Corpus Christi Sequence: Lauda Sion salvatorem
As we celebrate today’s awesome feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord, we experience for a third time in a couple of months a Sequence Hymn before the Alleluia antiphon. It seems so common for us to have hymns at Mass in our day. However, prior to the 20th Century, hymns were proper to the Roman Office, Breviary, or Liturgy of the Hours. Therefore, hymns in the Roman Mass were singular and special compositions to celebrate a special feast. We heard sung the Victimæ Paschali laudes during the Easter Octave, the Veni, Sancte Spiritus on Pentecost Sunday, and now the Lauda Sion for the feast of Corpus Christi. These Sequence Hymns gradually entered into use in the 12th and 13th Century and their composition is of exquisite value. Textually, there are many subjects for our meditation.
The Lauda Sion is by far the longest of all the Sequence Hymns. It was written by St. Thomas Aquinas in honor of the Eucharistic miracle and celebrations in Bolsena, Italy. In the hymn, there are a number of beautiful motifs about our relationship with the Eucharistic and God’s goodness in giving us the gift of the Blessed Sacrament. First of all, the Eucharistic is the cause of our worship. However, no matter what lengths we go to, we can never repay in praise the goodness of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Wherever the Mass is celebrated, St. Thomas writes, it is the same Eucharist and same Lord as Christ with his Apostles at the Last Supper. In the span of six verses towards the middle of the Sequence, St. Thomas lays out the two transformations: the old rites are transformed into a new rite; and bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
In the second half of the Sequence, St. Thomas lays out the practicality of the Church’s dogma on the Holy Eucharist. He denotes that the reality of the Eucharist cannot be seen, and this makes belief difficult. But those with faith recognize the priceless reality that is contained in the Sacred Host and Precious Chalice. This faith leads to the Church confessing it’s worship of the Eucharistic presence: Christ is in every drop and every crumb; this precious gift is not to be treated like any food, but with revered respect. Moreover, it is not food that we take, but a Sacred Banquet that we receive.
Lastly, the final verses speak to what the Eucharist points us to: the heavenly banquet. The Eucharist is food for pilgrims, food for those who do not belong to this world but are only passing through. It is food for the Church and a foretaste of eternal life. Indeed, when we assist at Holy Mass, we yearn for the real banquet of communion face-to-face with Christ in heaven along with all the angels and saints.
“O Sacred Banquet in which Christ is received, the memory of his Passion is recalled, our souls are filled with grace, and the pledge of future glory is given to us” (St. Thomas Aquinas, O sacrum convinium).