Yesterday was the Feast of Corpus Christi, celebrating the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. After Mass (in which we did part of the incredible Lauda Sion), there was a procession from the church to the cemetary, where we prayed a rosary. Along the way, we sang Pange Lingua. It was beautiful and profound experience, which you can see the photos of here. I’d post them, but since they’re for sale on the site, I don’t think I’m supposed to.
In any case, I was blessed to be allowed to carry the canopy covering the monstrance (I was the back left corner), along with three other guys from my men’s group. You can tell from the pictures which one of us has military experience carrying flags (hint: it’s not me). Two other guys from men’s group served as marshals to keep the roads clear, as the City of Alexandria refused to give us a parade permit.
As for the procession itself, it consisted of an altar boy carrying the crucifix, followed by a number of altar boys carrying candles, followed by the first Communicants and a family member or two. Another altar boy came next, this one armed with incense (you can see him, in red and white, in the ninth photo from the top). His job was probably the hardest, since he was incensing the monstrance while walking backwards for much of the six blocks. Immediately behind him was, of course, the canopy. Underneath the canopy was Fr. Kleinmann, holding the monstrance, which in turn contained Jesus Christ Himself. Behind the canopy were a few people holding banners for various St. Mary’s groups, followed by a pretty good number of parishoners willing to give up an extra hour of their Sunday to worship God. For his part, Fr. De Celles (who you can see exiting the church in the third picture) went ahead of us, and was in charge of making sure everything ran smoothly: that everyone knew what they were doing, where they were going, how fast to move, and so on.
Since I was holding the canopy, and the weather got pretty treacherous looking on the way back, I wasn’t very focused on much other than trying to hold the canopy straight, avoid hitting trees, and get some “me & God” time in. But at a few moments, I was aware of our being watched by the people we were passing. Some of the people’s reactions were beautiful: the maintenance worker at the cemetary took off his hat in reverence when he saw us, and quietly prayed as we entered the grounds. Others seemed more baffled, which (particularly if you’re not Catholic) makes sense.
In the seventh picture, there’s a guy drinking something he got at Safeway while watching. One of my friends from St. Mary’s remarked:
Contrasting the man’s appearance with the reverence of the procession is a sad commentary on how many in our society do not realize Christ as he walks by us daily (or as we walk by him, as is the case everytime we pass a Catholic Church). It would be interesting to catch up with that man later in the day and ask what it was like having the flesh of Jesus Christ walk within feet of him. What a beautiful witness to someone who probably did not recognize it. Having said this, I do not mean to criticize the bystanders but hope they were blessed!
I completely agree. The point isn’t that this man seems to have missed (or misunderstood) the most important event of his day, an encounter with Christ in the Flesh. The point is that we all routinely miss encounters with Christ: be they encounters with our neighbors, particularly the poor (Matthew 25:45); or in the stillness and quiet time with God to which we’re called (Psalm 46:10); or, in a very special way, in the Eucharist, and by extension, all tabernacles everywhere (Matthew 26:26).
The title for the post, Christ is Passing By, comes from a book by St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. In it, he writes:
On this feast of Corpus Christi in cities and towns throughout the world, Christians accompany our Lord in procession. Hidden in the host he moves through the streets and squares — just as during his earthly life — going to meet those who want to see him, making himself available to those who are not looking for him. And so, once more, he comes among his own people. How are we to respond to this call of his?
The external signs of love should come from the heart and find expression in the testimony of a christian life. If we have been renewed by receiving our Lord’s body, we should show it. Let us pray that our thoughts be sincere, full of peace, self-giving and service. Let us pray that we be true and clear in what we say — the right thing at the right time — so as to console and help and especially bring God’s light to others. Let us pray that our actions be consistent and effective and right, so that they give off “the good fragrance of Christ,” evoking his way of doing things.The Corpus Christi procession makes Christ present in towns and cities throughout the world. But his presence cannot be limited to just one day, a noise you hear and then forget. It should remind us that we have to discover our Lord in our ordinary everyday activity.
Side by side with this solemn procession, there is the simple, silent procession of the ordinary life of each Christian. He is a man among men, who by good fortune has received the faith and the divine commission to act so that he renews the message of our Lord on earth. We are not without defects; we make mistakes and commit sins. But God is with us and we must make ourselves ready to be used by him, so that he can continue to walk among men.Let us ask our Lord then to make us souls devoted to the blessed Eucharist, so that our relationship with him brings forth joy and serenity and a desire for justice. In this way we will make it easier for others to recognize Christ; we will put Christ at the centre of all human activities. And Jesus’ promise will be fulfilled: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
Happy Belated Corpus Christi!