Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
May Christ be praised, the King of glory,
who fills the world with the teaching of grace through Thomas,
the light of the Church.
When Dominicans gather in choir before the Blessed Sacrament, we begin our prayer by reciting the O sacrum convivium, an antiphon that honors the Eucharist by listing its most prominent effects.
O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis ejus:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.
O sacred banquet,
in which Christ becomes our food,
the memory of his Passion is recalled,
the soul is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory is given to us.
Memorized quickly by every Dominican novice, this antiphon was written by the saint we honor today, our brother Thomas Aquinas. That such a beautiful and pious text came from the pen of such a powerful intellect reminds us that all prayer, all study, all writing, all preaching, and all religious service to neighbor must take root in and point us back to the mysteries of Christ’s life and to the mysteries of his Church, which communicate Christ’s life to us. Through this antiphon, and indeed through his entire life, St. Thomas exhibits superlatively how the Eucharist serves as both the catalyst and the goal of the Church’s life in Christ. As preachers of grace and servants of the mysteries of Christ, we Dominicans do well to place Thomas’s words on our lips every time we gather for prayer.
The greatest of the Church’s mysteries, or sacraments, is the Blessed Sacrament, the sacrum convivium, and no other mystery occupied the priestly and poetic heart of St. Thomas like the Eucharist. He never let a day pass without celebrating Holy Mass, and on most days he would attend a second Mass as an act of thanksgiving. What’s more, St. Thomas demonstrated his acute skill at poetry and hymn writing by composing Eucharistic texts still in use in the Church’s Corpus Christi liturgies. His hymns especially remain familiar to many: Tantum ergo, O salutaris hostia, Adoro te devote. Though less familiar than these hymns, the O sacrum convivium has also been set to music. Posted below is Thomas Tallis’s setting for the antiphon.
As we celebrate today the feast of the Angelic and Common Doctor, we place our Eucharistic piety under his patronage and protection. May we grow in our love for the Sacrament of the Altar, which, as St. Thomas reminds us, is both our spiritual nourishment and the promise and foretaste of the eternal convivium that awaits us.
you made blessed Thomas
a herald of your wisdom
and an example of holiness of life for your Church;
by his merits and example,
grant us perpetually and truthfully to seek you,
and to love you above all things.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.