You are Corpus Christi
In the story of Genesis, after God created man from the dirt of the earth, man realized that he was alone, that he did not have a partner. In response to man’s desire for a companion, God put Adam into a deep sleep, and from his side, God formed Eve. When Adam woke up and saw her for the first time, he said, “Here at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”
If we pause in this story, we can feel the universal experience of longing for a relationship, for communion, with other people. We are social beings, made in the image and likeness of a God who is Three, and we ache for friendship and intimacy with others. And in Adam’s response, we can feel the joy of those moments when that ache for a relationship is fulfilled.
From the very beginning, the Church has presented Christ as the new Adam. As the first Adam (who represents all of humanity) sinned in disobedience towards God, the new Adam (on behalf of all humanity) saves us through His obedience to the Father.
In his Apostolic Letter about the Eucharist, Desiderio Desideravi (“I have earnestly desired”), Pope Francis picks up this comparison between the old and new Adam in a remarkable way. He said:
“The parallel between the first Adam and the new Adam is striking: as from the side of the first Adam, after having cast him into a deep sleep, God draws forth Eve, so also from the side of the new Adam, sleeping the sleep of death on the cross, there is born the new Eve, the Church” (DD 14).
Now, Pope Francis isn’t saying anything new here; this image of the Church being formed from the side of Christ is ancient. Francis then goes on and says:
“The astonishment for us lies in the words that we can imagine the new Adam made his own in gazing at the Church: “Here at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” For our having believed in His Word and descended into the waters of Baptism, we have become bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh” (DD 14).
At my baptism, I became bone of Christ's bone and flesh and Christ’s flesh. I became Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. And this brings us to the Eucharist. The pope taught that the Mass “does not have to do with an abstract mental process, but with becoming Him” (DD 41). In fact:
“This is the purpose for which the Spirit is given, whose action is always and only to confect the Body of Christ. It is that way with the Eucharistic bread, and with every one of the baptized called to become always more and more that which was received as a gift in Baptism; namely, being a member of the Body of Christ. Leo the Great writes, ‘Our participation in the Body and Blood of Christ has no other end than to make us become that which we eat’” (DD 41).
Every time I participate in the Eucharistic Liturgy, Jesus looks at me and experiences so much joy and love that he cries out in satisfaction, “at last!” Francis said, through the Mass, Jesus “satisfies his own thirst for us that he had declared from the cross” (DD 11).
As we celebrate Corpus Christi today, and every time we go to Mass, may the Holy Spirit help us remember that we are bone of Christ’s bone and flesh of Christ’s flesh; that Christ looks at us—in all of our weakness, sin, and fear—with the same longing and joy that Adam looked at Eve; and that by resting in His gaze, we will be able to see every single human person with His eyes.
Image credit: “The Crucifixion” by Eugène Delacroix