At the heart of today’s solemnity is a eucharistic procession, held in many parishes, that calls to mind the procession of Holy Thursday, yet has a purpose different from the somber adoration in the night watch. In the late Middle Ages, a procession through the city with the Blessed Sacrament was an occasion of heartfelt joy and great emotion. In a time when people seldom approached the altar to receive Holy Communion, the procession through the streets, past homes and workplaces, was a vibrant reminder that Christ was with them as a dear companion and guide.

Every year on this day, a joyful procession winds through the streets of Rome from the Lateran cathedral. A few years ago, Pope John Paul II, deeply moved at the sight of the throng accompanying the sacred host, said that we ought to feel profoundly united with the faithful everywhere in the world at such a moment. “Before our mind’s eye all the Churches of the world, from East to West, from North to South, are present.” Originally this feast was on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, but after the calendar reform of 1970, its title was expanded from “Corpus Christi” to “The Body and Blood of Christ” and in the United States it was moved to the Sunday after Trinity Sunday. Even though Easter season ended two weeks ago, this beautiful feast is aglow with Easter light.