Sacred scripture suggests that God was in the habit of walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. (cf. Gn 3:8) What’s more, their walks took place “in the breezy time of the day”—with the “spirit” or “breath” surrounding them. They talked, too (what else, since “in the beginning was the Word who was God”)—God calling to Adam and Adam responding to Him. And all this walking and talking with man took place amidst the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge.
Sacred scripture similarly suggests that, in the end, we can experience another walk with God: this time in a restored garden, with the Trinity present and welcoming man to eat freely and regularly from the tree of life. (cf. Rv 2:7; 22:1-5)
How wonderful it would have been in the beginning to spend an evening strolling arm in arm with God and talking about the day. And how glorious will it be to “eat from the tree of life in the garden of God” (Rv 2:7) in the midst of His company. If only we could experience, in some small way, these same realities today.
Oh, but wait: We can.
Every year, the Church dedicates a Sunday to celebrating, in an especially intense way, the body and blood of Christ. Often simply called Corpus Christi—“Body of Christ”—this second Sunday after Pentecost (June 11 in 2023) calls the faithful to not only pray the Mass and Divine Office in honor of this most Blessed Sacrament, but sees the Blessed Sacrament processing in regal solemnity through streets and neighborhoods.
St. Albert the Great referred to the Eucharist as “the fruit of the tree of life.” Thus, as we walk in procession, we do so with the life-giving food from the true Tree of Life. And God—the Trinity—walks with us. “God is a perfect communion of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” writes Pope Benedict XVI, and in the Eucharist the Trinity “becomes fully a part of our human condition,” traveling with us along the road to heaven.
When members of parishes, schools and apostolates gathered for our diocesan Eucharistic Revival kickoff earlier this year, they discussed numerous ideas for a successful celebration in the months ahead such as study groups, personal testimonies and recovery of reverence. But at the top of the long list of worthy suggestions stood the monstrance. It was clear that the faithful sought to celebrate the Eucharistic Revival by adoring the body of Christ in eucharistic adoration and procession.
There is, then, great theological and spiritual substance to the practice of processions, as well as a local desire to see such processions in the future. How, practically, does a Corpus Christi procession unfold?
Ideally, a Corpus Christi procession follows the celebration of Mass. The Mass itself, says Pope Benedict XVI, “is the Church’s supreme act of adoration,” and any extra-liturgical devotion finds its source in the celebration at the altar, which is the representation of the cross, the Tree of Life, and its yield of life-giving fruit, the Eucharist. The Church’s ritual book that guides eucharistic processions states, “It is fitting that a eucharistic procession begin after the Mass in which the host to be carried in the procession has been consecrated.” (Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass [HCWEOM], 103) With the newly consecrated host now placed within the monstrance, the procession begins.
The priest (or deacon) wears a white cope when carrying the monstrance, while “lights, incense and the canopy under which the priest carrying the Blessed Sacrament walks.… It is fitting that the procession should go from one church to another. Nevertheless, if local circumstances require, the procession may return to the same church where it began. At the end of the procession, Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament should be given in the church where the procession ends.… Then the Blessed Sacrament is reposed.” (HCWEOM 105-8).
Along the way of this walk with God, the rite encourages “stations where the eucharistic blessing is given.… Songs and prayers should be so directed that all proclaim their faith in Christ and direct their attention to the Lord alone.” (HCWEOM 104)Long ago, our first parents walked and talked with God in a garden; in years to come, we, their children, hope to do the same in heaven’s restored garden. Providing a link between the old garden and the new Eden is the unique road of the Corpus Christi procession. On it, we sojourn with the Trinity, while we keep our eyes fixed on the fruit of the true Tree of Life. Don’t miss it!
Director of the Office for Sacred Worship
Published in the May/June 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine
Virtual Conference for Eucharistic Renewal Mark Hart, The Bible Geek, will be leading the Witnesses for Christ virtual conference on Monday, Aug. 21 from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. This national speaker will take you through the eucharistic connections found in the Bible. Cost is $10 per person and will include his book entitled “The Divine Encounter.” Be sure to make this conference part of your Eucharistic Revival. For more information and to register, visit diolc.org/witness or use your smartphone’s camera to scan this QR code.