Last Thursday, throughout the whole country of Poland, a countless number of marches took place, with banners and flags being carried and waved, and songs being sung. Some of those rallies consisted of massive gatherings of thousands of people; some were rather small, with a couple of dozen attending. This wasn’t a widespread protest or strike. Whether the marches were big or small, people were following a priest carrying the Body of Christ displayed in a monstrance. That’s the traditional Polish way of celebrating the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ; the feast that we in Scotland celebrate this Sunday.
Two months ago, just before Easter, on Maundy Thursday we celebrated the Institution of the Eucharist by Jesus. Today’s feast is a bit different; today we profess our faith in the real, genuine and permanent presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine, His Body and Blood. While Holy Thursday’s celebration is somehow overshadowed and therefore constrained by the sadness of Good Friday, today’s feast can be celebrated with full joy and gratitude. That’s why in many countries, not just in Poland, the celebration is held outdoors in the form of colourful – and, it has to be admitted, sometimes rather pompous – processions.
Here, in Scotland, we rarely hold Eucharistic rallies; there are many different reasons for that. Honestly speaking I’m personally quite happy about that. I’ve never been in favour of outwardly boastful and militant Christianity. In Poland’s communist past those processions often used to be a sign of politically-motivated defiance against the hated regime, held under the pretext of a religious feast. Despite the gatherings of the masses, fed with fierce political sermons and stirred to religious fervour, those celebrations always seemed to lack spiritual depth. For me the Eucharist has always been embodied in the image of Jesus kneeling before his disciples and washing their feet. It’s the Jesus who offers himself as the ultimate undeserved gift, accepted and received with humbleness and gratitude by us, the unworthy and imperfect followers of his.
Although in this parish we don’t have an official Eucharistic procession today, it doesn’t mean that Jesus cannot be on display. In about 15-20 minutes time we will put His consecrated Body into many a living monstrance: into each one of us receiving Holy Communion. Then we will go to our homes and our neighbourhoods, workplaces and leisure centres; we will go among family members and friends, workmates and strangers. Everywhere we go we will carry Jesus with us in our hearts. Surely our progress won’t be as spectacular as a big procession with banners and hymns, and a golden monstrance held high by a priest. But this quiet personal display of Jesus present and active in our lives can be more effective and imperceptibly affecting to those we meet.
In a few minutes’ time you will come forward with hands open in a humble gesture of a beggar. Into those hands you will receive the living Jesus, present in his Body and Blood. He will make a home in your heart; the home where others will be able to find Him. When this happens, it will be the most effective Eucharistic procession ever.