Corpus Christi Notes

Two notes about Corpus Christi, for which we finished today three exhausting liturgies, first a Solemn Mass an outdoor procession on Thursday, then today the External Solemnity in the old rite and the Feast in the new rite (with a reception into full communion, confirmations and first Communions thrown in for good measure.)

First, in preparing for Thursday’s Mass I came across this story on the web site Thesaurus Precum Latinarum:

The rhythm of the Pange Lingua is said to have come down from a marching song of Caesar’s Legions: “Ecce, Caesar nunc triumphat qui subegit Gallias.”

As they say on Wikipedia, “citation needed”, but interesting idea. If I were a liturgy scholar, I’d be interested in exploring the idea of to what extent Roman ideas of processions arise from the processions of classical Rome, either organically, from the time of the Empire or through later classicizing influence on the liturgy.

Second, I dug into, for what was for some reason the first time, the whole of the Corpus Christi sequence. There’s a lot of theological meat there, in a way that reminds me of the Quicumque. Here’s the Sequence, called “Lauda Sion” after its first two words in Latin, in English translation from Hymns of the Breviary and Missal (Britt, 1922) (with some light editing I did for our service leaflet this morning):

Lauda Sion: The Corpus Christi Sequence

Praise, O Sion, thy Saviour, praise thy Leader and thy Shepherd in hymns and canticles.

As much as thou canst, so much darest thou, for He is above all praise, nor art thou able to praise Him enough.

Today there is given us a special theme of praise, the Bread both living and life-giving.

Which, it is not to be doubted, was given to the assembly of the brethren, twelve in number, at the table of the holy Supper.

Let our praise be full and sounding; let the jubilations of the soul be joyous and becoming.

For that solemn day is now being celebrated, on which is commemorated the first institution of this table.

At this table of the new King, the new Pasch of the New Law puts an end to the ancient Pasch.

The new supplants the old, truth puts to flight the shadow, day banishes night.

What Christ did at that Supper, the same He commanded to be done in remembrance of Him.

Taught by His sacred precepts, we consecrate bread and wine into the Victim of salvation.

This is the dogma given to Christians, that bread is changed into Flesh and wine into Blood.

What thou dost not understand, what thou dost not see, a lively faith confirms in a supernatural manner.

Under different species in externals only, and not in reality, wondrous substances lie hidden.

Flesh is food, Blood is drink: nevertheless Christ remains entire under each species.

By the recipient the whole (Christ) is received; He is neither cut, broken, nor divided.

One receives Him; a thousand receive Him: as much as the thousand receive, so much does the one receive; though eaten He is not diminished.

The good receive Him, the bad receive Him, but with what unequal consequences of life or death.

It is death to the unworthy, life to the worthy: behold then of a like reception, how unlike may be the result!

When the Sacrament is broken, doubt not, but remember, that there is just as much hidden in a fragment, as there is in the whole.

There is no division of the substance, only a breaking of the species takes place, by which neither the state nor stature of the substance signified is diminished.

Lo, the Bread of Angels is made the food of earthly pilgrims: truly it is the Bread of children, let it not be cast to dogs.

It was prefigured in types,—when Isaac was immolated, when the Paschal Lamb was sacrificed, when Manna was given to the fathers.

O Good Shepherd, True Bread, 0 Jesus, have mercy on us: feed us and protect us: make us see good things in the land of the living.

Thou who knowest all things and canst do all things, who here feedest us mortals, make us there be Thy guests, the co-heirs, and companions of the heavenly citizens.

You can find the full text of the book here via the Church Music Association of America, which also has additional commentary on this sequence and on many other hymns.

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