Sunday, June 22 (Year A, Cycle II), is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). There are two additional solemnities this week: Tuesday, June 24, is the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist, and Friday, June 27, is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16; Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58
One of the most arresting lines from the liturgy to be restored by the new translation of the Mass is its reference to "dewfall" bringing the body and blood of Christ:
"Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit on them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Corpus Christi shows why the dewfall is a great metaphor for how Jesus Christ comes to his world and comes to us.
In the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the people that God fed them in the wilderness with manna "in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord."
After the Passover and the Israelites’ escape from Egypt, God provided for his people. Each morning, dew covered the Israelites’ camp. Then it would evaporate, leaving manna, this mysterious substance from heaven that provided for their needs.
The experience taught them much about God. They learned that he was their provider: not just each season, but every day. They learned they could live by his word — trusting his promise to give them what they needed.
He did just that, as quietly and consistently as the dewfall.
Fast-forward to the Gospel. It begins: "Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven.’"
Jesus himself has become the manna that is left after the dewfall.
An ancient poem from the early days of Catholic England describes the Incarnation with reference to dew:
"He came as still / Where his mother was / As dew in April / That falleth on the grass. // He came as still / To his mother’s bower / As dew in April / That falleth on the flower. // He came as still / Where his mother lay / As dew in April / That falleth on the spray."
The lines describe the same phenomenon that the readings and the Eucharistic Prayer describe: Jesus comes to us with the unstoppable but subtle power of dew.
The order of his coming is always the same as it was at the Annunciation. Remember what Gabriel said to Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God."
First comes the Holy Spirit, the quiet dew. Then comes the power of God’s word; and then there, like manna, is Jesus.
Corpus Christi stresses that the metaphors are pointing to a reality that is much stronger than any analogy.
After all, manna was real food that really sustained the Israelites. For us, the body and blood of Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, and it really sustains us.
And the Holy Spirit comes just as certainly and generously to his people as the dew comes to the grass.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.