Corpus Christi Sunday
[Keep a moment of silence, calling to mind that, though we are unable to gather together with our Church family, we share fellowship as we offer this short act worship in our own homes]
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever. [John 6.51]
Jesus, Saviour of the world, we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament you have left us a memorial of your passion: grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries of your body and blood that we may know within ourselves the fruit of your redeeming love; who lives and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
New Testament Reading: 1 Corinthians 11.23-26
A reading from the Second Letter of St Paul to the Church at Corinth
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Gospel Reading: John 6.51-58
A reading from the Gospel of St John
Jesus said, ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’
Today we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi [the Body of Christ]. It’s usually kept on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday but, more recently, it’s observed on the Sunday that follows. In the Anglican tradition it’s known as the ‘Day of Thanksgiving for the Holy Eucharist.’
Having a special day to celebrate our Lord’s institution of the Holy Eucharist was promoted in the thirteenth century by Canoness Juliana of Liege, and later by St Thomas Aquinas, one of the great ‘Doctors of the Church.’ They suggested that, though we commemorate the ‘Last Supper’ on Maundy Thursday, it’s always part of the greater story of Holy Week and Easter. The feast day was established as a special day of thanksgiving to celebrate how the Eucharist is at the heart of our Church life and faith. Through the centuries Corpus Christi has been kept as a great day of celebration, with processions and festivals, especially in Catholic countries. Today many Christians around the world celebrate how Jesus gifted the Eucharist to his friends.
In our first reading St Paul, who wasn’t one of the original twelve present in the upper room, writes, ‘I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.’ His words show how the tradition of taking the bread and wine and blessing them with the words of the Lord was established very early on in the life of the Christian community. Then and now, whenever we take the bread and the common cup we proclaim our Lord’s saving death until he comes.
Our second reading today is from the Gospel of St John. It’s from a long discourse that takes place after his account of the feeding of the multitude. It was an event that led even more people to follow Jesus the miracle worker. Many of them asked for their share of the heavenly bread too. It was in response to this that Jesus spoke about the bread that leads to eternal life. The passage culminates in the divine claim ‘I am the Bread of Life’ and the words, ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.’
In reading St John’s Gospel it sometimes seems strange that he doesn’t describe the institution of the Last Supper. The evangelist tells us that Jesus and his followers shared the Passover meal on the evening before the events of Good Friday. He also tells us that he washed his disciples’ feet in a profound act of servanthood. But he doesn’t record how Jesus took the bread and wine and said ‘this is my body, this is my blood.’ Yet John’s Gospel is the most Eucharistic of the four. It’s as if it permeates through his telling of the good news. It is the Gospel of ‘I am the Bread of Life, I am the True Vine.’
Through our Christian lives we meet the risen Lord in many ways; in the reading, study and preaching of his word; in the fellowship we enjoy as members of his body the Church; we also meet him in our neighbour in need. Corpus Christi reminds us how we also meet Jesus in the sacrament he gifted to his Church; in his body and blood.
This year the title ‘Corpus Christi’ [Body of Christ] takes on an added poignancy as we continue to be unable to receive the sacrament in both kinds; we take the consecrated bread but not the cup of salvation. Though the Church teaches us that this is sufficient for the grace we need to be Christ’s disciples we all long for the day when we can partake of the broken bread and drink from the chalice.
The Eucharist remains one of the mysteries of our faith. When we gather for the breaking of the bread we celebrate our Lord’s real presence with us through the partaking of his most precious body and blood. We do so in obedience to his command, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ The life of faith is enriched when we come to Holy Communion regularly through our lives.
Though Christians gather together for many and varied expressions of worship the Feast of Corpus Christi reminds us of our calling to be the Lord’s people, gathered around the Lord’s Table, in the Lord’s House on the Lord’s Day. It’s what the early Church celebrated and what remains at the heart of our life as a Church today.
Lord, listen to the prayers of your people, gathered at your table:
Lord, on this day of thanksgiving we celebrate how Christ gave us his body to be our spiritual food; we pray for his body the Church, here and throughout the world; for those who minister in word, in sacrament and in social outreach; for john our bishop, for our clergy and for all our brothers and sisters in the faith.
Lord, hear us...
Lord, as we celebrate the presence of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, we pray for the world, for its peoples and nations. Bless those who bear the responsibility of leadership, in governments and in the United Nations Organisation. We pray for an end to the war in Ukraine; may those who are intent on conflict be led to the ways of reconciliation and peace.
Lord, hear us...
Lord, as we remember how Christ gathered with his friends to give us this meal of holy fellowship, we pray for all whom you have given us, our friends, families, all whose lives are joined with ours and for this community of Mumbles. We pray for strength to love as he has loved us.
Lord, hear us...
Lord, as we remember the night of Christ’s agony and trial, we pray for all who share his sufferings through fear or pain or distress of many kinds. We pray especially for those known to us; may they know your healing presence at this time.
Lord, hear us...
Lord, as we join our praises with the whole company of heaven, we pray for all who have trusted Christ’s promise to raise them up on the last day; as we remember before you our departed loved ones and friends; may they know the joy of eternal life.
Lord, hear us...
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayer for those who are unable to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion
Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits you have given me, for all the pains and insults you have borne for me. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.
[Prayer of St Richard of Chichester - adapted]
[Keep a moment of silence for spiritual communion with the Lord and with our brothers and sisters]
An Upper Room did our Lord prepare
for those he loved until the end:
and his disciples still gather there
to celebrate their Risen Friend.
Fred Pratt Green [1903-2000]
Christ, who nourishes us with himself the living bread, make us one in praise and love, and raise us up at the last day; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among us and remain with us always. Amen.
Bible Readings: New Revised Standard Version  - Word of the Lord: Church in Wales - Common Worship [Church of England] - CCL Parish Copyright Licence: 753662