The Gregorian Institute Shield, composed of the crossed gold and silver keys of the Papal Insignia, an open book with the words 'Via Veritas Vita' ('The Way, the Truth, and the Life') written on its pages, three golden six-sided stars on a red banner, and a Germanic cross.

at BENEDICTINE COLLEGE

Sunday: Salvation History Is a Eucharistic Procession

Our family has been blessed for the past 16 years to be at parishes that provide Eucharistic processions on Corpus Christi Sunday.

At St. Mary’s parish in New Haven, Conn., we would process around a block on the Yale University campus. In Atchison, Kan., the parish and Abbey process around a Benedictine College block.

We love Eucharistic processions: leaving the dark of the church and going into broad daylight, marching behind the Blessed Sacrament with fellow parishioners. Salvation history itself is a kind of Eucharistic procession, from Melchizedek to Paul, from the Passover to Holy Thursday, from the miracles of Elisha and Elijah to the miracles of Jesus, from the sacrifice of Abel to the heavenly sacrifice in Revelation. This Sunday’s Corpus Christi readings teach us that our own salvation history is no different.

God leads his people.

In the first reading, God reminds the people what he has done for them: He led them out of Egypt and along the way provided for their needs with manna from heaven. As we follow the priest in a Eucharistic procession, the real presence of Jesus Christ leads the way for us, reminding us that God still provides direction and sustenance on our journey to him.

In Egypt, it was a place of slavery we were leaving. As the baptismal liturgy makes clear, this is still the case: We are meant to leave slavery to sin and follow Jesus Christ’ to freedom. Thus the Eucharistic procession is our departure from Egypt, where we gave in to the angry commands of the world, the flesh and the devil, into the place where we will live for God in freedom.

We are one.

The Eucharist is a “participation in the body of Christ,” writes Paul in the second reading, “We, though many, are one body.” As military personnel, sports teams and marching bands all know, processions are a great expression of unity. When we march together behind the monstrance, we show the world — and remind ourselves — about the unity Paul writes about.

But we are not just one band of brothers in one small part of the world. Corpus Christi is celebrated the world over, from the streets of Rome to the streets of Sao Paolo. The host provides a window which looks out onto the one Jesus Christ. The whole Church gazes on him together.

The Eucharist is a sign of contradiction.

In today’s Gospel, Christ uses the strongest possible language to be clear about the doctrine of his real presence in the Eucharist. “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink,” he says. But the Jews quarrel among themselves and disagree with him: Such a thing is not possible, they say.

When a parish marches down a street in a Eucharistic procession, you can’t help but remember that Christ’s words about his Eucharistic presence are still rejected today. But by standing with him in his sign of contradiction, his grace can boost our own faith.

If you are blessed with a Eucharistic procession nearby, thank God and look for these three themes in the Eucharistic hymns of the day, including one other:

Christ in the Eucharist makes us long for Christ in heaven.

As the hymn puts it:

Our family has been blessed for the past 16 years to be at parishes that provide Eucharistic processions on Corpus Christi Sunday.

At St. Mary’s parish in New Haven, Conn., we would process around a block on the Yale University campus. In Atchison, Kan., the parish and Abbey process around a Benedictine College block.

We love Eucharistic processions: leaving the dark of the church and going into broad daylight, marching behind the Blessed Sacrament with fellow parishioners. And it happens to be a perfect way to echo the lessons of the readings for this Corpus Christi Sunday, which make salvation history itself a kind of Eucharistic procession.

God leads his people.

In the first reading, God reminds the people what he has done for them: He led them out of Egypt and along the way provided for their needs with manna from heaven. As we follow the priest in a Eucharistic procession, the real presence of Jesus Christ leads the way for us, reminding us that God still provides direction and sustenance on our journey to him.

In Egypt, it was a place of slavery we were leaving. As the baptismal liturgy makes clear, this is still the case: We are meant to leave slavery to sin and follow Jesus Christ’ to freedom. Thus the Eucharistic procession is our departure from Egypt, where we gave in to the angry commands of the world, the flesh and the devil, into the place where we will live for God in freedom.

We are one.

The Eucharist is a “participation in the body of Christ,” writes Paul in the second reading, “We, though many, are one body.” As military personnel, sports teams and marching bands all know, processions are a great expression of unity. When we march together behind the monstrance, we show the world — and remind ourselves — about the unity Paul writes about.

But we are not just one band of brothers in one small part of the world. Corpus Christi is celebrated the world over, from the streets of Rome to the streets of Sao Paolo. The host provides a window which looks out onto the one Jesus Christ. The whole Church gazes on him together.

The Eucharist is a sign of contradiction.

In today’s Gospel, Christ uses the strongest possible language to be clear about the doctrine of his real presence in the Eucharist. “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink,” he says. But the Jews quarrel among themselves and disagree with him: Such a thing is not possible, they say.

When a parish marches down a street in a Eucharistic procession, you can’t help but remember that Christ’s words about his Eucharistic presence are still rejected today. But by standing with him in his sign of contradiction, his grace can boost our own faith.

If you are blessed with a Eucharistic procession nearby, thank God and look for these three themes in the Eucharistic hymns of the day, including one other:

Christ in the Eucharist makes us long for Christ in heaven.

As the hymn puts it:

Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee, face to face in light
And be blest forever with thy glory’s sight. Amen.

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Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes is vice president of college relations at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer and then spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. He writes weekly for Catholic Vote, the National Catholic Register and Aleteia. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Catholic Digest. He lives in Atchison, Kansas, with his wife, April, and nine children.