Sunday, May 25, 2008

Corpus Christi incidents

Went to the traditional Latin Mass at St. Mary's by the Sea in Huntington Beach today. Huntington Beach is a pretty seaside town in Orange County, much loved by surfers, where everyone's casual even by Californian standards. St. Mary's is a little church just a few blocks inland from the ocean. After Mass we had ourselves a traditional Corpus Christi procession around the block.

The procession looked like this: flower girls in their white First Communion dresses scattering rose petals on the sidewalk, followed by altar boys in cassock and surplice, holding candles, swinging censers, and ringing sanctus bells, followed by four men bearing a canopy under which a priest, with a humeral veil wrapped around his hands, was holding a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, followed by two other priests and all the people in their Sunday best, most of the women in veils, all singing Pange Lingua Gloriosa.

The neighborhood we went through looked like this: there were cute little beach cottages, lots of cars parked on the streets, some people walking down to the beach with their flipflops and beach towels, a jogger in a sports bra going by on the other side of the street, what appeared to be a tattoo parlor or maybe a surf shop (I couldn't tell with all the stickers on the window) and a cafe with people sitting at the tables outside.

So you can imagine how the folks stared at us. Some of them had perhaps a touch of defensiveness, as if they feared we might break ranks and start handing out pamphlets or something. "That's just how we roll," I would have said to them, if it were the sort of thing I could say without sounding ridiculous. Anyway, 'twas a fine procession.

Then as I was driving back home on Pacific Coast Highway with the ocean on my left, I saw, right on cue, a pelican flying overhead!

There was a legend in medieval times that a pelican in times of famine would pierce her own breast and feed her blood to her chicks to save them from death. (Probably this idea was suggested by the way a pelican presses its bill on its chest to empty its pouch.) This of course reminded people of Jesus Christ, who was pierced for our transgressions and gives his children his own blood to drink. So pelicans were a popular motif for decorating churches, especially altars. And they especially show up on Corpus Christi, which is the celebration of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ. My 1962 missal has a picture of a pelican at the beginning of the propers for today. Its caption is "Pie Pellicane, Jesu Domine," which means something like "Jesus Christ, loving pelican." See how confusing that line would be if I hadn't just explained it? :)


Rachel Ann said...

I love this post.

The beauty of liturgy is sorely lacking in the Protestant church. Yet, I am glad you and I are still sisters in Christ.

And "that's just how we roll" would sound brilliant coming out of your mouth.

AlephGamma said...

Hmmm. I guess if the pelican tradition were better known, we'd be hearing stuff like, "Why do you Catholics worship pelicans?" :)

Mary Rose said...

Ha! "That's just how we roll"...oh, my. I love it!

Last Sunday, for the Feast of Corpus Christi, I had the honor of attending a Latin Mass with my father. (He lives two hours away and I drove in for a visit.) The only thing was that it was a Low Mass...and I was really looking forward to hearing polyphony in the landmark church. (Which is just gorgeousgorgeousgorgeous. It's been restored and has the ceilings and sides painted with images of St. John on the island Patmos, the Blessed Virgin Mary, all the Apostles, etc., beautiful stained glass windows, etc., etc.)

They had a processional afterward but my father and I didn't stay and now I really wish we did. Ah, well. Next year. :-)

Your processional sounded awesome! How wonderful to have those celebrating their First Communion join in. They will always remember it.

Like Pope Benedict said, we need to proclaim Jesus in the streets and it's moments like this that serve as witnesses to His Glory.

Very cool story about the pelican, by the way. I never knew!