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Corpus Christi

by Very Rev. Chrysostom Baer, O.Praem.

 

The Norbertine vocation is essentially Eucharistic.  It is true, the Church expects every religious institute to “make every effort to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice daily, to receive the most sacred Body of Christ, and to adore the Lord Himself in the sacrament.”  But as a clerical institute, and as canons regular, our most precious task is the solemn celebration of the liturgy, the apex of which is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  It is our fundamental duty to praise Christ with “hymn and chant and high thanksgiving,” to renew His sacrifice on the altar by making His sacrament present, and to distribute Him to the faithful—ut sumant et dent céteris!  We were made for the feast of Corpus Christi.

Martin Luther, who derided priests as being “the tin gods and buffoons of this world,” asked what need  there was for the tangle of abbots, bishops, prelates, and pastors littering the path of the faithful toward the Lord?  The answer, of course, is obvious—without ordained priests, there is no Eucharist for the Church.  St. Thomas Aquinas had written 250 years earlier: 

Sic sacrifícium istud instítuit

Cujus offícium commítti vóluit

Solis presbyteris.

“So He this Sacrifice to institute did will,

And charged His priests alone to fulfill.”

Martin Luther was just taking a page from the book of the heretic Tanchelm, much known and execrated by us, the sons of St. Norbert.  This evildoer, who died at the turn of the twelfth century, likewise poured contempt on all the Church’s ministers, and denied that the reception of Holy Communion was of any profit to the soul.  The city of Antwerp was included in this heinous error.  There, sacred altars fell into ruin, and public worship lay dormant.  The people even took consecrated Hosts to keep in their houses, tucked into nooks and crannies in the wall.  In the year 1124, however, at the behest of the local bishop, St. Norbert took possession of the church of St. Michael the Archangel in Antwerp, and along with some priests of his newly founded Order preached the sweet and sound doctrines of our Savior.  The people flocked to hear them and, stung with compunction, professed again the true faith and returned the Blessed Sacrament which they had held prisoner for so many years, for which reason St. Norbert earned himself the title “Apostle of the Eucharist.”  And the former preface of St. Norbert calls him the “mirábilem mystérii eucharístici víndicem,” the “wonderful vindicator of the Eucharistic mystery.”

And we, his sons, are honored to become like our Father, to become apostles of the Eucharist.  In addition to participating at daily Mass, receiving Holy Communion, and adoring the Blessed Sacrament like all religious; in addition to expending every effort to ensure the sacred rites are carried out splendidly as befits all canons regular; we like St. Norbert have as our charism to preach vigorously the truth of the real presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in the sacred species to a world that has lost sight of that truth, and to warm the hearts of the faithful to receive well this foretaste of eternal life which brings such sweetness and solace and strength.

To acquit ourselves of so lofty a charge demands our total priestly fidelity, our own lively faith in the Eucharistic mystery, and so our complete dedication to our Norbertine vocation in every aspect.  Through the intercession of St. Norbert, may this celebration of Corpus Christi rekindle our initial fervor in wanting to serve the Lord in His priesthood and in the sacrament of His Body and Blood, now and always.  Amen.

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