Corpus Christi


On this feast of Corpus Christi, the Lord feeds us with the bread of his Word and the bread of his Eucharistic Body.

We have set before us on the table of his Word, a three course meal. Four squared if you take into account the mid meal psalm. Or, if you prefer a sandwich type meal, think of the first reading and the gospel as the bread, with the institution narrative in the second reading as the meat of the meal, with the psalm thrown in as a kind of complimentary relish.

What do these readings have to teach us on this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ?

The first reading is focused on the mysterious figure of Melchizedek, a King and Priest of a place called Salem which means peace. Melchizedek is referred to as a ‘Priest of the most High God’. He offers a sacrifice of Bread and Wine and pronounces a prayer of blessing over Abraham, our father in faith. Melchizedek only shows up three times in the Bible. First, here in Genesis, to establish continuity between the covenant of Abraham and God’s universal covenant with the whole of humanity. Secondly, in the words of our Psalm. “You are a Priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek”. A text meant to establish continuity between the Royal line of David and the pre Jewish Jerusalem royal line represented by Melchizedek. Thirdly, and more elaborately in the book of Hebrews, where the connection between Christ and Melchizedek is fed to us as meat and not milk. But that is an aside.

In short, Melchizedek’s thanks giving offering of the non bloody sacrifice of Bread and Wine, is woven into the story of Jesus and his Eucharistic sacrifice of his body and blood. The CCC (1544) says, “The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek”;16 “holy, blameless, unstained.” There is also a prayer referencing Melchizedek during the ordination of a Catholic Priest.

As Catholics we may be more familiar with the other place where Melchizedek is mentioned in the tradition. Namely, during the First Eucharistic Prayer. “Be pleased to look upon these offerings
 with a serene and kindly countenance,
and to accept them,
as once you were pleased to accept 
the gifts of your servant Abel the just,
the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith,
and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek,
a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim.”

Again, notice the connection between ‘the offering of your high priest Melchizedek’, and the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ. It’s a way of saying that Jesus is the universal priest, the priest of all creation.

Now for the other slice of bread in our sandwich feast today. The story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is the only miracle that shows up in all four gospels. This tells us that it was considered a very important story in the Early Church. First of all it is a story with echos of central narratives from the Old Testament. Moses and the Manna in the Desert, and the prophet  Elisha’s feeding of the hundred in the wilderness. Jesus fulfills both the Law and the Prophets, and he does so by feeding us with the Bread of his Body, which in the Early Church was also represented as a fish. So when the Early Christian heard the words, “And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd”; they would have heard not only the story of the Exodus and the manna, not only the story of Elisha feeding the hundred. But also an echo of the Eucharistic words they heard whenever they gathered together to ‘do this in remembrance of me’. Bread in the wilderness, to sustain them and us on our desert journey. A Feast with lots left over, a surplus, in excess, pressed down, shaken together, running over.

And so we come briefly to our final text. The meat in our sandwich. From St. first Corinthians. Paul begins with the words. “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you”. Paul is faithfully handing on (tradere) a well established core tradition that he has received  from others. Then follows what we have come to know as the ‘institution narrative’, the very words Jesus used when he gave us the Eucharist on ‘the night he was betrayed’, that first Holy Thursday. There are actually four virtually identical versions of this same ‘institution narrative’ found in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, this one Paul passes on the the Early Christian community in Corinth.

What was happening in Corinth was that the core meaning of the Eucharist was being obscured and swallowed up by its being a part of a larger Agape fellowship meal. This larger festive context was causing people to miss the meaning of ‘take eat, this is my body, do this in memory of me’. Of course, the Agape meal, eating together with our fellow Christians, and the moral task of feeding the hungry, remain part of the meaning of the Eucharist, but Paul calls us back to the core proclamation, it’s core meaning. Jesus feeding and sustaining us with the Bread of his Body, broken for us, and the Cup of his Blood, poured out for us. Asking us, sending us, to do this in memory of him. Not just some vague memory, a simple calling to mind of something from the past, but Anamnesis, making this same saving event present in the here and now, whenever we go to mass.  Being sent, filling it up with our own brokenness, poured out for the other.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.