The Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated in late May or early June, on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday, approximately 60 days after Easter. This year, it takes place on June 8. The Feast of Corpus Christi is also known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, and the Church of England calls it the Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion. In some places, celebrations include elaborate processions where Christians parade consecrated bread through the streets on paths decorated with flower wreaths. The Feast of Corpus Christi is a more joyous celebration after the solemn observance of Maundy Thursday.
History of Feast of Corpus Christi
The Feast of Corpus Christi is one of the few feasts that lay people promoted in the past. It started in the 13th century with Juliana of Liège, a canoness from modern-day Belgium who yearned for a feast day outside of Lent to honor the Eucharist. After receiving several visions of Christ — visions that began when she was 16 — Juliana worked with a young monk named John of Lausanne to institute the feast day. She spent more than 40 years working towards achieving this goal. Together they composed an office by which they could celebrate the feast. They were successful, and their diocesan bishop approved the texts in 1246.
Pope Urban IV declared Corpus Christi a feast day on August 11, 1264. Corpus Christi spread to nearby cities and towns, growing in popularity thanks to the efforts of Eva of Liège. Eva was an anchoress who continued Juliana’s work after her death. Ironically, Urban IV’s successors did not uphold his decree, and they suspended the festival. In 1311, Pope Clement IV reinstated the feast at the Council of Vienne.
Early Eucharistic festivals were glamorous affairs involving entire towns and cities. Sovereigns and nobles in European Catholic monarchies participated in the celebrations, accompanied by court officials and military officers. Commoners knelt outside their homes as these grand processions walked by. In modern times, Pope John Paul II led annual parades on the feast day, moving from St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican and through the streets of Rome. The Feast of Corpus Christi remains one of the essential celebrations underscoring the fundamental tenets of Christianity and Catholicism.
Feast of Corpus Christi timeline
The bishop of Liège approves liturgical texts and authorizes Corpus Christi celebrations.
The first Corpus Christi celebration occurs in Belgium at the St. Martin’s Church.
Pope Clement IV reinstates feast day celebrations.
The Council of Trent declares that Christians must publicly honor Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
Feast of Corpus Christi FAQs
Why is Corpus Christi on a Thursday?
In the original General Roman Calendar, Corpus Christi was celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.
What is the tradition of Corpus Christi?
Corpus Christi is a celebration of the Catholic Church, venerating the Eucharist.
In which month is Corpus Christi Day?
Corpus Christi Day is always in June.
Feast of Corpus Christi Activities
Receive Holy Communion
For Catholics, receiving Holy Communion on this day is a must. It symbolizes the body of Christ.
Attend a procession
A Corpus Christi parade is worth attending even if you’re not a Christian. Some processions involve the parading of consecrated bread through the streets.
Read the “Bible’
There are more than a dozen references to the Eucharist in the “Bible.” On the day of the feast, study these verses and internalize the message within.
5 Important Facts About Corpus Christi
What’s in a name?
‘Corpus Christi’ is Latin for “body of Christ,” referring to the changing of bread and wine in mass.
Protestants don’t recognize it
The Protestant Church suppressed the celebration of Corpus Christi during the Reformation.
Corpus Christi, Texas
Texas Corpus Christi was named after the Christian holiday by Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda.
Thomas Aquinas wrote the hymns
He was one of the scholastic philosophers that composed the texts for the mass and office.
The first papal-sanctioned universal feast
The Feast of Corpus Christi was the first papally sanctioned universal feast in the Latin Rites.
Why We Love Feast of Corpus Christi
It’s a period of joy
The Feast of Corpus Christi comes after Maundy Thursday. This period marks the washing of disciples’ feet, the institution of the priesthood, and the events of the Garden of Gethsemane, while Corpus Christi focuses on the Last Supper. It’s a happier holiday of joyous celebration, not solemn meditation.
Expressing gratitude to Christ
As Pope Francis said, Corpus Christi gives us the “joy of celebrating and praising Christ… expressing our gratitude for nourishing us with love through the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.” We give collective thanks to God for Christ’s abiding presence within us on this day.
Participating in Christ’s sacrifice
Participating in the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist is an act of great theological significance. Celebrating the feast strengthens our charity and unity with Christ by jointly offering his Body and Blood to the Father. We get to worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit perfectly. We are reminded to make sacrifices for our loved ones as Jesus did for us.
Feast of Corpus Christi dates