I have just returned from our Corpus Christi celebrations, exhausted but happy.
To all those who like us here in Germany are celebrating Corpus Christi today I wish a happy and holy feast day (as of course I do to those who have to wait until Sunday).
Our outdoor Mass at the war memorial began at 9.30 a.m. in brilliant sunshine -hundreds in the congregation (too many to fit into the church at the end of the procession – and many had already fallen by the wayside at that stage), seven priests (of whom three are retired and two from India), forty-five altar servers from 7 to 77, sixty first communion children in their white dresses and dark suits, banners, flags, a brass band, and lots of bells and smells, and this is all one mega-parish.
After Mass the procession began with a verger leading the way in his bright red robes and hat, the sacrament group surrounded by men in their local militia uniform carrying lanterns and four holding the baldacchino.
Altogether the procession lasted two hours, we prayed a large number of litanies (including one Latin American one) and St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun, sang approaching ten hymns alternating between the band and the people, so that a six-verse hymn actually lasted twelve verses. On the procession route there were three stations, richly-decorated altars with a sea of flowers and banners – in fact the whole route was festooned with banners – and at each station there were prayers, a gospel reading, intercessions, a sacramental benediction and a hymn. We walked right through the beautiful, large cemetery.
The fourth and final station was in the church. The choir sang the Ave verum and a polyphonic Tantum ergo in Latin and the Benediction prayers were said in Latin too. After the final sacramental benediction the people broke into a Te Deum (this time in German) which almost lifted the rafters.
And so out into the sweltering sunshine – I had already shed my sweater after the first part of the procession – and round the side of the church to the parish hall for fellowship, sausages and drinks. (I really needed this refreshment and nourishment as I still had to walk all the way back to the war memorial to pick up my car.) As we ate and chatted, the band played, this time popular music (You raise me up, etc.). You will probably understand my surprise when they suddenly played the tune from Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian” – Always look on the bright side of Life/Death. I must admit that this was the first time I had heard this tune at a church event!
All in all it was a wonderful morning and midday, and I was happy to be here – even an Ordinariate community would have had difficulty in attaining a more holy beauty or beautiful holiness.