event for most other communities.

4. For how long does Corpus Christi last?

Corpus Christi is a one-day feast in the Catholic church. This year the day will be observed on Thursday, June 11, 2020. It is celebrated usually 60 days after Easter and falls between 21 May and 24 June every year.

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