Catholic Prayer: Eucharistic Procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi
Pope John Paul II declared October 2004 through October 2005 as the "Year of the Eucharist." In his Apostolic Letter Mane nobiscum Domine he urged for the procession on Corpus Christi: "This year let us also celebrate with particular devotion the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, with its traditional procession. Our faith in the God who took flesh in order to become our companion along the way needs to be everywhere proclaimed, especially in our streets and homes, as an expression of our grateful love and as an inexhaustible source of blessings." Father Elliott has compiled from the various liturgical sources the proper ceremony for the procession on Corpus Christi.
695. The public procession of the Eucharist should be promoted everywhere, especially in the light of the example of Pope John Paul II, who took the annual Corpus Christi procession from St. Peter's Square to the streets of Rome . However, such a procession must be carefully planned. If it passes "through the streets", i.e., outside church property, it may be authorized only by the diocesan bishop, who should establish appropriate regulations to ensure respect for the Eucharist, a dignified celebration and full participation on the part of the people . What is described below for the solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi) may be used on other major occasions when this act of homage to Our Lord may also be celebrated, for example, "after a lengthy period of adoration", such as the annual solemn exposition or Forty Hours devotion.
696. Everything is prepared as usual: (a) for a solemn Mass with white vestments and (b) for exposition of the Eucharist. Six or four candles burn on the altar. An extra priest's host is placed on the paten or prepared in a lunette, to be consecrated for the procession. The monstrance is ready on a credence table. Extra candles and flowers may be set up in the sanctuary to enhance the festive occasion. A white cope may be placed near the chair.
Preparations for the Procession 697. In the sacristy, a second thurible is prepared during Communion. The two thurifers should be assisted by a boat bearer during the procession. A noble canopy (baldachin) attached to four or six staffs may be prepared outside the sanctuary, preferably near the seats of the people trained to carry it. Torch bearers should assist as for solemn Mass. Glasses to protect the torches or lanterns mounted on staffs may be used according to custom. Only eucharistic banners should be carried in the procession, never images of Our Lady or the saints. Banners of sodalities and Catholic movements may be carried by their representatives. A eucharistic banner may replace the processional cross. Hand candles are usually carried by those walking in the procession. If it is customary for children, such as first communicants, to strew flowers before the Eucharist, they should be trained to act in an orderly and reverent way, without impeding the procession. Members of the armed forces, the police, scouts or other bodies may escort the procession through the streets. Music may he provided by a choir and/or band, according to custom.
698. The route of the procession must be carefully defined. Well-placed loudspeakers and printed programs promote the full participation of the people-and help those watching the procession to be drawn into the celebration. In some countries, it is customary to decorate the houses and other buildings along the route . If the procession is long, the celebrant may stop at "altars" set up at convenient places where Benediction is given. The procession terminates with solemn Benediction, given either in or outside the church where it began, at another church or at some suitable place where the people can gather conveniently.
The Mass 699. The principal Mass of the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is celebrated, according to local custom. In the homily, the theological and spiritual significance of the procession should be explained. Directions to assist the faithful to take part should be provided at the time of the homily or set out in the program with the hymns and acclamations to he sung (luring the procession which should focus on the Lord .
700. At the fraction, the Host for the procession is either set apart on a paten or placed in the lunette (unless already consecrated in it). During Communion a server brings the empty monstrance to the altar, genuflects and places it to the left of the corporal. The missal and stand are removed.
In the sacristy, the two thurifers prepare the thuribles with an ample supply of charcoal and bring them to the sanctuary, leading the torch bearers, unless they have remained in the sanctuary since the Eucharistic Prayer. The ablutions are best carried out at the credence table. Clergy who are not concelebrants may put on white copes for the procession, but not eucharistic vestments which are reserved for concelebrants. Hand candles are distributed and lit.
701. The deacon or, lacking him, the celebrant, goes to the altar, places the Host in the monstrance, sets the monstrance on the corporal and genuflects. The deacon then goes to the chair, where the celebrant sings or says the Prayer after Communion. The blessing and dismissal are omitted. At the chair, the celebrant may remove the chasuble and put on a white cope. If the monstrance is heavy or the procession will he long, a sling may be put around his neck, over the stole, to take the weight of the monstrance. Directed by the M.C., the cross bearer and candle bearers take up a position in the aisle of the church, where they will lead the procession from the church.") Concelebrants and other clergy follow them and line up in the aisle, so that they will precede the canopy. The celebrant, deacon(s), M.C., torch hearers and thurifers line up in front of the altar, genuflect and then kneel.
The Procession 702. All kneel while a hymn of adoration is sung. Incense is prepared as at exposition, but in two thuribees. The Host is incensed as usual. Then the deacon or, if he is not present, a concelebrant or assistant priest goes to the altar with the celebrant. Both genuflect, and the deacon (concelebrant or assistant priest) places the monstrance in the celebrant's veiled hands. If he has no assisting clergy, the celebrant himself goes to the altar to take the monstrance in his veiled hands. If a sling is used, the deacon or the M.C. ensures that the monstrance rests securely in it, under the humeral veil.
703. All taking part in the procession stand. The celebrant turns or comes around to the front of the altar. His cope is held back by the deacon(s) as he slowly walks forward to an agreed point, where those bearing the canopy meet him and raise it over him and the deacon(s). The two thurifers and the boat bearer take their places in front of the canopy. As the first hymn begins, the procession proceeds in this order:
- the cross bearer carrying the cross or banner, flanked by the candle bearers;
- religious associations, sodalities, etc., perhaps carrying their own banners;
- religious in their habits;
- the clergy, in choir dress (and copes);
- the concelebrants of the Mass;
- the two thurifers in front of the canopy, customarily swinging the thuribles with their inside hands . (Note: They should not walk backwards. But the boat bearer walks to one side of them, not at the center. When required, he goes to the thurifiers and places incense in the thuribles in the course of the procession.)
704. Directly under the canopy walks the celebrant, carrying the Eucharist devoutly at eye-level, with the deacon(s) beside and slightly behind him, holding back his cope, if necessary. No one else walks beneath the canopy. The torch bearers with torches or lanterns walk along each side of the canopy. According to local custom, an escort from the armed forces, the police, scouts or a Catholic youth movement, etc., may also flank the canopy, but arranged farther out from the torch bearers and carefully spaced so as not to obscure the celebrant as he carries the Eucharist.
705. Directed by the ushers in the church, the people who are to walk in the procession follow the canopy, taking part in hymns and acclamations. The singing is led by the choir and cantor(s) — either walking in the midst of the people or singing from a fixed point, with appropriate amplification. The procession should move at a slow and reverent pace. Identifiable marshalls should control the ranks of a large procession, so that it does not become disordered. All those in the procession not already carrying something may carry a hand candle. Children trained to strew flowers are arranged according to local custom, but they are not mingled with the clergy or servers.
706. If the bishop carries the monstrance, he is flanked by two assistant deacons in dalmatics (or, lacking deacons, concelebrants), who walk beside and slightly behind him holding back his cope. There are some other variations in the order of procession. The clergy in choir dress are followed by the deacon(s) of the Mass, then the canons of the cathedral chapter and other priests, wearing copes, followed by visiting bishops wearing copes, but bareheaded, walking immediately in front of the thurifers. Those of higher rank walk nearer the Blessed Sacrament . Other visiting bishops wear choir dress but are bareheaded during the procession and immediately follow the canopy. Those of higher rank also walk nearer the Blessed Sacrament, in this case preceding others in the order of procession .
707. If the bishop does not carry the monstrance, he walks alone immediately before the canopy, bareheaded and carrying his crozier, but not blessing the people. If he celebrated the Mass, he wears vestments, otherwise a white cope. A bishop in choir dress comes immediately after the canopy.
708. As the procession goes through the streets or appointed area, the faithful not walking in it should kneel as the Blessed Eucharist passes by. As noted above, the procession may pause at suitably decorated "altars" for Benediction.
709. On returning to the church, or arriving at another church chosen and prepared for the final Benediction, the ceremonial escort, torch bearers and thurifers precede the canopy if the aisle is narrow. The canopy bearers stop in front of the sanctuary as the celebrant goes up to the altar. They move off to one side and put the canopy in a suitable place. The deacon takes the monstrance from the celebrant, places it on the corporal, and both genuflect. The M.C. or a server removes the humeral veil. Servers and torch bearers line up in the sanctuary for Benediction.
710. The celebrant and deacon(s) should wait until all the people have taken their places in the church and are kneeling. At a signal from the M.C., the hymn of adoration is sung, the Eucharist is incensed and Benediction is given as usual. Unless adoration is to continue, the Eucharist is reposed and a final hymn, acclamation or Marian antiphon may be sung. Clergy and servers proceed to the sacristy.
711. If the final Benediction is given in the open air, from the church steps, a balcony or other place, these arrangements are adapted accordingly. The Benediction hymn begins only once all the people have gathered, kneeling or standing in an orderly way in the designated area. After Benediction, the Eucharist is taken privately to the nearest tabernacle for reposition.
Prayer Source: Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite by Msgr. Peter J. Elliott, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1995