I think today is the only remaining Catholic feast that is still known by its traditional Latin name. Before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), with Latin still the only and primary language of the Church, the faithful were familiar with feast days with Latin names: Corpus Christi Sunday, Quinquagesima Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, etc.
This feast was conceptualized in the thirteen century, when the Augustinian nun, Sor Juliana Liège reported of visions concerning the Blessed Sacrament. After 20 years of keeping these visions, she reported these to her confessor, who in turn, relayed the visions to the local Bishop. The Archdeacon of Liège of that time, however, will become Urban IV eventually, who in turn, two months before his death, will proclaim by virtue of His Papal Bull entitled “Transisturus de hoc Mundo” that Corpus Christi is a universal feast in the Latin Rite.
Perhaps though, the best hallmarks of the feast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament would be the hymns composed by the “Dumb Ox” himself, the Angelic Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas. These were namely the Adoro Te Devote, the Pange Lingua or the Vespers for the feast, the Tantum Ergo, which is actually the last two verses of the Pange Lingua (this is familiar to this generation since it is still fortunately often sung during Maundy Thursday Rites), the O Salutaris Hostia, which is the last two verses of the Lauds for Corpus Christi entitled Verbum Supernum Prodiens, and the sequence Lauda Sion Salvatorem.
The last hymn was said to be the hymn first communicants of the Ateneo de Manila would sing during their procession to the chapel of Guardian Angels just before their First Holy Communion Mass.
Today, sadly, these songs are not only unfamiliar-they are totally spurned and ignored by no less priests and nuns. Today, in countless churches and chapels, the opportunity to sing and be proud of hymns that are genuinely Catholic but also toasted as masterpieces by the secular musical world is ignored. Gathering dusts, hymnals are stored away from the dry and searching faithful.
Instead of grabbing the chance to let the Spirit in with beautiful, inspiring and moving Gregorian chant, we close the windows and instead, comfortably sing the usual secular-sounding songs that are sometimes not even related to the feast! “I will sing forever”, “Panalangin maging Bukas Palad”, “Bayan Umawit”, and other songs that I call “general consumption” since these are always sung for the sake of the general public’s “appreciation” will once again be played.
But the faithful are tired! The faithful are confused! The faithful want their faith to be a moving and inspiring one, not a repetitive and shallow rite, a liturgy bereft of depth, poetry, mystery and a sense of the Divine.
And that in fact is the very spirit of Corpus Christi Sunday: the love of God is so deep, so sublime and so moving that mere musical pieces that are played “for the sake that the people will understand them” is simply ignorance of the magnanimity of the faith of the centuries-old Church. The Body of Christ deserves nothing but only the best.
This also applies in a wide range of liturgical aspects: the vestments of the celebrant, the clothes we wear to church, the way we receive Communion (must be kneeling down, and only with the tongue), even, the priest’s sermon!
This feast of Corpus Christi, let us not falter in showing our love for Christ in the Holy Eucharist! How immense and beautiful is His love that He allowed Himself to be readily available in the Holy Sacrifice!