Corpus Christi Celebration Brings Faithful to the Streets of Rome
Benedict XVI Leads Traditional Procession of the Blessed Sacrament
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By Junno Arocho
ROME, JUNE 7, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Hundreds filled the streets surrounding the Basilica of Saint John Lateran where Benedict XVI celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi, which celebrates the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Following tradition, the Holy Father also led the procession with the Blessed Sacrament from St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, concluding with Benediction.
Throughout the day, many lined up to take their seats at the outdoor Mass, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Pontiff. People both young and old were filled with excitement as they waited for the gates to open.
One of those waiting was Steven Bridge, chair of the Theology Department at St. Joseph’s College. Bridge is in Rome after a generous research grant allowed him to follow the footsteps of St. Paul. Within the Basilica of Saint John Lateran are two silver busts that were thought to have once contained the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Dr. Bridge saw the Corpus Christi Mass as "a great opportunity to worship with the community, the catholic community at large."
"I certainly hope to bring back a deeper appreciation for both Paul and Peter; a better understanding of the early Church -- also the sacrifices they and early Christian martyrs made," he told ZENIT.
When asked about the current situation regarding religious freedom back in the U.S., Dr. Bridge said, "The Church has been in rough spots before and has survived. I think there is an innate hope that goes along with Christianity, even during the darkest times. And the examples of the martyrs is very inspirational to draw from."
Pope Benedict, having returned Sunday from the 7th World Meeting of Families in Milan, focused his homily on two important aspects: devotion to the Eucharist and its sacredness. Regarding the first theme, he pointed out the need to keep a healthy balance between a focus on the Eucharist in the celebration of the Mass, and worship of the Eucharist. He said there is no competition between these two aspects, and instead, "the worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament is as the spiritual 'environment' in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth."
"The encounter with Jesus in the Holy Mass is truly and fully acted when the community is able to recognize that, in the Sacrament, He dwells in his house, waits for us, invites us to His table, then, after the assembly is dismissed, stays with us, with His discreet and silent presence, and accompanies us with His intercession, continuing to gather our spiritual sacrifices and offering them to the Father," the Pontiff added.
The Pope also underlined the importance of the sacred in the Eucharistic Mystery. "It is true," he clarified, "and it remains always valid, that the center of worship is now no longer in rites and ancient sacrifices, but in Christ himself, in his person, in his life, in his paschal mystery. And yet, from this fundamental novelty it must not be concluded that the sacred no longer exists."
"The sacred has an educational function, and its disappearance inevitably impoverishes the culture, in particular, the formation of the new generations," the Holy Father warned.
He suggested that if, for example, "in the name of a secularized faith, no longer in need of sacred signs, this citizens' processions of the Corpus Domini were abolished, the spiritual profile of Rome would be 'leveled,' and our personal and community conscience would be weakened."
"At the height of this mission, in the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood, the Memorial of his Paschal Sacrifice," Benedict XVI concluded. "By so doing, he put himself in the place of the ancient sacrifices, but he did so within a rite, which he commanded the Apostles to perpetuate, as the supreme sign of the true sacred, which is Himself. With this faith, dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate today and every day the Eucharistic Mystery and we adore it as the center of our life and heart of the world."
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On ZENIT's Web page:
Full text of homily: www.zenit.org/article-34932?l=english