In the rhythm and beauty of the Church’s liturgical year, Sunday brings the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. Here are three short prayers that I hope will enhance your preparation for and celebration of this life-giving feast.
The first prayer is from the book of Psalms. The psalmist is recalling one of God’s wondrous deeds – the feeding of the hungry Israelites with manna in the desert. Exodus 16:35 says that the Israelites ate this manna for 40 years, until they came to the land God had promised them. The manna, which they considered to be “bread from heaven” (Ex. 16:4), was their food for the journey, just as the Eucharist is ours. We can read these ancient words in a “Eucharistic sense.” (If you have time to reflect on Exodus 16 in the next few days, please do. You will be amazed at the Eucharistic parallels!)
In the second prayer, Thomas Merton captures many truths of the Eucharist in a poetic way.
I especially love the last prayer from The Didache* – using the imagery of scattered wheat gathered into bread, it envisions the Eucharist as a source of unity for the Church, the Body of Christ. In some ways our Church still appears to be scattered across the hills. May the Eucharist heal our divisions and unify us in the love of Christ.
God commanded the skies above,
and opened the doors of heaven;
he rained down on them manna to eat,
and gave them the grain of heaven.
Mortals ate of the bread of angels;
he sent them food in abundance.
-- Psalm 78:23-25
O God, give peace to Your world. Give strength to the hearts of men. Raise us up from death in Christ. Give us to eat His immortality and His glory. Give us to drink the wine of His Kingdom.
-- Thomas Merton, Entering the Silence
We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you have made known to us through Jesus your Servant; to you be the glory forever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom; for yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.
-- The Didache
*The Didache is an early Christian “handbook” of sorts, likely written around the turn of the first century C.E. It is a brief, fascinating document that gives a flavor of the early Church. It can be read in its entirety at www.earlychristianwritings.com.