ORLANDO | St. James Cathedral filled with faithful of various cultural backgrounds, coming together to celebrate the mystery of the Feast of the Most Holy Eucharist at the Corpus Christi Mass and Procession, June 23. Ten altars of repose located in the brick parking lot between the cathedral and chancery honored the Lord’s presence with decor and sacramentals from different traditions. Bishop John Noonan led the procession to each altar with the monstrance, stopping for prayer, song and reflection. “This sacrifice is reminder to you and me that Jesus gave His life to save us,” he said. “So we celebrate the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist to remind us that Jesus is still present to each and every one of us. We receive the Body and Blood so we can become Christ to one another.”
The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ dates back to the Diocese of Liège in Belgium in the 13th century, but is rooted in Christ’s institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion at the Last Supper. Established as a universal feast in 1264, the feast day is a solemnity – a day that commemorates a highly significant day in the life of Jesus, Mary, or an important saint. Corpus Christi is usually celebrated the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, but in the U.S., it is the following Sunday.
Calling to mind that universality, the Diocese of Orlando’s culturally diverse members bore witness to the Body of Christ outdoors, that the public might witness the many faces of Christ alive through numerous nationalities and customs. Seminarians served as canopy bearers, while Bishop Noonan raised high the monstrance, guiding the procession to altars of repose. Representatives from each country greeted the procession with songs and colorful displays of flags, unique instruments, images and icons.
Father Jaroslaw Shudrak of St. Mary’s Protectoress Ukrainian Parish in Apopka participated for the fourth year. He says the feast day is important, “primarily because of our love for the Eucharist.” He also enjoys the opportunity for other people “to see, know and learn about our Eastern Rite, ‘the other lung of the Church’ as St. Pope John Paul II said.” To heighten that opportunity, he brought several icons – St. Mary the Protectoress, the Resurrection and the Nativity. The altar held an Eastern Rite chalice and paten. “It is such a pleasure for us to participate in such a beautiful and wonderful feast,” he added.
Arriving at the final altar of repose were immigrants from Kerala, India, members of St. Mary’s Syro-Malabar Parish in Sanford. The Syro-Malabar church is considered the church of St. Thomas Christians because it was borne of St. Thomas’ evangelization in parts of India in 72 A.D., originating in Kerala. Dressed in typical clothing, those gathered welcomed the procession singing, “the King is coming who is the ruler of the four directions of the universe; He comes to give grace to all. Let all people come to worship Him.” Above the altar rose a handsomely gilded gold cross. Resting on the altar was the resurrection cross or sleeva, emphasizing the risen Christ and representing the Holy Spirit. Bright red and gold umbrellas framed the setting, hailing the solemnity’s importance. Father Sibi Kurian Velamparambil, voiced the sentiment of the crowd: “To be part of Corpus Christi procession is an experience of walking with Jesus.” He added, “Being a migrant community, Jesus is the center of our family and life.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – June 24, 2019