Corpus Christi. A great Solemnity of the Church, which celebrates the very source and summit of our pilgrimage on earth: the Holy Eucharist. This precious gift is the one thing that the angels would envy us for having, If they could experience a fault. We, mere mortals, receive the Lord Almighty in a tiny piece of bread, and a tiny drop of wine. We come to Him, walk up to Him, and beg Him to receive us as we receive Him.
But today there is more. Many parishes around the world have maintained the custom of a Eucharistic procession in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ. The monstrance (which contains the Beloved Guest in the Eucharist) is taken out, and into the streets. This custom may seem strange to those who experience it for the first time. Why take this Treasure out of the safety of a tabernacle or adoration chapel? Why walk through street with the Lord? Doesn’t this gift belong inside the church?
I too was confused by the tradition of processions when I first encountered them. As an unbeliever, it seemed so senseless to follow a meagre symbol, or even an “idol”. Who were these weirdoes anyhow, and why were they singing some strange songs, in a language I could not even decipher?!?
To a person who does not understand the devotion and love we as Catholics have for the Eucharist, it is a puzzling ritual. But to the believer, it is an outward expression of a deeply beautiful reality. In a procession, we are reminded that this life is but a pilgrimage to a greater goal, namely Heaven. As I walked in a procession today, I lost sight (visual contact) of the Eucharist on several occasions. This made me meditate upon the fact that, if I lose sight of Christ, I can still follow Him through His Mystical Body the Church. Christ is hidden in the Eucharist, and at times it appears that He hides Himself from our sight in an even deeper manner. It is at those moments that I have to rely on my brothers and sisters in Christ, so as not to wander away from the path. The Church is a nurturing Mother, and I really experienced this today, when I realized that we were all leading each other to Jesus! But Christ did not stop there. We not only have our brothers and sisters. We also have the beautiful sacrament of penance. If we stray, as we all do, we can run to Him in this sacrament and know for certain that we are forgiven. When a person leaves the confessional (after a good confession), he/she is back on the right path, ready to begin the pilgrimage anew. Ready to lead others to salvation! Ready to head the right way again.
In a procession, there is a commonly agreed-upon (but unspoken) flow or direction. This is also true of our trek through life. We need to keep our focus and momentum directed towards the only Light that matters. He came down from Heaven in order to draw us back to Himself when we had fallen away. What an act of ingratitude to turn and walk against the current! The humility required to continue walking in a common direction was brought to my attention during today’s procession as well. Despite the sunny and warm (ok, hot) day, no one turned back. No one gave up and walked his/her own way. We were united as the Body of Christ, following our Head.
Finally, a procession with the Holy Eucharist reminds us that God continually reaches up to His creation. I was struck today by the image before me: God venturing outside in order to come face-to-Face with His creation. As I was pondering this, a stronger gust of wind caused some of the surrounding trees to bow, as though reverently, before our Eucharistic Lord. The only response creation can give is to humble itself before the Creator who comes into our midst. So close is His touch! So close his gaze! This must change my outlook on life, especially when I am faced with his “not-so-perfect-in-my-perfect-world” people (guess I need to hit the confessional again for that one, eh?). How will I continue to this pilgrimage differently after today’s procession? How will this visible reminder of my humanity help me to reach my eternal destination? I will journey on, one step at a time, knowing that I have Christ and His Bride, the Church, to lead me. I am not alone. Alleluia to that!