The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the source and summit of Christian living.
Everything that flows from the Mass, such as public prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, Forty Hour devotions, and Corpus Christi Procession, augment our beliefs in the real presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Private prayer, such as the rosary, novenas to saints, Stations of the Cross, and litanies all aid in our worship of the one true God. They prepare our souls to be receptive to God.
Forty Hours is a devotion in which the Blessed Sacrament remains on the altar for roughly forty hours. Eucharistic adoration is the extension of the consecration of the Mass, when the priest holds the sacred host and chalice of the precious blood after the consecration for people to adore. This adoration is extended in the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Forty Hours was made popular in this country by Saint John Neuman, Archbishop of Philadelphia in the late nineteenth century. In fact, in the Province of Philadelphia, which includes all the dioceses of Pennsylvania, this custom is still practiced to this day. During Forty Hours, people of the parish that is hosting this devotion sign up for adoration, which lasts during the night. Over the course of three evenings there might be special communal services of prayers, processions, Penance celebration, and benediction. Benediction is Latin for blessing. Jesus blesses the faithful by His Sacred Presence in the host, and the priest or deacon takes the host in the monstrance and makes the sign of the cross.
Corpus Christi is a solemnity that is celebrated at the end of the Easter season after the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, and has its roots in a Eucharistic miracle which took place in the town of Orvieto, Italy, in the thirteenth century. Eucharistic miracles can take many forms. Usually, the “accidents” or the externals of bread and wine remain the same even though the substance of bread and wine cease and become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. In cases of Eucharistic miracles, the accidents even change into the physical looking flesh and blood. Miracles of this nature boost the belief in the real presence of Jesus and in the doctrines of transubstantiation and concomitance.
In the case of the miracle of Orvieto-Bolsena, a German priest stopped in Bolsena on his way to Rome in 1263. He had doubts about the real presence of Jesus in the blessed sacrament. While celebrating Mass and at the consecration, blood started to drip from the consecrated host onto a cloth known as a corporal.
Pope Urban IV, who was visiting Orvieto, asked to see this relic. Upon investigation it was regarded as an authentic miracle. It became enshrined in the cathedral in Orvieto. Pope Urban wanted to mark this miracle with a feast and commissioned the great Saint Thomas Aquinas to compose prayers and music that would form the Liturgy of the Mass of Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi became an official feast of the universal Church in 1264. On the seven hundredth anniversary of the institution of the feast, Pope Paul VI celebrated Mass at the altar where the blood-stained corporal is kept.
On the feast of Corpus Christi, it is traditional to form a procession from the parish church through the streets of the town. Along the way, the priest stops and offers benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Finally, the procession ends in the Church with solemn benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. These external signs of devotion instill fervor, belief, and worship among the faithful.
Pope John Paul II dedicated the whole year in which he died to the Eucharist. It was his hope that processions, Forty Hours, Nocturnal Adoration on First Fridays, and Perpetual Adoration would once again flourish in the church, because the fruits of the Eucharist, which are an increased union of Jesus and His Church, a renewal in the life of grace, and a growth in the love of our neighbor, are tremendous.