Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why is This Feast Still Fresh After 800 Years?

Friday I wrote about watching a Corpus Christi procession broadcast live from Rome by EWTN. Today, our parish had its own celebration of the feast, processing out the front doors after the 10:30 Mass and moving up the main street while police barricaded either end. Then we took a left around behind the YMCA and returned by the far side of the church, where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed beneath a canopy.

Something about this final scene recalled the Italian heritage of many of our oldest parish families: the red brick walls and iron balustrades leading to the sacristy door, the lace-like canopy, the young altar servers and veiled First Communicants at left, the man in suspenders at right, and the violinist—a visiting seminarian adding a Neapolitan touch. All that was lacking was an organ grinder.

Our new assistant pastor, Father Chateau, knelt in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Then after a reading from the Bread of Life discourse from the Gospel of John by our pastor, Father Barnes, Father Chateau gave a joyous, moving homily on the power of faith to change our lives today.

The contrast was striking when, with my wife and daughter, I sat later in the afternoon to watch a stage magic show. This was not just any stage magic show, but in fact the “longest-running resident stage magic show in history.” For many years, my wife, our daughters, and I had been performers in this show, but now we watched as friendly non-participants. The show is in its 35th “wonder-making” year, and if you think I’m kidding, check out the Web site

It is hard to keep any stage production going for a single year, much less 35. The effects of time, fatigue, and passing fashion make it inevitable that a show that opened in 1977 would become, in ways too numerous to mention, a shadow of its former self. Performers once in their 30s are now over 60. Routines that were fresh have become, well, routine. Being a magic show, it still has sparkle, but its aging humanity has long since shown its wrinkles.

Why was the Corpus Christi procession so fresh, so youthful, so alive? Corpus Christi, as a Latin rite feast, is about 800 years old, or 20 twenty times more aged than our magic show. What is present here that isn’t there? It is a question I carried with me for the rest of the day and take to bed with me now.

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