Sunday, May 29, 2016

Celebrating Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi Brisbane 2016
On the last weekend in May 2016 Catholics celebrated  one of the most flamboyant of days, Corpus Christi.. It rivals Easter and Christmas for sheer energy and presence.Thanks to Google we can also get an idea of the rich diversity this day breathes into the Catholic community life. Some celebrations are full on formalities with every bit of clerical fashion on display. Others are a more casual affair with whatever props and costumes happen to be on hand.


In 1246, Bishop Robert de Thorete of the diocese of Liège, at the suggestion of St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon (also in Belgium), convened a synod and instituted the celebration of the feast. From Liège, the celebration began to spread, and, on September 8, 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull "Transiturus," which established the Feast of Corpus Christi as a universal feast of the Church, to be celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.


Digression: I have an absolute fascination with everything in Liege. The city is the hometown of my favourite saint, Christina the Astonishing, Virgin (always pronounce the comma as she wasn't just an astonishing virgin)


Back to the history lesson: At the request of Pope Urban IV, St. Thomas Aquinas composed the Divine Office (the official prayers of the Church) for the feast. This office is widely considered one of the most beautiful in the traditional Roman Breviary (the official prayer book of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours), and it is the source of the famous Eucharistic hymn "Pange Lingua Gloriosi" From this classic hymn we also have another  "Tantum Ergo Sacramentum." The tune popular in Australia has been given a beautiful contemporary setting by Matt Maher. In this pic of the era you can see Tom  and Urban discussing a fishing trip. Waiting patiently to the side is the learned St Bonaventure who missed the boat that day.Image source
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Digression 2 Dear old Google has managed to cause great confusion among traditional Catholics. When you do a Google image search for "Corpus Christi" you don't actually get the cool religious images unless you choose the "Feast" tab. . The default choice includes  scenic views from the City of Corpus Christi. 




The traditional Corpus Christi Procession is a full on parade of various clerics,religious and members of lay associations watched by the loyal laity. They still take to the streets in some cities but others as my home city of Brisbane now just make do with a few laps of a school oval. Don't you love this pic of Pope Benny XVI doing wheelies as part of the ritual in Rome (more links)

The last Sunday of May in Brisbane this year brought a good number of Catholics into the public square for the feast of Corpus Christi. In recent years this event has happened in the suburban quiet of Nudgee Junior College.  But in keeping with its more flamboyant expression in Europe the procession this year took to the streets doing a lap of honour “around the block” from the Cathedral of St Stephen in true Australian style.

This was a religious event Western style. Solemnity and lots of men featured in bulk. However as happens with religion, those on the sidelines also feature in my photo documentary  from a sleeping patron in Anzac Park to a Big Issue vendor  who sells outside the Cathedral. The procession also walked past some of the great temples of commercial worship as a political statement of other values.

The feast and its procession provides a platform for a particular feature of Catholicism that has a strong sense of nostalgia for life when Bing Crosby was everyone’s favourite priest and Archbishop Fulton Sheen swooned around the old black and white TV sets. By a strange irony Hugh Mackay was down the road at St John's Anglican Cathedral at the same time reflecting on his new book, Beyond Belief.

See the Brisbane Corpus Christi Procession 2016 here.

To leave you with a woman's insight of what the feast of the Body and Christ is really all about I suggest you sit with the image and text of Laura Facey


I dedicate this page to the brave people and Bishops who protested at the  1981  naming of the USA attack submarine, Corpus Christi. 

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