The Church Year is something that liturgical churches are very aware of. In it we have the various seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, and the season after Pentecost. We also know that contained within those seasons are various other feast days and celebrations, for example, this past Sunday was Trinity Sunday. We also know that within Holy Week, there are other significant days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, etc. and it is on Maundy Thursday that we celebrate the giving of the Holy Eucharist, because it was on the Thursday before his crucifixion that Jesus celebrated the Eucharist for the first time with his disciples in the upper room. With that in mind…
In the year 1192, a young girl, Juliana, was born in Belgium, and she later had a younger sister Agnes; however, their parents died and the two were left orphans, so they were taken to an Augustinian monastery to be raised. Later, Agnes died leaving Juliana alone with the Augustinian sisters. At the age of 16, Juliana began to have the same vision over and over, both during the day and at night: she saw a bright moon with a dark spot on it, but she did not understand its meaning until Jesus explained it to her.
Jesus said that the moon represented the Church Year and that the dark spot was a missing feast day that he wanted to see instituted: a feast day in celebration of the Holy Eucharist. As there was already Maundy Thursday, Juliana asked why another was needed and was told that people would soon begin to forget or disbelieve the Real Presence of Jesus in the Sacrament and that there was also to be a joyous celebration—not something that could take place during Holy Week—of the sacrament. Hearing this, Juliana went on a mission to establish the feast, but the idea was not popular and she only saw it celebrated once in her lifetime. But, if God wills it… as it turns out, one of Juliana’s friends whom she consulted about the entire matter before her death was Jacques Pantaléon, who would later be known as Pope Urban IV. It is good to have friends elevated to such high positions and Pope Urban would eventually establish the Feast of Corpus Christi across the Church and it would continue in the Church of England, even after the split from Rome.
There are few Protestants who believe in the Real Presence and there are many within the catholic tradition who simply believe that the bread and wine remain bread and wine, but… they are wrong. From St. Justin Martyr’s First Apology (FYI: his feast day was yesterday): “We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.” And Jesus could not have been any more clear: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:54-56) In the past, Christians were put to death as cannibals for believing and saying such, but we as God’s people know that the Real Presence of our Savior is truly present, hidden within the bread and the wine; therefore, let us always approach this most wonderful sacrament with joy and awe and wonder and fear, for it is Jesus himself that is being given to us.