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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 December 9, 2019

Happiness is secured through virtue; it is a good attained b...

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December 9

 

Happiness is secured through virtue;
it is a good attained by man’s own will.

St. Thomas Aquinas


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Inspired by a sermon on the virtue of chastity, they mutuall...

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St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Juan Diego was born in Cuautlitlán – today part of Mexico City – in the year 1474 and given the name "Cuauhtlatoatzin" or "Eagle that speaks". He was a gifted member of the Chichimeca people, one of the more culturally advanced indigenous groups living in the Anáhuac Valley.

In 1524, at fifty years of age, Juan Diego was baptized with his wife Maria Lucia by one of the first Franciscan missionaries to arrive in Mexico, Fray Pedro de Gante. His religious fervor, his simple artlessness, and his respectful but gracious demeanor are among his defining characteristics. It is said that after their baptism, he and his wife, inspired by a sermon on the virtue of chastity, mutually decided to embrace this evangelical counsel by living celibately afterwards. After the 1529 death of his wife, Juan Diego moved to be near his aged uncle Juan Bernardino in Tolpetlac. Thereafter, the pious widower was in the habit of walking to the Franciscan mission at Tlatelolco for religious instruction and to perform his religious duties. His frequent journeys took him close by the hill at Tepeyac.

At daybreak on Saturday, December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass as usual, when he suddenly heard the exquisite sound of many birds singing. The beautiful melody came from higher up the hill, and thinking himself transported to heaven, his whole being attracted by the sound, he let it draw him up the Tepeyac. When the birdsongs suddenly ceased, he heard his name called in his native Náhuatl language and he beheld a beautiful young maiden. She called him to come closer and Juan Diego, “filled with admiration for the way her perfect grandeur exceeded all imagination,” prostrated himself in her presence. With unutterable sweetness, she revealed her identity to him “… the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth.” She asked him to go to the bishop in Mexico City, Don Fray Juan de Zumárraga, and to request in her name that a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out abundant graces upon those who invoked her.

After some difficulty in gaining admission to the bishop, the humble messenger recounted the marvels he had witnessed and delivered the lady’s message. However, the prelate’s response was discouraging and Juan Diego left downcast and disappointed.

The Queen of Heaven was waiting for him at the top of Tepeyac on his return that evening, and casting himself down he told her of his heart’s sorrow at meeting with incredulity on the part of the bishop and adds: “I beg you, my Lady, Queen, my little girl, to have one of the nobles who are held in esteem, one who is known, respected, honored, [have him] carry, take your dear breath, your dear word, so that he will be believed. Because I am really [just] a man from the country, I am a [porter’s] rope … a man of no importance: I myself need to be led, carried on someone’s back. That place you are sending me to is a place where I’m not used to going or spending any time in, my little Virgin, my Youngest Daughter, my Lady, Little girl.”

With great gentleness, she tells him that he is the one that must carry out this commission. And Juan Diego promises that he will return to the bishop the following day with her request.

Despite the obstacles posed by the bishop’s attendants, Juan Diego was again admitted into his presence. Don Juan de Zumárraga questioned the Indian kneeling before him thoroughly but remained unmoved by the man’s account. Not on his word alone would he believe, he told him, a sign must be given to prove that the apparition was indeed from heaven.

Undaunted by the prelate’s request, he returns to Tepeyac to convey it to Our Lady, who asks him to return in the morning that she might give it to him. During the night, however, Juan Diego’s sick uncle worsens and it is clear that he is dying. Shortly after midnight, his nephew sets off for Tlatilolco to summon one of the priests that he might confess and prepare for death.

Not wanting to meet the beautiful Lady, who would surely want to send him to the bishop with the “proof” he had requested, he hurried along, set on his task. But the Queen of Heaven came down to meet him and gently chiding him she asked, “What is happening, youngest and dearest of all my sons? Where are you going, where are you headed?” Humbling himself before her, he told her of his uncle’s grave illness and his need for a priest to assist him. She assured him that the illness was not grave and that he had nothing to fear on that account. Her solicitude filled him with joy and consolation: “Am I not here, I, who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you; do not let your uncle’s illness pressure you with grief, because he will not die of it now. You may be certain that he is already well…” And, as they later found out, his uncle became well at that very moment.

Full of confidence, Juan Diego begged her to send him immediately to the bishop with the sign she had promised. The Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find there. He obeyed, and although it was winter time and the frost at that time of year was very harsh, he found flowers of many kinds, in full bloom. Astonished, he cut and gathered the fragrant blossoms and took them to Our Lady who carefully arranged them in his mantle – the rough-woven “tilma” worn by his people – and told him to take them to the bishop as "proof". When he opened his tilma to show the bishop the profusion of blooms, the flowers fell to the ground, and there remained impressed upon his cloak an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.

With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to pray to the Mother of Jesus. He died in 1548 and was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. He was beatified on May 6, 1990 by Pope John Paul II in the Basilica of Santa Maria de Guadalupe in Mexico City and canonized by him on July 31, 2002.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

Allow me to live, work, suffer, be consumed and die for Thee...

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Prayer to the Immaculate Conception

Allow me to praise Thee, O most holy Virgin Mary, with my personal commitment and sacrifice.

Allow me to live, work, suffer, be consumed and die for Thee, just for Thee.

Allow me to bring the whole world to Thee.

Allow me to contribute to your ever-greater exaltation, to Thine greatest possible exaltation.

Allow me to give Thee such glory that no one else has ever given up to now.

Allow others to surpass me in zeal for Thine exaltation and me to surpass them, so that by means of such noble rivalry, your glory may increase ever more profoundly, ever more rapidly, ever more intensely as He Who has exalted Thee so indescribably, above all other beings Himself desires.   Amen

By Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe

 

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Allow me to live, work, suffer, be consumed and die for Thee, just for Thee.

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