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Musical Musings: Solemnities

Corpus Christi Procession

by Gary D. Penkala

Many cathedrals and parishes are renewing the tradition of a Eucharistic procession after Mass on Corpus Christi Sunday. The following outline shows how one might be structured according to the most current guidelines found in these books:

  1. Order for the Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist, published in 1992 by the US Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy
  2. Ceremonial of Bishops, published in 1989 by the Vatican and prepared in English by ICEL

This outline presumes a bishop to be leading the ceremonies. With a priest or deacon leading, only a few adaptations need to be made.

Celebration during Mass

A. Preparations

In addition to the usual preparations for Mass, the following are prepared:

  1. an additional host to be consecrated for exposition
  2. monstrance
  3. cope [if used during procession]
  4. humeral veil
  5. four or six altar candles

B. Mass

The Mass of Corpus Christi is celebrated as usual, with an additional host consecrated for exposition. Holy communion should be administered under both kinds.

C. Exposition

  1. Immediately after the distribution of communion, the empty monstrance is placed on the altar. A deacon (or priest) places the extra consecrated host in the monstrance.
  2. The bishop returns to the chair and after a brief period of silent prayer, stands and says the prayer after communion. The concluding rites of the Mass are omitted.
  3. The bishop goes to the altar and, after placing incense in the censer, kneels and incenses the Holy Eucharist. Meanwhile, a suitable song may be sung by the people.

D. Procession

  1. The bishop, wearing either Mass vestments or a white cope, puts on the humeral veil, and assisted by the deacon (or priest), takes the monstrance.
    Procession order (first to last):
    • Crossbearer accompanied by two Acolytes carrying lighted candles
    • Deacons of the Mass
    • Priests (not concelebrating)
    • Concelebrants
    • Minister carrying bishop's crosier
    • Two Censerbearers carrying censers with burning incense
    • Bishop carrying Blessed Sacrament
    • Two deacons (or priests) assisting the Bishop
    • Ministers carrying Book and Miter

    All should carry candles. Torchbearers (with largest candles) should accompany the Blessed Sacrament. Whether or not a baldachin (canopy) is held over the bishop depends on local custom. The procession should be arranged in accordance with local custom regarding decoration of the streets and the order to be followed by the faithful who take part.

  2. During the procession psalms, songs or litanies may be sung. In the course of the procession there may be stations where eucharistic benediction is given. It is fitting that the procession go from one church to another, but may also return to the church where it began.
  3. At the end of the procession, after the monstrance is placed on the altar, a suitable song is sung [Tantum ergo sacramentum] during the incensation.

E. Benediction

  1. Standing, the bishop sings or says one of the usual prayers for benediction.
  2. The bishop, wearing the humeral veil, genuflects before the Holy Eucharist, takes the monstrance and makes the sign of the cross with it over the people in silence.
  3. The deacon (or priest) removes the Blessed Sacrament from the monstrance and places it in the tabernacle. Meanwhile, the people may sing an acclamation or another song, or instrumental music may be played [the Divine Praises often occur here].
  4. The ministers depart. [Closing Song, Choral Recessional and/or Organ Postlude may accompany this.]

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