Feast Day Summaries - June 2020
June 11, 2020: Holy Eucharist
The solemnity of the Holy Eucharist commemorates the Real Presence of Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar. That is, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This great feast had its beginnings in the thirteenth century from the deep devotion to the Holy Eucharist of St. Juliana of Cornillon. She was the prioress of a community of sisters in Liège in present-day Belgium. The Lord appeared to St. Juliana expressing to her that He wished a feast be instituted commemorating His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. St. Juliana petitioned the bishop of Liège, Bishop Robert de Thourotte, who ordered the feast to be celebrated in his diocese. Eventually, Pope Urban IV instituted the Feast of the Holy Eucharist for the entire church in 1264. Solemn processions and religious pageants were, and in some countries still are, customary features of the feast.
In the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, during the Kiss of Peace, the faithful make this exchange: "Christ is among us." "He is and will be." We profess that Christ is truly among us and, indeed, He is present in the Blessed Sacrament in every Liturgy. On the Solemnity of the Holy Eucharist, we focus our commemoration on Christ's true presence among us in the Eucharist: the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. Still holding onto our Paschal joy, in every season, and even in this global pandemic, we celebrate and believe in the Holy Eucharist.
June 19, 2020: Christ the Lover of Humankind
On this solemn feast day, we celebrate Christ's profound and infinite love for humankind. The devotion to Christ the Lover of Humankind or to the Sacred Heart (as it is known in the Western Churches) was a practice of the faithful since ancient times. In 1675, the Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and expressed to her His ardent love for humanity, "Behold this heart which, despite the burning love for humankind with which it is consumed, encounters no other return from most Christians then ingratitude, contempt, ungodliness, and coldness." Christ requested from Saint Margaret Mary that the first Friday of every month of nine consecutive months be dedicated to the ineffable love of His Heart. St. Margaret Mary dedicated herself to making this devotion known and cherished. Pope Pius IX instituted the feast for the whole church in 1856.
The First Fridays devotion may be observed on every first Friday of the month or, at least, on the first Friday of nine consecutive months. The faithful are to attend the Liturgy and receive communion (under the regular conditions) with sentiments of sincere and humble thanksgiving and the commitment to fulfill Christ's commandment that we love others as He has loved us. It is also customary to devote time to prayer on the Thursday evening before the first Friday of the month.
June 20, 2020: Co-Suffering of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The memorial of the Co-Suffering of the Blessed Virgin Mary (known as the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Western Churches) immediately follows the solemnity of Christ the Lover of Humankind. This reflects the unity of both feasts and their respective devotions.
Throughout the centuries, many saints expressed and advanced devotion to the Heart of the Mother of God and to Her purity: in the twelfth century, St. Anselm and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and, in the fifteenth century, St Bernardine of Siena. Later, in the seventeenth century, St. John Eudes promoted devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, that is, to the love of Christ and the cooperation of the Mother of God in the redemptive suffering of Her Son. Furthermore, St. John composed the first liturgies and offices to the Holy Heart of the Mother of God in 1648 and to the Heart of Jesus in 1672. Three years later, the Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque to request devotion to His Divine and Ineffable Love for humankind. During the nineteenth century, both Pope Pius VII and Pope Pius IX authorized local celebrations honouring the Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Finally, in 1944, during WWII, Pope Pius XII instituted the feast as a memorial for the universal church.
Today's memorial, intimately linked with the solemnity of Christ's Love for humankind, grants us the opportunity to honour the Suffering and Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God united to the Heart of Her Son.
June 24, 2020: Nativity of John the Baptist
On the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, there are only three birthdays officially celebrated: the Nativity of our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ (Dec. 25), the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos (Sept. 8), and, today's solemn feast, the Nativity of John the Baptist. The church has celebrated the feast of the Nativity of the Baptist from ancient times.
St. John's birth ushered in the time of preparation for the people of God for the coming of Jesus among them. Thus, St. John the Baptist is known as "The Forerunner": calling all to repentance and transformation of life in order to "prepare the way of the Lord" (Is 40:3, Mt 3:3, Mk 1:3, Lk 3:4). As recorded in the Gospel of John, the Forerunner says of himself, which the prophet Isaiah had foretold some 700 years beforehand:
"I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
Make straight the way of the Lord" (Jn 1:23).
Christ, Himself, bore witness to John when He said:
"Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matt 11:11).
In his day and even today, St. John the Baptist draws our attention to Jesus: "Behold the Lamb of God!" (Jn 1:29). On the Feast of St. John's Nativity, we call to mind the Forerunner's message which is pertinent to our time: repent, transform, and look to Christ.
June 29, 2020: Chief Apostles Peter and Paul
On the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Church commemorates the two Apostles who, as demonstrated by one of the icons for this feast, are the "pillars" of the Church. St. Peter is the "rock" upon which Christ built His Church and he presides over Her, and St. Paul is the great missionary.
Led to Christ by his brother, St. Andrew, St. Peter left his fisherman's trade to follow Him. Peter professed Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, he saw Jesus transfigured, and he overcame the faltering of his faith and his denial of Christ to preside over the Church. In his later years, as foretold to him by the Lord, St. Peter was led to his martyrdom in Rome. But he would not accept to be crucified in like manner as Christ, as he felt that he was unworthy. In A.D. 64-68, by his own request, St. Peter was crucified upside down, thus, profoundly witnessing to the faith.
St. Paul was a Pharisee and a zealous persecutor of the early Christian Church until his dramatic conversion. On the road to Damascus, precisely to take as prisoners the believers there, a bright light from Heaven surrounded Paul, he was blinded and fell to the ground. He heard the voice of Christ who asked Paul why he was persecuting Him and then identified Himself as Jesus. Paul remained blind for three days, but was healed by a disciple sent by Christ named Ananias. From that moment, Paul became the great Apostle to the Gentiles. St. Paul was also called to martyrdom in Rome, but, since he was a Roman citizen, it was not permitted that he be crucified. St. Paul was beheaded in Rome at the same time or during the same time frame as St. Peter.
In a second icon for this feast of the Chief Apostles Peter and Paul, the Apostles are seen embracing. As recorded in the Epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul and St. Peter had a serious dispute in Antioch. St. Paul confronted St. Peter directly because Peter, whose previous practice was to eat with Gentile coverts to Christianity, chose to fellowship with them no longer. He did this in order to appease the Jewish converts to Christianity who had come from St. James to Antioch. By acting in this way, however, Paul expressed to Peter that he had become a source of division in the church. The dispute was later settled during the first council of the Apostles, the Council of Jerusalem. Thus, Sts. Peter and Paul are shown on the icon as embracing, having resolved the dispute and restored the necessary peace and unity of the Church.
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