'Don't play with your food,' my mother used to say to me, and still does. Some people would say the same about today's feast, that food is for eating and not for watching or parading.
But this isn't strictly true. We make a fuss about food, and a greater fuss over important food. We turn off the lights and parade the Christmas pudding proudly, having set it alight. In Scotland people stand as a haggis is ceremoniously brought in, preceded by a bagpiper, and then addressed with an ode.
Practically every culture has peculiar customs relating to food, because food is important and worth making a fuss over. If the Eucharist is the most important food we have, what sort of fuss should we make?
The Eucharist is certainly unusual food. We carry the Blessed Sacrament in procession, but Christ in heaven does not move. We may drop the monstrance, but Christ does not fall. A sacrilege upon the host cannot harm Jesus, but the perpetrator damages himself. In the Holy Eucharist the initiative and the power are Christ's.
So with this food we must re-think who is 'eater' and who is 'eaten'. When we eat the Eucharist, we consume and incorporate into our bodies the appearances of bread and wine, but Christ himself 'consumes' us and makes us part of his Body.
We hear this in the Gospel also. The disciples ask Jesus, 'Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?' But they are not the ones who prepare the Passover. Jesus gives them instructions on how to find a particular house and to say to its owner,
The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples?
Jesus says it is his guest room, and the disciples who go to prepare it find it already 'furnished and ready'. The preparation of the upper room by Jesus is a foretaste of things to come. In the course of the Passover, Jesus tells his disciples,
I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
These words are realised in part by the eating of the Eucharist. Although we receive Christ sacramentally, it is Christ who receives us into himself 'that where I am you may be also'. We think we take Christ into our earthly state, with its concomitant joys and pains, but we are ourselves taken up into heavenly realities where there are no tears, and joy does not fade. The first reading speaks of this heavenly reality, of which the earthly is only a copy.
Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
Jesus, in his natural body and blood, is in the Holy Place (not of this creation). We receive the same body and blood of Christ sacramentally in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist we taste 'the good things that have come' and enter with Jesus into the uncreated Holy Place.
It is a little like Alice going Through the Looking-Glass -- we eat Christ's body and blood but are taken up into Christ himself, to be with him at the right hand of the Father in heaven, where Christ is 'securing an eternal redemption' for us.
The Eucharist is extraordinary food indeed. It is quite right that on Corpus Christi we should take to the streets in procession, strewing the path of the Sanctissimum with rose petals, preceded by billows of incense, with brass bands, and everyone dressed in their finery.
Why? Because this is the only food we can say is literally divine. The Eucharist is not food we play with. It is food which wants to play with us and to consume us; it is none other than Jesus who loves us and desires to lavish himself upon us, that we might be where he already is.