Corpus Christi, the Angelic Doctor and my Wife

When Corpus Christi rolls around I always think of Saint Thomas Aquinas and his great eucharistic hymn Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium written by Saint Thomas at the command of Pope Urban IV to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi instituted by the Pope in 1264.   It says something vastly significant about the Church that perhaps the greatest intellect of all time, Saint Thomas Aquinas, was not only a Doctor of the Church, but also capable of writing this magnificent hymn. 

The last portion of the hymn, Tantum Ergo, has vast significance for my family.  My wife, who is a far better Catholic in my estimation than I am, is a convert.  A Methodist when we married, she converted to the Church a few years later.  She had questions regarding the real presence, and this line from Tantum Ergo resolved them:  Faith tells us that Christ is present,  When our human senses fail.  When our kids came along she would whisper at the Consecration to them:  First it’s bread, now it’s Jesus.  First it’s wine, now it’s Jesus. 

Here is Saint Thomas on the Real Presence:



Whether the body of Christ be in this sacrament in very truth, or merely as in a figure or sign?

TP Q[75] A[1] Obj. 1

OBJ 1: It seems that the body of Christ is not in this sacrament in very truth, but only as in a figure, or sign. For it is written (Jn. 6:54) that when our Lord had uttered these words: “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood,” etc., “Many of His disciples on hearing it said: ‘this is a hard saying'”: to whom He rejoined: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing”: as if He were to say, according to Augustine’s exposition on Ps. 4 [*On Ps. 98:9]: “Give a spiritual meaning to what I have said. You are not to eat this body which you see, nor to drink the blood which they who crucify Me are to spill. It is a mystery that I put before you: in its spiritual sense it will quicken you; but the flesh profiteth nothing.”

TP Q[75] A[1] Obj. 2

OBJ 2: Further, our Lord said (Mt. 28:20): “Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.” Now in explaining this, Augustine makes this observation (Tract. xxx in Joan.): “The Lord is on high until the world be ended; nevertheless the truth of the Lord is here with us; for the body, in which He rose again, must be in one place; but His truth is spread abroad everywhere.” Therefore, the body of Christ is not in this sacrament in very truth, but only as in a sign.

TP Q[75] A[1] Obj. 3

OBJ 3: Further, no body can be in several places at the one time. For this does not even belong to an angel; since for the same reason it could be everywhere. But Christ’s is a true body, and it is in heaven. Consequently, it seems that it is not in very truth in the sacrament of the altar, but only as in a sign.

TP Q[75] A[1] Obj. 4

OBJ 4: Further, the Church’s sacraments are ordained for the profit of the faithful. But according to Gregory in a certain Homily (xxviii in Evang.), the ruler is rebuked “for demanding Christ’s bodily presence.” Moreover the apostles were prevented from receiving the Holy Ghost because they were attached to His bodily presence, as Augustine says on Jn. 16:7: “Except I go, the Paraclete will not come to you” (Tract. xciv in Joan.). Therefore Christ is not in the sacrament of the altar according to His bodily presence.

TP Q[75] A[1] OTC

On the contrary, Hilary says (De Trin. viii): “There is no room for doubt regarding the truth of Christ’s body and blood; for now by our Lord’s own declaring and by our faith His flesh is truly food, and His blood is truly drink.” And Ambrose says (De Sacram. vi): “As the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s true Son so is it Christ’s true flesh which we take, and His true blood which we drink.”

TP Q[75] A[1] Body

I answer that, The presence of Christ’s true body and blood in this sacrament cannot be detected by sense, nor understanding, but by faith alone, which rests upon Divine authority. Hence, on Lk. 22:19: “This is My body which shall be delivered up for you,” Cyril says: “Doubt not whether this be true; but take rather the Saviour’s words with faith; for since He is the Truth, He lieth not.”

TP Q[75] A[1] Body

Now this is suitable, first for the perfection of the New Law. For, the sacrifices of the Old Law contained only in figure that true sacrifice of Christ’s Passion, according to Heb. 10:1: “For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things.” And therefore it was necessary that the sacrifice of the New Law instituted by Christ should have something more, namely, that it should contain Christ Himself crucified, not merely in signification or figure, but also in very truth. And therefore this sacrament which contains Christ Himself, as Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. iii), is perfective of all the other sacraments, in which Christ’s virtue is participated.

TP Q[75] A[1] Body

Secondly, this belongs to Christ’s love, out of which for our salvation He assumed a true body of our nature. And because it is the special feature of friendship to live together with friends, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix), He promises us His bodily presence as a reward, saying (Mt. 24:28): “Where the body is, there shall the eagles be gathered together.” Yet meanwhile in our pilgrimage He does not deprive us of His bodily presence; but unites us with Himself in this sacrament through the truth of His body and blood. Hence (Jn. 6:57) he says: “He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me, and I in him.” Hence this sacrament is the sign of supreme charity, and the uplifter of our hope, from such familiar union of Christ with us.

TP Q[75] A[1] Body

Thirdly, it belongs to the perfection of faith, which concerns His humanity just as it does His Godhead, according to Jn. 14:1: “You believe in God, believe also in Me.” And since faith is of things unseen, as Christ shows us His Godhead invisibly, so also in this sacrament He shows us His flesh in an invisible manner.

TP Q[75] A[1] Body

Some men accordingly, not paying heed to these things, have contended that Christ’s body and blood are not in this sacrament except as in a sign, a thing to be rejected as heretical, since it is contrary to Christ’s words. Hence Berengarius, who had been the first deviser of this heresy, was afterwards forced to withdraw his error, and to acknowledge the truth of the faith.

TP Q[75] A[1] R.O. 1

Reply OBJ 1: From this authority the aforesaid heretics have taken occasion to err from evilly understanding Augustine’s words. For when Augustine says: “You are not to eat this body which you see,” he means not to exclude the truth of Christ’s body, but that it was not to be eaten in this species in which it was seen by them. And by the words: “It is a mystery that I put before you; in its spiritual sense it will quicken you,” he intends not that the body of Christ is in this sacrament merely according to mystical signification, but “spiritually,” that is, invisibly, and by the power of the spirit. Hence (Tract. xxvii), expounding Jn. 6:64: “the flesh profiteth nothing,” he says: “Yea, but as they understood it, for they understood that the flesh was to be eaten as it is divided piecemeal in a dead body, or as sold in the shambles, not as it is quickened by the spirit . . . Let the spirit draw nigh to the flesh . . . then the flesh profiteth very much: for if the flesh profiteth nothing, the Word had not been made flesh, that It might dwell among us.”

TP Q[75] A[1] R.O. 2

Reply OBJ 2: That saying of Augustine and all others like it are to be understood of Christ’s body as it is beheld in its proper species; according as our Lord Himself says (Mt. 26:11): “But Me you have not always.” Nevertheless He is invisibly under the species of this sacrament, wherever this sacrament is performed.

TP Q[75] A[1] R.O. 3

Reply OBJ 3: Christ’s body is not in this sacrament in the same way as a body is in a place, which by its dimensions is commensurate with the place; but in a special manner which is proper to this sacrament. Hence we say that Christ’s body is upon many altars, not as in different places, but “sacramentally”: and thereby we do not understand that Christ is there only as in a sign, although a sacrament is a kind of sign; but that Christ’s body is here after a fashion proper to this sacrament, as stated above.

TP Q[75] A[1] R.O. 4

Reply OBJ 4: This argument holds good of Christ’s bodily presence, as He is present after the manner of a body, that is, as it is in its visible appearance, but not as it is spiritually, that is, invisibly, after the manner and by the virtue of the spirit. Hence Augustine (Tract. xxvii in Joan.) says: “If thou hast understood” Christ’s words spiritually concerning His flesh, “they are spirit and life to thee; if thou hast understood them carnally, they are also spirit and life, but not to thee.”


Share With Friends

Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. About thirty years ago I remember reading in The Spectator an article by Auberon Waugh (son of the great Evelyn) in which he mentions St Thomas “whose mighty intellect thunders down the centuries, making the pronouncements of modern theologians appear as squeaks upon the margin”.

    About the same time (it was when Kung and Schillebeeckx were being criticized by the CDF) another Spectator article (not, I think, by Waugh) contrasted the laissez-faire attitude of the Anglicans with that of Cardinals Seper and Ratzinger who “stand like archangels with flaming swords” in defence of the truth.

  2. We also know he resurrected because St. Thomas the Apostle gave us a visceral account of feeling his wounds.

  3. So we also know that he ascended into heaven because he walks here through the people of his body which he is the head of.

  4. Donald, you are so blessed – with family and knowledge. I was just reading this part of the Summa this weekend, and the same thing about learning from faith struck me. Thank you, this is beautiful.

  5. Speaking of St Thomas as a poet, one of the earliest known limericks occurs imbedded in one of his (prose) prayers of thankgiving after Holy Communion:

    Sit vitiorum meorum evacuatio
    Concupiscentae et libidinis exterminatio,
    Caritatis et patientiae,
    Humilitatis et obedientiae,
    Omniumque virtutum augmentatio.

    [Let it be for the elimination for my sins,
    For the expulsion of desire and lust,
    For the increase of charity and patience,
    Humility and obedience,
    As well as all the virtues.]

  6. Beautiful music Don.
    And along with Mary deVoe, I am more than a little tickled by your following comment. 🙂
    Do you know the full history behind the Feast of Corpus Christi?
    I’ll give you a hint – St. Juliana of Liege. I did an article on it quite a few years ago for our RCIA and our parish monthly bulletin. I’ll try to find it and link it here, otherwise I’ll e-mail it to you, if it stii exists 🙂

  7. Donald, as I have confessed before, I am an intellectual midget. But reading the Diary of Saint Faustina Kowalska, (August 25, 1905 – October 5,1938) Christ’s Secretary and Apostle of His Divine Mercy Message – Divine Mercy in My Soul – her testimony should convince the strongest doubter of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Consecrated Bread and Wine. Again and again, this Holy Nun, with only a Class 3 Academic education level, and who has written a 600 page Diary which is very rich in Theology, tells us, very often, during the Holy Mass at Consecration, when the Priest held the Blessed Host aloft, she clearly saw Jesus Christ Himself within the Host…..at times He came to her on her kneeler as a small Boy……during Benediction, she often saw the Rays from the Divine Mercy Image extending into the Blessed Host on the Monstrance, and from there, radiating in the whole Chapel and outside and then returning back into the Blessed Host.

    For those who still doubt the Real Presence, we have several Eucharistic Miracles throughout the History of Mother Church. The first one took place in Luciano in the year 700 AD and which is still ongoing. The Host after Consecration turned into Human Flesh from a human flesh and the Wine turned into human blood. In the 1970’s testing was done and confirmed that the flesh was a human heart tissue and the blood of human origin, both AB blood type. Other testings when science now fully advanced, confirm the person to be male, 33 years old!!!!!!!

    However, we do not need these Miracles to believe that Jesus is truly Present in the Consecrated Bread and Wine and remains Present in the Hosts in all the Tabernacles and Adoration Chapels in the Catholic Churches world-wide. His Words regarding the Institution of this Sacrament, which He did during the Last Supper, were unequivocal, such that, when some Disciples refused to accept this Teaching of eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood and walked away from Him, He was ready to lose even His 12 Apostles and start all over again because His Statement was FINAL.

    Jesus Christ is God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He is The Way, The Truth and The Life. And as Pope Paul VI so eloquently wrote in the “Credo of the People of God” : “The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord gloriously in Heaven is rendered present by the Sacrament in the many places on earth where the Holy Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present after the Sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the Tabernacle, the Living Heart of each of our Churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honour and adore in the Blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word Whom they cannot see, and Who, without leaving Heaven, is made present before us”. (pub.1968).

  8. Indeed Mary. If we truly comprehended the majesty of what happens at the miracle of the mass few of us would ever get off our knees. It is not for nothing that Christ referred to Himself by the name God gave to Moses as His name: I Am. The eucharist brings us in touch with the Ultimate Reality of all existence.

  9. Thank you Stacy! The Angelic Doctor is to theology what Newton is to physics, which brings to mind Blake’s poem:

    Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;
    Mock on, Mock on, ’tis all in vain.
    You throw the sand against the wind,
    And the wind blows it back again.

    And every sand becomes a Gem
    Reflected in the beams divine;
    Blown back, they blind the mocking Eye,
    But still in Israel’s paths they shine.

    The Atoms of Democritus
    And Newton’s Particles of light
    Are sands upon the Red sea shore
    Where Israel’s tents do shine so bright.

  10. Mary@42

    Is this the Sr Faustina Kowalska whose writings were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum by Bl. John XXIII in 1959? This in itself inclines one to take them magno cum grano salis, despite the actions of a later Pontiff, who happened to be her countryman. I doubt that in the first full year of his pontificate John merely rubber-stamped everything Cardinal Ottaviani put in front of him.

  11. John Nolan.
    You will find that Pope JP II removed the prohibition from her works – I don’t know the full story, but I understand there was a bit of “Vatican political intrigue” over Sr. Faustina, who is now, St. Faustina, and her Divine Mercy Chaplet and the pictur of Jesus, The Divine Mercy is now promoted throughout the world. Most of our parish, and many parishes in NZ pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily.

  12. Don.
    I have found a hard copy – I have changed computers 3 times since i did the article, so I don’t have it archived. So I will scan copy, and e-mail it to you.

  13. I would be more inclined to buy into the Divine Mercy cult if the eponymous picture were not such an example of Catholic kitsch. Admittedly, you could say the same about most Sacred Heart pictures, but that devotion began in the 13th century, had its own Mass and Office in the 17th, and was not extended to the Universal Church until the 19th. ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’ has more than a whiff about it of those irritating ‘themed’ Sundays which keep cropping up in the NO.

  14. “Indeed Mary. If we truly comprehended the majesty of what happens at the miracle of the mass few of us would ever get off our knees. It is not for nothing that Christ referred to Himself by the name God gave to Moses as His name: I Am. The eucharist brings us in touch with the Ultimate Reality of all existence.”
    God gave Moses His Name “I AM WHO I AM” I AM God, the Father, I AM, God the Son and I AM God the Holy Spirit. The Consecration of the Host at the elevation continues throughtout the world unabated. If there were no reserved Sacrament in the Tabernacle, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ is preserved in the ongoing and continuous consecration around the world in the church. It is the greatest consolation to know that Jesus Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament waiting for you and for me. When we are caught up to heaven, you and I will share in this eternal Consecration.

  15. John Nolan, the prohibition of the Divine Mercy Devotion as revealed in Saint Faustina’s Diary was in 1958 when insufficient information was available due to the fact that there was instability in Poland in the aftermath of the 1939-45 War. The translations of the available Documents and the Diary itself were poorly done. However, when the full correct original Documents, written and oral evidence was available from the Convent where Saint Faustina was a Nun for 13 years, the Original Diary – now correctly transalated – along with written and verbal evidence of those who knew Saint Faustina personally was at last presented to the Holy See, together with originals of written Evidence from her Superiors of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy were formally submitted to the Divine Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Prohibition was lifted on the 15th April, 1978. Indeed in February, 1935, Jesus Himself had revealed to Saint Faustina that a time would come when the work on His Message of Mercy would appear to be completely undone with these words in Diary No.378). “There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then, God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity”. And true enough, for Twenty Years this Message of God’s Mercy appeared as if it was dead, just as Jesus had predicted way back in February, 1935!!!!

    With regard to the Divine Mercy Image, in March, 1934, when Sister Faustina was saddened that the Artist had not captured the beauty of His Countenance, this is what Jesus said to her: “Not in the beauty of the colour, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this Image, but in My Grace “(Diary No.313).

    John, the Divine Mercy Devotion is not a cult. It a Way of Life. Since I cannot give you many of Jesus Christ’s Words regarding what He has bestowed on mankind with this Divine Mercy Message, I would kindly plead with you to visit the Divine Mercy Website and learn more about this wonderful Divine Act of Mercy from our Lord Himself. Better, still, buy yourself a copy of Saint Faustina’s Diary – Divine Mercy in My Soul – which she wrote under the instructions of her Spiritual Director and Jesus Christ Himself.

    @Mary De Voe : Indeed, the Sacrifice on Calvary is ongoing every Minute of the Day. This is the reason why Holy Mother Church encourages Perpetual Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

  16. John Nolan, Jesus solemnly requested, and expressed His Wish that the Universal Catholic Church should solemnly institute the Feast of the Divine Mercy on the First Sunday after Easter on 22nd February, 1931. He repeated this request many times in the Diary. He had to wait until 30th April, 2000, for this Feast to be Solemnly promulgated for the Universal Catholic Church.

    John, we now have this Feast – which is in a way the re-instatement of Old Testament “Day of Atonement” ( Leviticus Chapter 16). He has solemnly declared that “….I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for sinners……The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion ( and venerate My Image) shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment….On that day all the Divine floodgates through which Graces flow are opened…..”(Diary No.699).

    In another passage, He has stated that the soul that shall celebrate this Feast (as He dictated), He shall restore that soul to the condition it was in on the day of Baptism. Surely, that solemn Promise from Jesus Christ Himself, is enough to make any serious Catholic Faithful desire to learn more, and to become a committed Eucharistic Apostle of the Divine Mercy and live the Message of Mercy in their lives.

  17. John Dolan, this is what you say about the Eucharistic Apostolate of the Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy Devotion now solemnly promulgated by the Holy See for the Universal Catholic Church:

    “Is this the Sr Faustina Kowalska whose writings were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum by Bl. John XXIII in 1959? This in itself inclines one to take them magno cum grano salis, despite the actions of a later Pontiff, who happened to be her countryman. I doubt that in the first full year of his pontificate John merely rubber-stamped everything Cardinal Ottaviani put in front of him.”

    Sadly, John Dolan, you are very wrong. Blessed Pope John Paul II was God’s chosen Instrument for fulfilling Jesus Christ’s prophecy about His Divine Will to have the Message of His Mercy preached throughout the world, and the Feast of Divine Mercy, along with Veneration of the Divine Mercy Image, the praying the Novena and the Divine Mercy Chaplet which He Himself dictated to Saint Faustina, and which commences on Good Friday, would be solemnly promulgated in the Universal Catholic Church. These are His Words:

    “Before the Day of Justice, I am sending the Day of Mercy (Diary No.1588)

    Years before, this is what He had said about the spread of the Divine Mercy Message and Devotion…..”I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of sinners. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy (Diary No.848)”

    And in May, 1938, this is what Jesus Christ Himself prophesied about the role Blessed Pope John Paul II would play in fulfilling His Will with regard to the Feast of the Divine Mercy: “I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My Will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come THE SPARK that will prepare the world for My Final Coming”. (Diary No.1732).

    At that time Blessed Pope John Paul II was not even a Bishop, let alone the Archbishop of Crakow. But God had already decreed that through him, Christ’s Will shall be fulfilled to to have the Message of Divine Mercy and the Feast of the Divine Mercy solemnly promulgated for the Universal Catholic Church.

    God is TRUTH, John Dolan. What God Wills, God fulfills. If we cannot accept the Words of Jesus Christ Himself, then we need a lot of prayers to see and accept the TRUTH, the WAY and the LIFE.

    It is truly painful to read your words : “………despite the actions of a later Pontiff, who happened to be her countryman. I doubt that in the first full year of his pontificate John merely rubber-stamped everything Cardinal Ottaviani put in front of him.”

    Jesus Willed this Divine Mercy Feast on 22nd February, 1931. Blessed Pope John Paul II was then growing up, in poverty and tribulations, and totally unknown in Poland

    Bear with me to reiterate this Fact. John Dolan, Blessed Pope John Paul II fulfilled what Jesus had decreed – and chosen him for – the Divine Mission of Solemnly promulgating the Feast of the Divine Mercy for the Universal Catholic Church and the spread of the Divine Mercy Devotion, especially the Eucharistic Apostolate of the Divine Mercy. This Devotion is not even being spread from Poland, but from Stockbridge, Massachusets in the United States of America by the Congregation of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.

Comments are closed.