Dear Members and Friends of St. John's,
This coming Sunday, we will celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi with a service at 4 p.m. The central part of this service is an outdoor procession around the block with the Sacrament, with joyful singing by the congregation and choir, accompanied by a trumpeter. It's the sort of liturgy that I like to describe as "serious fun," in that it's both enjoyable and edifying.
I am currently on retreat at Nashotah House, a seminary in Wisconsin, where we celebrated Corpus Christi yesterday. We walked around with the Sacrament, singing hymns of praise to Jesus for the gift of his Body and Blood--and it was serious fun. It made me look forward all the more to this Sunday's festivities, and I hope that you will come out to participate in them, even (and especially) if this Corpus Christi thing is unfamiliar--or, indeed, strange--to you.
Corpus Christi this year has come on the heels of what have perhaps been the strangest few days in my ordained ministry, which included one newspaper, two radio, and three television interviews. The media attention over the red streak beneath the 12th Station of the Cross at St. John's and the resulting reactions it has gotten on social media only serve to illustrate to me how something that is a stepping stone to some is a stumbling block to others.
As for the the red streak: If it distracts you from the reality depicted at the 12th Station, namely, "Jesus Dies on the Cross," then it's better to step over the stumbling block rather than fall on it. But if it causes you to take a closer look at the man who is depicted at that Station, and to question the meaning of the Crucifixion for the life of the world and for you personally, then perhaps it can be a stepping stone. What makes something a stepping stone or a stumbling block is what you do with it once you have encountered it. When was the last time you came across what at first sight was an obvious stumbling block, and asked God whether it could be used as a stepping stone, instead? You might be surprised.
Likewise, the feast of Corpus Christi is a stumbling block to some and a stepping stone to others. If you are not already a fan of Corpus Christi, or have never encountered it before, you might be surprised by how meaningful it is. It celebrates for Christians the central joy of our faith: the gift of God's very self in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus dies on the Cross, giving his Body and Blood for us, and we continue to receive that Body and Blood in Holy Communion. And this mystery inspires in us such awe and wonder, joy and love, that we can't help but act a little foolishly in some people's eyes. Part of me feels a little silly, and yet, more than a little thrilled to be given the privilege of doing something so serious. We take the Sacrament outside and parade it around, singing hymns of praise to Jesus.
The Corpus Christi procession symbolizes our call to be evangelists, transparently Christian, bringing the Real Presence of Christ into the neighborhood and throughout the world, no matter how foolish we may feel, or seem or, in fact, be. Corpus Christi is about being a fool for Christ's sake, which is a risky thing. This can be a stumbling block, whether for us or for others. But again, it can be a stepping stone to deeper participation in the mystery of Christ's Body, and as members of Christ's Body, deeper participation in the life of the world, both for ourselves and for others who encounter it.
If you haven't participated in this sort of serious fun, perhaps this is the year to try it. I hope to see you this Sunday, both in the morning and at 4 p.m.!
Yours in Christ's service,