Becoming Living Monstrances
Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food,and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father,so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." John 6: 51-58
Today is the Feast of “Corpus Christi”, the Feast of the “Body and Blood of the Lord” in the Roman Catholic Church, a richly significant day in Catholic faith and life. It is also an extremely important day in my own personal life, the anniversary of my ordination to the Diaconate in Christ. I thought I would be spending this anniversary with a holy priest friend, serving him at the altar and joining in the Corpus Christi procession of his parish through the Streets of Richmond, Virginia. At least that was my plan.
What a beautiful custom the Corpus Christi Procession truly is! After having received the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion, and after the priest has enthroned the consecrated Sacred Host in a Monstrance, Catholic Christians come from the Sanctuary and process into the Streets of the world, pausing along the way for solemn worship, singing songs of adoration, and holding the Lord, enthroned. The Corpus Christi procession symbolizes the ongoing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ to the world as it is lived out through his Church. I have fond memories of this beautiful event which stretch back into my early childhood. Since my ordination, it has also come to signify my call as a Catholic Deacon to go, as I often say “from the altar into the world.”
As the years have unfolded in my life, the true beauty and profound symbolism of this Catholic custom has captured me. The practice appears to have taken on real prominence in the second millennium in the Roman Catholic Church. It is such a richly beautiful experience. We march with the Body of Jesus Christ, the Eucharistic Host, enthroned in a “monstrance.” The monstrance is a sacred vessel made of precious metal wherein the priest enthrones the consecrated Eucharist for public worship. This worship not only occurs in the Church sanctuary but is intended to spread out into the “city streets” of the entire world. In this act of public procession we are reminded that God still loves the world so much that He still sends His Son.
This solemn procession is also a reminder of the baptismal vocation of every Christian, to carry on the mission of Jesus Christ, through His Church, until He returns. At an interior level, it symbolizes the universal call to holiness. We who are baptized are called into communion with God. He comes to dwell within us and we live our lives now in Him. We are invited to become “living monstrances”, enthroning the Lord in our “hearts”, which is, in biblical language, the center of the person. Then we are called to carry Him into the world of our daily lives.
However, instead of participating in the procession this year, my dear wife and I were surprised by a painful and difficult event. We spent the entire evening in a hospital emergency room, at the bedside of one of our beloved children. As a result of a wrong choice, our beloved child sustained injuries, both physical and spiritual, and was very, very sick. It was a difficult night for him-and for us. Thank God, we are all now at home. After this very difficult experience, the Feast of Corpus Christi will become- an “existential moment” for this child of ours. I pray that it becomes an occasion for conversion. We have prayed, we have talked, and we have wept together. I marvel at the event, even as I write, and as it still unfolds. I am tired and I am weary, but I know that the Lord is gracious and compassionate. He turned what could have been a tragedy into an occasion of grace.
This has been one more example in my life as a father (my wife and I have “raised” five children) of an important reality in the Christian life. What the devil intends for injury and destruction to us, or to our children, can become moments of deliverance and true conversion. This often depends upon how we respond. I believe that this will be the case with our ...
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