29 May 2024

Mass in the trenches in the First World War. Sunday Reflections, Corpus Christi, Year B


St Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Corrado Giaquinto [Web Gallery of ArtWeb Gallery of Art]

June is the month of the

Sacred Heart of Jesus

He guides the humble in the right path; 

He teaches his way to the poor (Ps 24[25]:9).


Supper at Emmaus
Caravaggio [Web Gallery of Art]

Corpus Christi, Year B

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year B 

In most countries  this solemnity, formerly celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, is now celebrated on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday, this year replacing the Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. In communities where the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated Corpus Christi is observed on the traditional day, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, this year 30 May.

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to Jesus, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him,  and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

British Army Trench, First World War
The Somme, France, July 1916

Alfred O'Rahilly in his Father William Doyle SJ, a biography of an Irish Jesuit who served as a chaplain in the British army in the First World War and who was killed on 16-17 August 1917, writes on page 474 about a Mass celebrated in the trenches. Normally he was not allowed to have Mass with the men there because of the danger. 

On February 2nd [1917], however, he was able to offer the Holy Sacrifice in the trenches , his chapel being a dug-out capable of holding ten or a dozen. 'But my congregation numbered forty-six,' he says, 'the vacant space was small. How they all managed to squeeze in I cannot say. There was no question of kneeling down; the men simply stood silently and reverently round the little improvised altar of ammunition boxes, "glad," as one of them quaintly expressed it, "to have a say in it." Surely our Lord must have been glad also, for every one of the forty-six received Holy Communion, and went back to his post happy at heart and strengthened to face the hardships of these days and nights of cold.' What a difference the Real Presence made in the ministrations of a Catholic chaplain!

The Catechism of the Catholic ChurchNo 1374 states: The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, popularly known by the Latin name Corpus Christi, celebrates this reality, the same reality that Fr Willie Doyle and the 46 soldiers celebrated in the trenches in Flanders, Belgium, on that cold Candlemas Day in 1917.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

Tantum ergo, sung at Benediction, consists of the last two stanzas of Pange lingua, the Latin hymn written by St Thomas Aquinas for the feast of Corpus Christi and sung at Vespers (Evening Prayer) on the evening before the feast and on the feast itself.

Tantum ergo sacraméntum
Venerémur cérnui:
Et antíquum documéntum
Novo cedat rítui:
Præstet fides suppleméntum
Sénsuum deféctui.

Genitóri, Genitóque
Laus et jubilátio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedíctio:
Procedénti ab utróque
Compar sit laudátio.
Amen. Alleluia.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo, the sacred Host we hail,
Lo, o'er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail:
Faith for all defects supplying,
When the feeble senses fail.

To the Everlasting Father
And the Son who comes on high
With the Holy Ghost proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
Amen. Alleluia.

Holy Communion at Wedding Mass

Traditional Latin Mass  

Thursday after Trinity Sunday, Feast of Corpus Christi

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-02-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 11:23-29.  Gospel: John 6:56-59.

Last Supper

He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him (John 6:56; Gospel).

Second Sunday after Pentecost 

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 05-30-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 John 3:13-18.  Gospel: Luke 14:16-24.

St John the Evangelist
Bernardo Cavallino [Web Gallery of Art]

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16; Epistle). 

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