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The Movement of a Loving Heart

Homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, 2018

Then, after singing a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Mark 14:26


To sing is the work of a lover: Cantare amantis est. These are the succinct words of St. Augustine. Today’s great solemnity is marked in a particular way by the songs that were composed for it by St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century.  Of all the hymnody of the Church, this eucharistic poetry is the most often sung. We all know or have heard the Tantum Ergo and the O Salutaris Hostia, and these are just shorter versions of the complete hymns from which they are taken. Today we have the magnificent sequence hymn before the Gospel, the Lauda Sion. Anyone perusing these texts can feel the very ardent love that Thomas had for the mystery of the Body and Blood of the Lord. It is easy for us to appreciate, especially when we hear the melodies, the deep emotion and affection holy Church in her saints has for the Blessed Sacrament.

When the Savior instituted the sacrament of his love, he ended the first Mass with the singing of the psalms. These would have been from the Hallel psalms (as in hallelujah): 113-118 and also 136 in the Hebrew enumeration. (If you have an older Catholic bible, like the Douay, then the numbers would be one less.)  Our Lord sang these psalms after the Eucharist, precisely as they are songs of praise and gratitude, which is what the sacrament is ultimately all about: a perfect, infinite offering of praise and thanks by the Body and Blood of the Lord, which is the perfect gift to render as thanks. The psalmist says, “What return shall I make to the Lord for all he has done for me? I will take up the chalice of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.”

Of course we value our precise theological formulations about this mysterious gift of the Blessed Sacrament. Yet there is a true sense in which the best profession of faith, the best response to such a blessing is simply to praise in song the Lord who has done so lovely a thing for us. This is the movement of the loving heart.

When I am a guest at the table of one who loves me, don’t I make a point of thanking my host for his hospitality? When I assist at Holy Mass, and even more, when I receive the Lord in Holy Communion, do I stop afterwards to praise and thank him?

Let’s develop the habit of making thanksgiving after Holy Mass and Communion. We could do no better than to pray the very psalms the Savior did. Pick any one of them from 113-118 and 136, or even recite all of them. Then you will be talking to the Lord as a lover, singing in your heart a hymn of thanks that is very pleasing to him indeed.

So enough of considerations: let’s see what beautiful words we can address to our Eucharistic lover in just one of his psalms of praise, and in so doing we will have celebrated well this great feast of love by entering into the very thoughts and words of the Savior when he gave us himself the night before he suffered. To him most of all belongs the work of singing, since he is the greatest lover of all!

I love the LORD, who listened
to my voice in supplication,
Who turned an ear to me
on the day I called.

I was caught by the cords of death;
the snares of Sheol had seized me;
I felt agony and dread.
Then I called on the name of the LORD,
“O LORD, save my life!”

Gracious is the LORD and righteous;
yes, our God is merciful.
The LORD protects the simple;
I was helpless, but he saved me.

Return, my soul, to your rest;
the LORD has been very good to you.
For my soul has been freed from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.

I shall walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
I kept faith, even when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted!”
I said in my alarm,
“All men are liars!”

How can I repay the LORD
for all the great good done for me?
I will raise the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.

Dear in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his devoted.
LORD, I am your servant,
your servant, the child of your maidservant;
you have loosed my bonds.

I will offer a sacrifice of praise
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.

Hallelujah!

-Psalm 116

         

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