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Corpus Christi: The body of Christ

To look at the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples, and to understand its special significance for Christians.

by Laurence Chilcott

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To look at the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples, and to understand its special significance for Christians.

Preparation and materials

  • The feast of Corpus Christi is a Christian festival in honour of the Eucharist (Holy Communion/Lord’s Supper/Blessed Sacrament). It is a moveable feast, held on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. The Catholic Church of England and Wales celebrates Corpus Christi on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday.
  • Display pictures of people sharing meals in various situations – for instance, at a restaurant, at a birthday party, at a wedding – include Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
  • Jesus’ words during the Lord’s Supper are from Matthew 26.26–28.

Assembly

  1. I wonder how many of you will have at least one of your meals today on your lap in front of the television? Perhaps breakfast was like that – unless you came to school early and had something at the breakfast club.

    Everybody seems to be so busy these days that families do not always get the chance to sit down together at mealtimes.
  2. There will be some times, though, when every family, no matter how busy, sit around a table to share a meal. It may be at a birthday, at Christmas, Thanksgiving or Eid ul-Fitr; it may be to celebrate a special anniversary.

    On such occasions we get the opportunity to talk together, to share the best food we can afford and to enjoy one another’s company. Sometimes these mealtimes will be remembered for years to come – maybe because of the people who were with us or perhaps because of something that happened at the time.

  3. The last meal that Jesus shared with his special friends, the disciples, was one such occasion. The meal was held in an upstairs room in Jerusalem. It was a special meal to celebrate the Passover festival. This meal gave Jesus and his friends a chance to get away from the crowds who followed Jesus wherever he went. The disciples were all there – even Judas, who later that night betrayed Jesus to the authorities.

    The meal began in a rather strange way when Jesus, their leader, washed the feet of each of the disciples in turn. Now having your feet washed before a meal was not unusual in a hot country where people generally wore sandals and the roads were dusty – but it was a servant’s job, certainly not something a leader would do.

    Jesus explained that his followers should think of others more than themselves. They should not behave as if they were better than others but should serve and care for each other as he had just done.
  4. It was at this meal that Jesus talked about how he would soon be captured and put to death. He even said that one of the friends in that room had already planned to turn him over to the authorities, who were looking for an opportunity to arrest him. Even so, he still wanted to spend this special time with them all.

    During the meal Jesus took some bread, thanked God for it, broke it and shared it out among his friends. As he gave it to them he said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he poured out some wine into a cup, thanked God for it, and passed the cup round to each disciple. He said, ‘This is my blood, of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’
  5. Although the disciples did not realize it at the time, this was the last meal that Jesus would have with all of them together. Soon he would be arrested, beaten, mocked by his captors and put to death on a cross like a common criminal. Only afterwards, when Jesus rose from the dead, did they understand just how important was that last evening meal, or supper.

    All Christian churches remember that last meal in a service called ‘the Lord’s Supper’ or ‘Holy Communion’ or ‘the Eucharist’. Those who take part share bread and wine as Jesus did that evening, and remember what he said to his friends. Not all churches celebrate it in quite the same way, but for all Christians it is a very special and solemn service.
  6. In the festival of Corpus Christi Christians thank God for the body of Christ, especially as it is represented in the Eucharist. For the Roman Catholic Church Corpus Christi is often marked with a procession of church members through the streets of a town or city.

    A priest leads the procession. He carries a special gold or silver box, called a monstrance, which has in it the bread and wine used for the Eucharist.

    After processing through the streets the church members may return to the church where they started out, or they may go to another church where a special service is held.
  7. When someone dies and is buried, people often visit the grave – they may place flowers at the spot, think quietly or say a prayer. But there is no place where Jesus’ body lies, for he was taken back into heaven forty days after he rose from the dead. Corpus Christi gives Christians the opportunity to focus their thoughts on the body of Jesus Christ.

Time for reflection

Think of a meal that you remember as a very special time.

Who was with you?

What was the occasion?

What made it especially memorable?

Look at the picture of The Last Supper.

Which one do you think is Jesus?

How many disciples are there?

Which one do you think is Judas?

What do you think Jesus has just said to them?

Prayer
Dear Lord,
we thank you for the special times we share with our families and friends.
Thank you for the food we enjoy and the fun we have.
Amen.

Song/music

‘The Lord’s prayer’ (Come and Praise, 51)

Publication date: June 2012   (Vol.14 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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