I had never seen a Eucharistic procession before this time in my life. I had been to Eucharistic Adoration, but not seen the Eucharist processed through the streets as some communities do all around the world. I have since then traveled to many places around the world and seen Corpus Christi celebrated in a way that I, personally, wish that we would do more of in the States.
In Guatemala, each family created altars and shrines to the Blessed Mother and the Blessed Sacrament in their homes. The priest would then bring the Eucharist through the streets and into their homes to bless their house and visit their shrines. We followed the Eucharist into each person's space and said prayers for and with them.
Because of our current time of quarantine, it is hard to picture something like this happening right now. It is hard to picture people in large groups going with each other into a small space like someone's home. We are being socially distanced in our Churches now and, even in these larger spaces, it is still challenging for us to pray together. But Eucharist is still happening. Eucharist, in many ways, may not look like what it did before COVID-19 hit, but we are gathering as a body as best as we can and we are finding new ways to be the Body of Christ.
Similarly, during this time in which our country is once again discussing the need for systemic change in our country's many structures, I am wondering if these protests are not, in a way, a form of Eucharistic Processions in our time? Follow me here. We have had many processions through the streets recently where I live here in Richmond. People have organized and brought their voices and instruments to the streets to call attention to black lives and the need for change in our country regarding everything from monuments to white men who fought to keep black people enslaved, to dismantling the systems we have in place that still ultimately oppress people of color. Are these protests not still processions of the Body of Christ?
As the priest at the Mass that I went to today reminded us, WE are the Body of Christ. We sing songs in Mass about being the Body of Christ, but what does it really mean to be it? I think we are seeing what it means in very real ways today.
While Christ as the head is perfect, the body is not. The body of Christ can be broken and is certainly suffering right now, but that does not make it less of the body. In a Eucharistic procession, the priest and the people draw the community to Christ. With the Body of Christ literally in the monstrance, we ask the community to receive Christ and our message that He is with us. I know that the protests have not done this in the same way, but have they not drawn attention to their message and the suffering parts of the body?
The Body of Christ is not always pretty. When Christ was bleeding on that Cross, after enduring beatings and scourging, it may have been easier for some people to look away from His Body. The Body of Christ right now is literally and figuratively bleeding. Are we going to help it? Contemplate it? Take care of it? Do what we can to engage with it? Receive it? Or are we going to look away?
St. Paul says:
"But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,
so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy."- 1 Corinthians 12: 24-26
I pray that our Church and its members may not look away from the parts of the body that are suffering right now. They are literally calling out to us and processing in the streets. I know personally that it is much easier not to engage in that hard conversation with that person that may not agree with me. I have deleted my own share of posts or comments on social media rather than engage that person in conversation. But am I lifting up the Body of Christ if I don't have that conversation or am I looking away from it?
When I think about Christ and His ministry, He went to all of the broken parts of the Body: the poor, the prostitute, the tax collector and engaged with them. He said things like: "take me to your house for dinner!" "Come down from that tree!" "Go, and rejoice, your faith has saved you!" We need to be Christ on earth and engage in these times with the people we may have rather looked away from. It is one way that we can uphold and help the Body of Christ right now. We should see the Body processing in the streets and receive the message that it has for us so that we can then better engage with that part and bring it to Christ, the Head.
Happy Feast of Corpus Christi.