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Feast of Corpus Christi

Header - Feast of Corpus Christi, Toledo Spain by Felipe Barandiaran

 

As an ancient Spanish proverb has it, there are three Thursdays that shine more than the sun:
Holy Thursday, Ascension Thursday and Corpus Christi.

 

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The morning is bright.  I climb on foot –panting - the steep slopes of the city.   My car has been left by the river, for if driving around Toledo is usually a complex task, on Corpus Christi it is impossibility, since the city’s narrow streets are closed.  I am short of breath, because the city is located on top of a steep hill, defended by the Tagus River and medieval walls.

As I walk, I join many other Toledo residents and visitors who hasten, like me, to attend the grand procession.

Although the winds of vulgarity that sweep today's world have banished the good habit of dressing better on Sundays and holy days, in Toledo today, all wear their best.  Every lady is arrayed with some new garment, and I enjoy watching them, enchanted as they show one another their outfits for this special occasion.

As I approach Zocodover Square, the nerve center of the small town, high up, I hear a volley of mortars indicating that the Pontifical Mass is over and the procession is beginning to exit the Cathedral through the Llana door.

People are stationed throughout the entire route. Only those participating in the actual procession – half of Toledo – and some guests have been able to attend the Mass inside the cathedral.

 Impatient but quiet, the “other half” of Toledo masses right up against the walls in order to clear the way for the procession.

The road is dotted with wet sand and aromatic plants (lavender, rosemary and thyme), and the balconies adorned with rich, embroidered veils and flags, colorful shawls, garlands, lanterns and cheerful flower baskets.

As a sign of respect and to protect the Blessed Sacrament, traditional white canvas awnings made by weavers guilds cover the streets, and extend from one house to another.

Now I can see Civil Guards on horseback leading the procession. Behind them march the City Hall drummers and the Civil Guard band.  Then, the "beadle" follows dressed in black, carrying a staff with the same height as the monstrance in order to make sure there is proper clearance.  He insures no mishap will hinder the splendor of the procession.  This grave gentleman is followed by a fifteenth century processional cross, a gift from King Alfonso V of Portugal, known as “the African.”

Displaying my ‘Press’ card, I walk quietly in the opposite direction of the procession. The whole itinerary is protected by cadets of the Infantry Academy, a legendary institution that defended the Alcazar fortress in the 1936 war against communism.

Feast of Corpus Christi - Image 1

The procession forms two parallel lines, having in the center the priors, chaplains and dignitaries of each guild preceded by their corresponding standard and carrying a staff, medal or element that distinguishes them from the other members .

I pass by the Gardeners’ Guild. They are followed by boys and girls who have made their First Communion, groups of the Lay Apostolate and Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, and more than twenty brotherhoods with their respective banners, the Hospitality of Lourdes, and third order members of religious congregations.

Feast of Corpus Christi - Image 2

With the rhythm of its instruments, the City Council music band draws tears of emotion.  I press forward, as I want to get to the door of the Cathedral. There is little room.  The wonderful symbiosis between the public and the procession, teeming with life brings a sublime order of calm and poise to the city.

I can now see the women religious of apostolic life, the Knights of the Order of Malta, the Chapter of the Mozarabic Knights, of the Holy Sepulcher, the Noblemen of Illescas, the Knights of Corpus Christi, and others who proudly display their distinctive crosses on their capes.

The seminarians, the regular and secular clergy, the Brotherhood of the Holy Charity, the famous Cross of Mendoza, pass by with the acolytes and the Chapter leader.

Feast of Corpus Christi - Image 3

Luckily, I am already facing the Cathedral, next to the military company which forms the line of honor.  From the outer walls hang forty-eight huge seventeenth century Flemish tapestries with Eucharistic allegories, woven especially for this celebration.

The famous Toledo monstrance, commissioned by Cardinal Cisneros to Enrique de Arfe, a great sixteenth century silversmith, is about to cross the threshold of the Llana door. I feel people around me holding their breath. The thrilling silence that precedes the monstrance’s appearance gives way to an apotheosis of applause, drowned only by the roar of the twenty-one firing guns (due to the King) and the solemn ringing of bells. The military formation salutes the Blessed Sacrament as the band furiously plays the Royal March. Through the cloud of incense that envelops us, the Blessed Sacrament advances slowly.  God is with us!

Feast of Corpus Christi - Image 4

The rich Gothic monstrance, made with over 400 pounds of silver and almost 40 pounds of gold, is mounted on a carriage with flowers and escorted by the cadets of the Infantry Academy.  Behind it follows the second part of the procession, which includes the highest dignitaries: the Archbishop Primate and his entourage, the regional and provincial authorities, the City Mayor with his staff and the university faculty.  Closing the procession parades the Honor Guard of the Infantry Academy, with its flag and music band.

The monstrance stops at a small podium set up at the crowded Zocodover Square and a blessed speaker delivers the great sermon of Eucharistic praise. When he finishes, the crowd accompanies the procession back to the cathedral, devoutly chanting the popular hymn of adoration:

 

Let us all sing to praise the Love of loves,
O come sing to the Lord,
God is here indeed! Come o ye adorers,
To worship Christ the Redeemer!
Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Bless the Lord, heaven and earth.
Honor and glory to Thee, o King of Glory,
Forever love of Thee, o God of love!

 

*         *         *

 

Indeed, the sun shines in Toledo.  But He Who makes the sun shine is elevated in the monstrance, and that’s why the Blessed Sacrament dazzles far more as He passes through the streets of Toledo!

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 5, 2020

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do...

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July 5

 

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.
We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence,
but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

Aristotle


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Her goodness went as far as raising her husband’s illegiti...

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St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Elizabeth of Portugal known as “The Holy Queen” was born Isabel of Aragon in Zaragoza, Spain, the daughter of King Pedro III of Aragon and Queen Constanza of Naples. She was named after her great aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

From childhood, having received a most Christian upbringing, she learned to practice self-discipline, mortification of wayward tendencies, the avoidance of sin and the pursuit of virtue, prayer and union with God’s holy will.

Beautiful, talented and good, she was sought in marriage by several European monarchs, and was ultimately betrothed by proxy at the age of thirteen to King Dinis of Portugal.

A year and a half later she arrived in Portugal to assume her responsibilities as queen. Although he was an able ruler, her husband had an irate temper and sinful habits. While he respected and revered his queen, he was unfaithful to her and had several illegitimate children.

Elizabeth bore the conjugal betrayal with exquisite patience and heroic magnanimity, praying continuously for her wayward spouse. She and Dinis had two children: Constanza and Alfonso.

The young queen started her day with Mass and prayer, and then proceeded to see to the governance of her palace. In the free moments she sewed and embroidered with her ladies for the poor, and personally tended to their needs. Afternoons were dedicated to the care of the elderly, the poor or anyone else in want.

Amazingly talented, Elizabeth mastered several languages, sang beautifully, and enjoyed a remarkable understanding of engineering and architecture. She herself designed and oversaw the building of several churches, monasteries and hospitals, developing her own “Elizabethan Style.”

One day while inspecting a construction site, a girl approached and gave her a bouquet of flowers. The queen then distributed the flowers, one to each of the workers saying: “Let’s see if today you will work hard and well for this pay.” The men reverently placed their flower each in his own satchel, only to find, at the end of the day, a gold coin in place of the flower.

In her city Elizabeth built hostels for the poor, a hospital, a house for repentant wayward women, a free school for girls, and a hospice for abandoned children. She built bridges in dangerous places, visited and procured doctors for the ill, and endowed poor girls for the convent or for marriage. She kept a beautiful tiara and wedding dress to lend to poor brides so they could “shine” or their special day. Her goodness went as far as raising her husband’s illegitimate children.

A great devotee of the Immaculate Conception of Mary Most Holy centuries before the dogma was declared; she obtained from the bishop of Coimbra the establishment of the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, which was afterwards observed with great solemnity throughout the whole country.

A constant peacemaker, the holy queen ironed out many a conflict between bellicose rulers and nobles. Twice she reconciled her husband and son, on one occasion, even interposing her person between them in the battlefield.
In the end, Dinis died a most repentant man. In one of his poems he left his ultimate tribute to his ultimate queen:

God made you without peer
In goodness of heart and speech
As your equal does not exist,
My love, my lady, I thus sing:
Had God so wished,
You’d made a great king.  

After her husband’s death, Elizabeth took the habit of a Franciscan Tertiary and retired near a convent of Poor Clares which she had built, dedicating herself to the sick and the poor.

The saintly queen died at age sixty-five invoking Our Lady, and was canonized in 1625 by Pope Urban VIII who had vowed not to canonize anyone during his pontificate. He made the exception for Elizabeth at being promptly healed of a serious illness after praying to her.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

The young men began to boast of some foolish love affairs. N...

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A Young Man and His Lady Love

In twelfth century England, a group of young men had gathered and were bragging of their various feats, as young men have done since the beginning of time.

The lively conversation went from archery to sword fighting to horsemanship, each trying to outdo the accomplishments of the others.

Finally, the young men began to boast of some foolish love affairs. Not to be outdone by his peers, a noble youth named Thomas declared that he, too, loved a great lady, and was beloved by her.

Thomas of Canterbury meant the most holy Virgin as the object of his affection, but afterwards, he felt some remorse at having made this boast. He did not want to offend his beloved Lady in any way.

Seeing all from her throne in heaven, Mary appeared to him in his trouble, and with a gracious sweetness said to him: "Thomas, what do you fear? You had reason to say that you loved me, and that you are beloved by me. Assure your companions of this, and as a pledge of the love I bear you, show them this gift that I make you."

The gift was a small box, containing a chasuble, blood-red in color. Mary, for the love she bore him, had obtained for him the grace to be a priest and a martyr, which indeed happened, for he was first made priest and afterwards Bishop of Canterbury, in England.

Many years later, he would indeed be persecuted by the king, and Thomas fled to the Cistercian monastery at Pontignac, in France.

Far from kith and kin, but never far from his Lady Love, he was attempting to mend his hair-cloth shirt that he usually wore and had ripped. Not being able to do it well, his beloved queen appeared to him, and, with special kindness, took the haircloth from his hand, and repaired it as it should be done.

After this, at the age of 50, he returned to Canterbury and died a martyr, having been put to death on account of his zeal for the Church.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

The young men began to boast of some foolish love affairs. Not to be outdone by his peers, a noble youth named Thomas declared that he, too, loved a great lady, and was beloved by her.

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