Today we celebrate The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi. This feast commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist. The feast began in Liege in 1246 and was extended throughout the Church in the West by Pope Urban IV in 1264. Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote the Liturgy of the Hours for this feast. The custom of the Corpus Christi procession dates back to the 14th century.
Presentation of the Gifts: One of the most ancient customs of the Church is that of the people themselves providing the bread and wine for the Eucharist. In 3rd century Rome the deacons carried and presented to the bishop the gifts brought by the faithful. By the 4th century the bread and wine were brought forth by lay persons and placed on tables and then taken by the deacon to the altar. In 7th century Rome, the Pope received the bread and wine brought forth by the faithful from assistants or deacons. As the Roman Liturgy spread to other lands, this rite became a true procession of all the people. Included in the procession of the bread and wine were, at times, oil, candles, wheat, grapes, and other items of precious value. With the change from leavened to unleavened bread (possibly around the 11th century) the procession gradually disappeared even though there are some indications that the procession continued down to the end of the Middle Ages. By the 11th century the presentation of the bread and wine by the faithful was generally replaced by the giving of money. The Order of Mass has restored the procession in a simple form with representative members of the assembly bringing up the bread and wine. “At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist the gifts, which will become Christ’s Body and Blood, are brought to the altar.” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, #73)