“Laud, O Zion, your salvation, Bring him all the praise you know, Laud with hymns of exultation, He is more than you bestow. Christ, your king and shepherd true: Never can you reach his due.”
So begins the glorious Sequence of the Feast of Corpus Christi, Lauda Sion, written by the Saint who wrote the vast majority of the Office for this wondrous feast, none other than St. Thomas Aquinas. The Medieval Church was rife with Sequences--hymns in honor of the Feast of that day, which was accompaniment to a Procession that would often proceed through the town or neighborhood of the Church. What better way to show the Incarnational reality of Christ’s dominion over all things--The Church was not just some building, and the Parish was not just something that happened on Sundays--all of this, all of this area in which we are walking in pilgrim procession behind Our Lord, this is His Church, this all belongs to Him!
So much of the Catholic faith is written off as esoteric or too hard to understand--most often by Catholics!--and even great Saints such as St.Thomas are regarded as dusty old writers that only “professional students” care about. But regardless that most know St. Thomas Aquinas (rightfully) as the Common Doctor of Catholic Theology, the work of his that are “most known” by all are his hymns! “Tantum Ergo,” or “Down in Adoration Falling,” which most anyone who has been at Benediction and Adoration of the Sacrament has sung, is written by none other than the Angelic Doctor, as was the rest of the hymn from which those verses are taken, “Pange Lingua.” St. Thomas Aquinas is not just a Saint for stogy old professors, but a hymnodist interested in spreading the true faith among the people.
Which brings me back to Lauda Sion. This Sequence is the great hymn to the reality of transubstantiation, the great doctrine of the Eucharist that prevents us from heresy as we contemplate the great (and inexhaustible) mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood in this Sacrament. If the pollsters are correct (and who knows how accurate they are), a maddening number of Catholics do not believe what they confess in the Liturgy--the real presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Sacrament. There are various reasons for this (and let me point to St. Paul’s warning, that if you do not believe as the Church does about the Eucharist, please abstain from the Sacrament!), but one I often hear is that people have not been taught this doctrine in a way they can understand it, that it is too difficult for them, etc.
I cannot speak to what specific education they have endured, but I can only point to this one instance- -even the great St. Thomas Aquinas has taught to the people, in the words of this great hymn:
"What he did at supper seated, This the truth each Christian learns, Christ ordained to be repeated, Bread into his flesh he turns, His memorial ne’er to cease: To his precious blood the wine: And his rule for guidance taking, Sight has fail’d, nor thought conceives, Bread and wine we hallow, making But a dauntless faith believes, ! us our sacrifi ce of peace. Resting on a pow’r divine."
To read the full text, visit the USCCB page for Corpus Christi, or to hear the original chant, listen on youtube.
Pax, Bo Bonnerblog comments powered by Disqus