Today is the memorial of St Thomas Aquinas (*1225 +1274), a Dominican priest and one of the great minds of the Catholic Church’s history.
It is also the anniversary of my baptism. Pope Francis has said we should celebrate our baptism date (when we were born again and entered the Kingdom of God) as an event that has far more significance that our birth (when we moved from inside to outside the womb).
Below are the words of the Pange Lingua hymn composed by St Thomas. The last 2 verses compose the Tantum Ergo that is sung at Benediction which follows Eucharistic Adoration. St Thomas uses his great poetic gifts to describe how we have to bow with awe and humility in the presence of such a sublime mystery: a divine mystery that makes truly present Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through the appearances of bread and wine. By partaking in this sacrament, we receive into our souls and lives, the complete self-gift of Jesus, just like the self-gift he made to the Apostles on the night of the Last Supper. Furthermore, the very sacrifice of Calvary is re-presented in our midst.
I have bolded the words of the Tantum Ergo. Additionally I have put in italics the last two lines of the first stanza. These tell us that we have to depend on faith rather than on our five senses in comprehending the sublime mystery of Christ’s presence. At the end I have a Youtube link to the sung Tantum Ergo.
Try to read this slowly and prayerfully.
Of the glorious Body telling,
O my tongue, its mysteries sing,
And the Blood, all price excelling,
Which the world’s eternal King,
In a noble womb once dwelling
Shed for the world’s ransoming.
Given for us, descending,
Of a Virgin to proceed,
Man with man in converse blending,
Scattered he the Gospel seed,
Till his sojourn drew to ending,
Which he closed in wondrous deed.
At the last great Supper lying
Circled by his brethren’s band,
Meekly with the law complying,
First he finished its command
Then, immortal Food supplying,
Gave himself with his own hand.
Word made Flesh, by word he maketh
Very bread his Flesh to be;
Man in wine Christ’s Blood partaketh:
And if senses fail to see,
Faith alone the true heart waketh
To behold the mystery.
Therefore we, before him bending,
This great Sacrament revere;
Types and shadows have their ending,
For the newer rite is here;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.
Glory let us give, and blessing
To the Father and the Son;
Honour, might, and praise addressing,
While eternal ages run;
Ever too his love confessing,
Who, from both, with both is one.
R. Thou hast given them bread from heaven.
V. Having within it all sweetness.
Let us pray: O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament left us a memorial of Thy Passion: grant, we implore Thee, that we may so venerate the sacred mysteries of Thy Body and Blood, as always to be conscious of the fruit of Thy Redemption. Thou who livest and reignest forever and ever.
THE SUNG TANTUM ERGO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Swns4Kjzc9E