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Corpus Christi (Latin: Body of Christ) in Catholicism is a religious feast celebrated by Roman Catholics on the eighth Thursday after Easter, i.e. 53 days after Easter, to commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist. It is also celebrated by some in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church.
Initially, the institution of the Eucharist was celebrated on Holy Thursday. However, this always takes place during Holy Week, a time of sadness for Christians during which meditation is aimed principally at the passion and suffering of Christ. Moreover, so many other functions took place on this day that the principal event was almost lost sight of. This is mentioned as the chief reason for the introduction of the new feast, in the papal bull Transiturus issued in 1264 by Pope Urban IV.
St Juliana was an Augustinian nun who from her youth had great adoration for the Eucharist and had fervently desired a feast in its honor. She made a request to Robert de Thorete, the Bishop of Liège; to the learned Dominican Hugh, later cardinal legate in the Netherlands; and to Jacques Pantaléon, Archdeacon of Liège, who later became Bishop of Verdun, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and finally Pope Urban IV. At that time, bishops could order feasts in their dioceses, and so Bishop Robert called a synod in 1246 and ordered the celebration to be held in the following year and that a monk named John should write the Office for the occasion. The decree is preserved in Binterim (Denkwürdigkeiten, V, 1, 276), together with parts of the Office.
Bishop Robert and Juliana both died before seeing the Feast become widespread. However, a friend of Juliana, Eve, urged Henry of Guelders, Bishop of Liège, to request the pope to extend the celebration to the entire world. Pope Urban IV obliged and published the Bull "Transiturus" (8 September, 1264), in which he ordered the annual celebration of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. He then requested Thomas Aquinas write the Office for the universal celebration.
Urban IV died October 2, 1264, again halting the spread of the Feast. Clement V, at the Council of Vienne, in 1311, ordered the adoption of the feast worldwide and published a decree to this effect.
When is the Feast of Corpus Christi?
The Feast of Corpus Christi is held on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. As such, it is a mirror to Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter.
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Feast of Corpus Christi (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04390b.htm)
- Thomas Aquinas in Honor of the Feast (http://www.catholicradiodramas.com/SaintsWorks/aquinas2.htm)
- John Thomas Lane, "From Corpus Christi to the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ:" (http://www.blessedsacrament.com/theology/emmanuel/lane1.html): historical context
- Spread and development of eucharistic worship outside of Mass (http://www.blessedsacrament.com/international/88.html)pl:Boże Ciało