Msgr Michael de Verteuil, Chair of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission continues a series of articles looking at some areas of our Eucharistic celebration. For last week’s article CLICK HERE
Did you know our processions are both functional and spiritual?
Processions at Mass have a functional purpose but also a spiritual side. Let us look at the procession with the gifts of bread and wine. Three or four people bring them up with the collection but they represent all of us in the congregation—they carry up the gifts on behalf of all of us–for all of us are to offer gift to God, the gift of our lives.
Each of us is preparing to lay our life on the altar as gift in union with Jesus who offered His whole life to the Father. We come through Him, with Him, in Him to give God honour and glory.
The bread symbolises all that nourishes us, all that is necessary, the wine the fullness of life, feasting, joy, community. Together they are the sign of our whole life, life which includes the daily and the festive, necessity and gratuity.
The procession becomes a reminder of the journey of self-offering on which we are.
Through the power of the Spirit, the bread and wine we offer is transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus—may our lives and the whole Body of the Church be transformed.
As author and adviser on the liturgy to the Italian Bishops Conference, Goffredo Boselli points out, we bring these gifts to God, but the ultimate recipient is us—‘It will become for us the bread of life ……… our spiritual drink.’ We process with the gifts of bread and wine and offer God the gift of our lives—and in another procession, the communion procession, God gives us in return the gift of His life.
The Communion procession is another functional procession in that it enables people to get from one place to another but, like the other processions we have seen, there is also a spiritual aspect to it.
Unlike the processions at the entrance or with the gifts where representatives of the community process, here we all take part processing as God’s people to the table of the Lord to be nourished for the Christian journey, coming into deeper communion with the Lord and one another.
When we realise who we are and what we are doing, what else can our response be but joy and a recognition of one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Therefore, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal instructs that the song accompanying the procession should “express the communicants’ union in spirit and joy of heart.”
This procession is nothing like standing in line at a bank or a checkout counter—here are God’s people, the pilgrim Church, on the way. This being on-the-way, this procession, is a sign too of our journey to the heavenly banquet: ‘Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb’.
The last procession of the Mass is the recessional. Once again it is functional—to get the ministers from the sanctuary to the door—but like the other processions it also has a spiritual side.
Mass has ended—God’s people have praised and offered, been fed by the Word and the Eucharist, have remembered, and thanked and come into communion with the Lord and one another. Now we leave and go back into the ‘world’ and we do so again led by the Lord, His presence at our head symbolised by the processional cross.
This procession leads us back into our daily lives but hopefully better than we came, prepared to be more faithful disciples in the world. We go out as missionaries to bring the love of Jesus wherever we are. We have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.