May our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored and loved, with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time!
O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!
These indulgenced ejaculations express admirably the scope and purpose of the Feast of Corpus Christi, to glorify the Blessed Sacrament, and to bring souls to the feet of Jesus, the Divine Lover of souls.
Celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi parallels Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), which also commemorates Our Lord’s institution of the Eucharist. Because Holy Thursday is in Holy Week, a season of sadness, the celebration Corpus Christi was introduced so that the faithful would not lose sight of the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
Corpus Christi became a mandatory feast in the Roman Church in 1312. But nearly a century earlier, Saint Juliana of Mont Cornillon, promoted a feast to honor the Blessed Sacrament. From early age Juliana, who became an Augustinian nun in Liège, France, in 1206, had a great veneration for the Blessed Sacrament, and longed for a special feast in its honor. She had a vision of the Church under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which signified the absence of such a solemnity. She made known her ideas to the Bishop of Liège, Robert de Thorete, to the Dominican Hugh who later became cardinal legate in the Netherlands, and to Jacques Pantaléon, at the time Archdeacon of Liège and who later became Pope Urban IV. Bishop Robert de Thorete ordered that the feast be celebrated in his diocese.
Pope Urban IV later published the Papal Bull Transiturus (September 8, 1264), in which, after having extolled the love of Our Savior as expressed in the Holy Eucharist, ordered the annual celebration of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. More than four decades later, Pope Clement V published a new decree which embodied Urban IV’s decree and ordered the adoption of the feast at the General Council of Vienna (1311). Pope John XXII, successor of Clement V, urged this observance.
The processions on Corpus Christi to honor the Holy Eucharist were not mentioned in the decrees, but have become a principal feature of the feast’s celebration by the faithful, and became a tradition throughout Europe. These processions were endowed with indulgences by Popes Martin V and Eugene IV and continue today.