Who is the first person since Jesus to have Cambridge and Oxford colleges named after him?
In 1973 one of the colleges in Cambridge changed its named from “University College” to “Wolfson College”. There was already a Wolfson College in Oxford, also named after Sir Isaac Wolfson, founder of the incredibly generous Wolfson Foundation. It was observed with humour at the time that Sir Isaac was the first person since Jesus to have colleges named after him in both universities. Indeed, both have a Jesus College and a Trinity College, Cambridge has Christ’s College and Oxford has Christchurch.
However, there is one particular aspect of our faith in Our Lord that also has colleges named after it in both – and that is Corpus Christi. In Cambridge, Corpus Christi College was established way back in 1352 by the Guild of Corpus Christi. “The other place” followed a little later in 1517, when Corpus Christi Oxford was founded by the Bishop of Winchester.
The fact that both of our ancient universities have such colleges reminds us how ancient is this feast in honour of the Holy Eucharist. It seems to have started in the early 1200s and was established for the whole church over the next century. By the time the Colleges were founded it was an extremely important Feast in the Church’s Year, and many institutions were dedicated to Corpus Christi. Sadly only some 30 years after the Oxford College was founded the Church of England abolished the feast, though it has been revived in many Anglican churches.
So in celebrating this feast in honour of the Body and Blood of Christ, we are joining millions across the world and down through the centuries. Let us use the day to renew and joyfully deepen our own faith in what our First Holy Communion programme calls “God’s Greatest Gift”.