Recently I lucked out. Well, I often do, but this was a first for me being able to participate in the Corpus Christi procession. Corpus Christi is a celebration of Jesus being in the communion wafer, not just a town in Texas Eva Longoria’s beauty once reigned over.
Corpus Christi is celebrated with a mass and a procession around town where the communion wafer (representing Jesus’ body) visits local altars where prayers are said, blessings bestowed and bread is given away (symbolizing Jesus being the bread of life).
Jesus being in the communion wafer is serious business. Recently a monstrance was stolen from the chapel in nearby Cerritos that had a communion wafer in it. A monstrance is normally gold and about the size of candlestick that holds a wafer for veneration and benedictions. The monstrance can be sold on the antiquities market and of little importance to the faithful. The missing Jesus (in the wafer) was what was important.
So important a procession and the corresponding fanfare was held here in town in hopes of getting Jesus’ body back and the thief avoiding the abundance of legends about horrible deaths for those that steal Jesus.
As always, participating in an event (a basketball game, concert or Corpus Christi) is a different experience than being a spectator at an event. This time I scored the coveted position of being a lantern carrier beside the monstrance. Being a large man, I am always assigned to carrying Jesus’ image. Despite appearing sinewy in art Jesus’ inner child is chubby and he is always heavy to carry.
Actually if a religious statue becomes heavy to you that is the weight of your sins you are loathe to let go of. Obviously, if I get killed by a bus tomorrow I’m not on any short-list to rapid beatification (the first step to sainthood).
Being front and center gave an opportunity to remind me of the basic traits of a faith-based event which Faith in Mexico walks hand in hand with her gals pals – History and Culture. Faith, History and Culture combined are:
Tactile. The Corpus Christi procession has music, pomp, fireworks, food and dancing but there is more to make the experience tactile. Approaching an altar you may find folks holding sparklers and tossing what I assume is Tinkerbell’s fairy dust at you as Jesus comes by. Look down and see the herbs and spices you are stepping on to release smells to mingle with the fresh baked bread. All your senses are assaulted to remind you being tactile is enticing and memorable.
Ritualistic. The present day route has been around for decades but celebrating Corpus Christi has been around for centuries here in San Miguel. We continue traditions like Thanksgiving, a rabbit’s foot or Corpus Christi as their rituals enable us to relax and enjoy the continuity that will long outlive us.
Feminine. Corpus Christi is unique as a procession not told from Mary’s point of view or featuring her as a lead player. Yet Mary’s image, and her implied compassion, are still apparent. Much like the Moms wheeling their sick kids in beds or wheelchairs to be able to get blessed by Jesus’ body in the communion wafer.
As I tell folks on tours, follow a procession even if you just stumble upon it. It doesn’t matter what you believe or if you even speak Spanish, all the processions are extremely graphic in their storytelling. You will get the story. And, if you are even marginally aware you too will see Faith, History and Culture show their rituals, femininity and sensory aspects.
I’d like to stay these were the aspects that motivated a baby early on in the Corpus Chirsti procession to crawl away from him Mom and towards me, but he and I both know it was my clown sized feet he found so appealing!
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin