Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Corpus Christi, June 7, 2012

the procession of people behind the Monstrance
one shrine in Ave. Heroinas
Thursday, June 7th was the Feast of Corpus Christi in Bolivia.  In the United States, it is celebrated on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday.  The liturgical calendar shows that there are seven Sundays of Easter, followed by the next three Sundays that are solemnities: Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and The Body and Blood of Christ. [1]  In Latin America, the Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated not on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday, but on the Thursday  that follows Trinity Sunday.  The feast day reminds Catholics of the institution of the Eucharist and their belief in the real presence of Christ in the elements of Communion.

another shrine
In Bolivia, the Feast of Corpus Christi (meaning the body of Christ) is a public holiday, like All Saints Day (November 1).   I am one who stumbles upon holidays while on mission in Bolivia. During Mass on Trinity Sunday, I heard the announcement that the Corpus Christi Mass would be held at 7:00 p.m. in our neighborhood church.  Later that week, when attending the feast day for St. Norbert at the Franciscan Church, on June 6th, I learned that there would be a procession the next day, Corpus Christi, in which the Monstrance (the large receptacle in which the Host is displayed) would be carried throughout the center of the city, in a path that encircled the Cathedral. 

I had participated in most of the processions during Holy Week this year. On Thursday night during Holy Week, Catholics in the city make a pilgrimage to all the churches in Cochabamba, a flood of people moving from one church to another, stopping to pray at each altar. On Friday during Holy Week, a funeral procession in memory of Jesus’ death on Good Friday, takes place. One of our friends informed Joel and me that this re-enactment seemed so real, almost as if one could actually experience Jesus’ death on Good Friday.   Of course, Jesus did not have a funeral procession years ago. He was hurriedly placed in the tomb on a Friday afternoon, the anointing of the body to be carried out the following Sunday.

The procession of Corpus Christ reminds me of the Bolivian Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, when the faithful walk from shrine to shrine (fifteen in all). In this ritual, we walked from one house to another in our neighborhood, where the families had created shrines for each station of the Cross.

In the city at Corpus Christi, different churches have set up shrines throughout the city.  The procession stops at each shrine, where the liturgy is read, the Lord’s Prayer and a Hail Mary are recited, a song is sung, and the people move on.

I joined the procession when it was moving through Heroinas, one of the main streets in the city.  I marveled at the simplicity of the procession, the people following the Monstrance of the Host, beneath a white and gold protective canopy. In the procession was a band, playing solemn music, children from different Catholic schools, in uniform, and of course, at the head of the procession, Bishop Tito, and as many priests from the archdiocese as one could imagine—at the end of the procession, the Maryknoll priests, some of whom had come from far away, out in the countryside.  Sometimes the music from the loudspeaker overlapped with the music of the choirs, and sometimes the brass band, with percussion, of course, began its music too soon. It was not choreographed perfectly, but its simplicity was pleasing.  The people were solemn, and there was no sign of street vendors hawking cotton candy, buñuelos, or plastic toys. In a culture where color, lights, loud music, and dance usually hold sway, this procession was subdued, stately, reverent.
as the crowd circled back to the Cathedral
we passed the floral designs of the Eucharist

[1] A solemnity is the highest ranking feast day in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, commemorating an event in the life of Jesus, his mother Mary, or another important saint. The observance begins with the vigil on the evening before the actual feast day. So what event is being commemorated in Corpus Christi? It is the feast day that commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, even though this institution is part of the Easter Triduum (the three days before Easter—Holy Thursday,when the Eucharist was instituted by Christ--, Good Friday, and the Holy Saturday vigil before Easter).   Church history states that this solemnity was established to set aside one day for the Eucharist itself, since Holy Thursday Mass commemorates Christ’s giving a new commandment (that Christians love one another just as Christ has loved the early disciples), the institution of foot washing, and the agony in Gethsemane.

No comments:

Post a Comment