This Sunday: Like the Dewfall …

This Sunday is Corpus Christi Sunday (Year A) — the Body and Blood of Christ. One of the most arresting lines from the liturgy to be restored by the new translation of the Mass is its reference to the Holy Spirit preparing to receive the body and blood of Christ on the altar “like the dewfall”:

“Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit on them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

An ancient poem from the early days of Catholic England describes the original coming of the body of Christ to Mary with a similar reference to dew:

“He came as still
Where his mother was
As dew in April
That falleth on the grass.

He came as still
To his mother’s bower
As dew in April
That falleth on the flower.

He came as still
Where his mother lay
As dew in April
That falleth on the spray.”

The lines, the readings, and the Eucharistic Prayer all describe the same thing: The Trinitarian God brings Jesus to us with the unstoppable but subtle power of dew.

After all, this is exactly what Jesus describes in the Gospel: “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

He is referencing the same story Moses is referencing in the first reading, when he says:

“Do not forget the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery; who guided you through the vast and terrible desert …  and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers.”

What brought the manna? The dewfall. “In the morning there was a layer of dew all about the camp,” says the Book of Exodus, “and when the layer of dew evaporated, fine flakes were on the surface of the wilderness, fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground” (Exodus 16:13-14).”

The experience taught the Israelites much about God. They learned that he was their provider — not just each season, but every day, since manna had to be collected each morning and wouldn’t keep. They learned they could live by his word, trusting his promise to give them what they needed. They learned that he wasn’t necessarily showy or flashy or obvious, but that he was as quiet and consistent as the dew.

Now Jesus tells us that he himself has become the manna that is left for us.

The order of his coming is always the same as it was at the Annunciation. Remember what Gabriel said to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

First comes the Holy Spirit, the quiet dew. Then comes the power of God’s word; and then, like the manna, Jesus is there.

Only now, the dew doesn’t leave an insubstantial, temporary food, but “the bread that came down from heaven.” It is as if we are all receiving what Isaac prayed Jacob (mistaken for Esau) would receive:

“Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine” (Genesis 27:28).

When we make bread and wine, the dewfall is changed to something hearty and lasting — bread, which is universal to all cultures, which nourishes us and can last for days in the tabernacle. And when the priest confects the Blessed Sacrament, the bread and wine are changed into something eternal — Corpus Christi, the body and blood of Christ. As Paul reminds us in the second reading: “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

So receive the host not just like the Israelites received the manna, but like Mary received Jesus Christ within her, and know that you are experiencing the coming of God in your daily life.

His coming is powerful but imperceptible, subtle but refreshing  — mysterious, life-giving, and abundant. Just like the dewfall.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. His book What Pope Francis Really Said is now available on Audible. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, Hoopes served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.