Keeping the Feast

Well, we kept the Feast of Corpus Christi yesterday with a wonderful celebration last night which seemed to be hugely enjoyed by the congregation. It was an augmented congregation too for they came from the East (Dundee) and from the West (Dunoon) to sit down in the kingdom of God.

As has been my experience elsewhere, the interesting thing about Corpus Christi is that lots of people get it when they experience it, even if they come from churches which really wouldn’t seem to be into that kind of liturgy at all. Charismatics tend to understand it intrinsically though sometimes to their surprise. Presbyterians (who seem to be gagging for liturgy at the best of times) lap it up like a giddy, guilty pleasure. Those with a Salvation Army background like me recognise a Glory March whenever they see it. And those with a Roman Catholic background get a tweak of nostalgia and luxuriate in the past and the present coming together.

Indeed, someone with an Italian background spoke to me very movingly afterwards of being connected right back to his childhood in Italy.

Here’s Cedric scattering the petals as the procession came down the north aisle:

The procession at Corpus Christi should traverse a route somewhere along the cusp of holiness and hilarity and we managed that quite well last night. It is a glorious, full on, committed bit of joyfulness and it is a shame that there is not more of this kind of thing in our churches. Folk last night were all a-chatter about the experience afterwards and already expecting that we’ll do it again.

I do need to acknowledge my debt to St Michael and All Saints church in Edinburgh where I learned how to do this both as a participant and also as a partaker. Fr Kevin Pearson (as he was then – now Bishop Kevin) and the servers, choir and congregation taught me both the mechanics of the service and also the right mood for it and that’s simply crucial. You can’t be po-faced when flinging petals around the place. I also have a debt to St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield, where I learned not that long ago exactly how the earth should tremble during Benediction. Geoff Woollatt, our organist last night caught that moment perfectly.

So, here’s one last pic (all courtesy of Gordon Smith) of me happy and chatting to the faithful with the petals scattered hither and yon all around the place at the end of the service. Many thanks to the musicians, choir, servers, clearers-up and all who went along with my enthusiasm and conviction that you can’t go too far. More pics here.


We are celebrating Corpus Christi on Thursday and it will be the first time we’ve celebrated it with a Choral Eucharist in a long time.

I noticed about a year ago that we were doing better at keeping the more introspective and gloomy feasts than the glorious. We were doing well at repenting of our sins at Ash Wednesday and mourning our dead on All Souls than we were at simply enjoying ourselves. Thus, it seemed a good idea to revive the keeping of Corpus Christi – a celebration that is pure gold and good will.

The essence of the festival is that it is a celebration of the giving of the Eucharist to the church. We should, of course naturally celebrate that on Maundy Thursday, but we get too caught up in the Holy Week dramas for that, and so a special day is set aside – the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to celebrate and enjoy the giving of the gift of the Eucharist.

The keeping of the Feast has tended to be marked particularly by processions. There are some good pics on Flickr of outdoor processions of the Blessed Sacrament. We’ll not manage anything like that, but there will be rose petals strewn as the sacrament is processed in glory around the church.

We then get some gazing time. Allowing our eyes to rest on the blessed sacrament and reflecting on God’s presence in the world and the love that flows between God and the world.

Then at the end of the service, instead of a spoken blessing, the people are blessed with the sacrament (Benediction). There has been something of a revival of Benediction in the diocese in recent years, and St Mary’s is coming later to it than others who have been leading the way. I tend to like Benediction because the music is good and its a way of praying that is not simply about what your brain is thinking. Much more visual and auditory than cerebral. Indeed, it works best when you don’t analyze it too much.

It should feel as though the very gates of heaven are open and all the world is a-tremble with the presence of God.

We’ll see what we can do….