Corpus Christi

26 May 2016
Here's a little background on the Corpus Christi Holiday
corpus christi chalice

Religious Observances

The Feast of Corpus Christi (Latin: Body of Christ), alternatively referred to as Festum Corpus et Sanguinis Christi, is a Christian feast celebrating the Holy Eucharist. This feast is also called Mass or Communion. It is the liturgical celebration of Christ's death and resurrection, where Christians partake of Christ's body and blood. Corpus Christi is primarily celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church and in some countries where Catholicism is one of the dominant religions it is celebrated as a national holiday. Some Anglican Churches also celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi.

It is believed that the feast of Corpus Christi originated with St. Juliana, a nun of Liege, Belgium, who was led to start a celebration of the Mass around 1230 AD. At an early age, St. Juliana developed a strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and longed for a feast in honor of the Eucharist. In 1264 AD, Pope Urban IV commanded universal observance of Corpus Christi and by the 14th century, the feast became universally celebrated in the West. St. Thomas Aquinas is given credit for many of the customs and hymns associated with the feast.

The duration of Corpus Christi is one day and the Liturgical color is white. Some of the Corpus Christi symbols include: Bread and Wine (or Plate and Chalice), a bunch of grapes, vine, peacock feeding on grapes and any symbol of the Eucharist. It is traditional to open Mass with the singing of traditional hymns such as Lauda Sion and Pange Lingua, both attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas. The Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction is then followed by the Corpus Christi Procession. It is a common devotional practice to say one's own prayers before and after receiving Holy Communion.

What Do People Do?


In commemoration of the Last Supper on the day before Jesus’ crucifixion, many Christians around the world receive Communion on this day. In some countries the consecrated bread (or host) is paraded throughout the streets. Priests carry the bread in a monstrance, which is a type of vessel  in which the consecrated host is exposed. 

In Trinidad and Tobago, Corpus Christi is the feast day celebrating the Institution of the Mass. This event occurs on the first Thursday following Trinity Sunday, which is the first Sunday after Pentecost. Observances take place in Port of Spain, San Fernando, Scarborough and other parishes across the country. Followers of the Roman Catholic faith attend church services on Corpus Christi morning before going to processions in their communities. The biggest procession is held in front of the Roman Catholic Cathedral on Independence Square in Port of Spain.

In Spain and Provence the processions can be elaborate, featuring saints and characters from the Bible, following a path decorated with wreaths and flowers.

In Portugal the feast is known as Dia de Corpo de Deusand has been one of the major religious observances  both on the mainland and in the Azores  since medieval times. In the city of Ponta Delgada, in the Azores, the people make a flower-petal carpet almost three quarters of a mile in length. A procession of high-ranking clergy and red-robed priests who are followed by a group of first communicants (those who will receive communion for the first time), pass over this carpet. The climax of the ceremony comes when the bishop raises the silver monstrance and exposes the Blessed Sacrament, the “body of Christ”.

In Germany Corpus Christi is celebrated with colorful processions where the sacrament and other holy symbols are carried throughout the villages. Small-town streets are decorated with flowers and greenery. Children dressed in white wear wreaths of flowers and accompany women in regional costume and local clergy. Sometimes people display pictures of Jesus Christ and spread carpets in front of their houses to honor the day. Some processions, for example in the region of Bavaria, are held on lakes rather than on the streets, with flower-decked boats carrying members of the procession and worshippers across the waters.

In Switzerland this festival is usually observed with elaborate processions of clergy in their best robes, people in regional costumes, and soldiers in historic uniforms. The priest who leads the procession often walks on a carpet of flowers. In some areas it is customary to throw the church doors open and to decorate the altar and aisles with garlands and greens.

In Mexico religious processions are common on this day, as is the reposiar, a small shrine or altar set up along the procession’s path, covered with a lace trimmed altar cloth and decorated with candles, flowers and garlands. In some parts of Mexico Corpus Christi is observed with symbolic battles between the Moors and the Christians, particularly in the Sierras of Puebla and Veracruz. Another spectacle that takes place on this day is the Danza de los Voladores, or Flying Pole Dance. The dance involves five men, each representing the five elements of the indigenous world, on a tall pole. One of the men plays a musical instrument at the top of the pole while the remaining four descend the pole with a rope tied by one of their feet. The rope unwraps itself 13 times for each of the four flyers, symbolizing the 52 weeks of the year.

Since there is often a great deal of rainfall around the time of the Corpus Christi celebrations, gardeners in Trinidad and Tobago consider the day to be good for planting, as it is believed that anything planted on this day will thrive. The prospect of showers does not in any way deter those observing the day, whether planting or taking part in the public processions. Both farmers and first time planters try to get the best fruit and vegetable plants for this occasion and many gardeners stock up on seeds, seedlings, plants and fertilizers. Some planters also carry their seeds to church services for blessing. Among the popular plants purchased during this time are tomatoes, hot peppers, melongene (eggplant or aubergine), ochro, patchoi (Chinese cabbage or bok choy), lettuce, and grains such as corn and pigeon peas.