The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – this is the full name of one of the most important solemnities celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church in countries which continue to be shaped by Latin civilisation.
The belief in the real and not only symbolic presence of Jesus Christ in the form of bread and wine of the Eucharist is one of the most significant features of Catholicism, which also distinguishes it from other forms of Christianity, mainly Protestantism. This belief in the real presence of Jesus Christ is also shared by churches representing Eastern Christianity with the Apostolic Tradition, such as the Orthodox Catholic Church.
Historically, the teachings on the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood have been passed on for many centuries, and they are mentioned in the New Testament. The Medieval Church experienced some controversy over the nature of the Holy Mass and what actually happens during the Eucharist.
These controversies were resolved in the 13th century in favour of those who advocated a view of the real and not only symbolic presence of Christ in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. In the second half of the century, Pope Urban IV established a feast that is still celebrated today across the entire Church.
In Poland, the celebrations of Corpus Christi have always had a dignified character. On that Holy day, people were exempt from work, and the Corpus Christi procession comprised representatives of entire communities. The accepted custom states that the canopy over the monstrance is carried by local government officials, while during processions of higher importance, this honour is bestowed on the representatives of the state authorities.
The Corpus Christi processions in Poland are a symbol of a living bond with the foundations of the Latin civilisation.