I'm thinking about this feast, not just because it's one of my favorites feasts of the Liturgical Calendar, but because I saw this post from the Adoremus Bulletin in my Facebook feed. The author, Dr. Marcel Antonio Brown, describes the connections between the feast of Corpus Christi and the York Mystery Plays, beyond the fact that they were performed in honor of the feast. For example:
Joseph’s Trouble About Mary, sponsored by a guild which manufactured liturgical items such as thuribles, dramatizes Joseph’s difficulty in comprehending the Virgin-with-Child, the great mystery or sacramentum of Christ’s Body. The wonder of Joseph becomes specifically Eucharistic in The Nativity when Mary welcomes the Christ-child with a litany used by the late-medieval lay faithful during the Elevation of the Host at Mass. At the end of the play, Mary and Joseph lay the Christ-child in the manger while repeating together a vernacular version of the prayer prescribed for the priest’s quiet recitation in Latin (tacita voce) at the end of each Mass in accord with the rubrics of the York Missal. The Nativity subtly shows that the Body of Christ, the Christ-child born in the stables at Bethlehem, is thus made present at every Mass, a miracle celebrated in sacred drama in York on Corpus Christi Day.If you click on footnote #4, you'll see that Brown directs you to a source published in 1942:
See R. H. Robbins, “Levation Prayers in Middle English Verse” (Modern Philology 40.2, 1942), p. 136, where the early fifteenth-century MS Royal 17.C.xvii provides an analogy for lines 57-63 of the York Nativity.The verses he highlights, lines 57 to 63, are:
Hayle, my Lord God, hayle prince of pees,
Hayle my Fadir, and hayle my Sone,
Hayle sovereyne sege all synnes to sesse,
Hayle God and man in erth to wonne!
Hayle, thurgh whos myht
All this worlde was first begonne,
Merknes and light.
These prayers exist in a variety of vernacular forms; as Russell Hope Robbins has argued, the heightened emotion of this moment required laity to pray in the language they knew best.4 Perhaps for the same reason, writers who offered their own suggestions for levation prayer stressed that it did not matter which version the laity used, so long as they prayed in some form.
The Bakers were an obvious choice for the Last Supper since bread was an essential requirement for the institution of the Eucharist. No event in biblical history could be of greater significance in relation to the feast of Corpus Christi, which was a celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist in liturgical rite and procession as well as, at York, the plays. It is thus all the more unfortunate that, due to the loss of a leaf between lines 89 and 90, the central portion of the narrative with its representation of the blessing of the bread and wine is missing. The actions performed by Jesus at the table very likely were modeled on the gestures of the priest in consecrating the elements at Mass.