When I was in Jerusalem for Holy Week this year, I joined the Franciscans for their procession to the Cenacle. On the way, in front of the Tower of David, a pair of young Jewish men in kippahs turned the corner from an alley and were startled to run into the crowd of pilgrims. When they recovered themselves, one of them blurted out:
“Wow, it’s like the Exodus, man!”
Either he’s been following the blog, or allegorical commentary is completely natural for a mind steeped in Scripture.
On the Procession
Now so that we may bring some sweetness to the minds of our readers or hearers, we shall say something about the procession.
If Christ’s legation for us in the world was enacted in the Mass, the procession acts out our return to the homeland. In the solemnity of her procession, the Church imitates the joy of the people of God as they went out of Egypt and, liberated through many signs and wonders, finally arrived at Mount Sion. There, having received the Law and built the tabernacle, they wended in a sort of procession toward the promised land. For the armed people went forth by tribe, carrying before them signs and insignia. The Levites bore the tabernacle, the priests blared with their trumpets. The arc of the covenant was carried by the priests, Aaron was appointed High Priest, and Moses, leader of the people, followed with his staff. On their way, Amalech met them with his army and tried to block their way (Exodus 17). But Jesus [i.e. Joshua] came out the victor over him and opened the way for the people toward the promised land. Jesus gave us the norm for our procession when he circled Jericho with the ark and all the people, when the priestly order sounded forth on their trumpets, and the people made a great noise. Jericho fell, and the victorious people gained possession of their kingdom.
The Meaning of the Procession
Moses delivers the people from Pharaoh, and Christ redeems the Christian people from the devil. They received the tables of the Law on the mountain, and we carry away the books of the Gospel from the altar; the people went out armed, and the Christian people goes forth signed with faith and baptism. Before their companies they carried their signs, and we carry before us crosses and other insignia. A column of fire preceded them, and candle light precedes us. That people was splashed with blood, this one is splashed with blessed water. The Levites carried the tabernacle of the covenant, and here the deacons and subdeacons carry lectionaries and boxes. The ark of the covenant was carried by priests, and the scrinium or feretrum with relics is carried by the fathers. The High Priest Aaron follows in stately array, and among us the bishop, i.e. the high priest, follows in his sacrificial vestments. If the king and ruler of the people is present with his sceptre, he signifies Moses who led his people with a staff. If the king is not present, then the pontiff expresses both: Moses by carrying his staff, and Aaron by covering his head with a mitre. The sound of trumpets is expressed by the sound of the bells.
The Meaning of a Procession from the Homeland to Another Church
When we make a procession to another church, it is as if we are making our way toward the promised land. When we enter the church singing, it is as if we arrive in our homeland rejoicing. When we carry a scrinium or feretory around the monastery singing and ringing bells, it is as if were walking around Jericho with the ark to the sound of trumpets and the shouts of the people. Jericho falls before us, since in our hearts worldly concupiscence has been dried up. We follow the cross, for we are commanded to follow Christ Crucified in all things, and no one shall reach him unless he crucifies himself to the world with its vices and concupiscence.
On the ark
David and also Salomon taught us how to do the procession, for they carried forth the ark of God with hymns and canticles, and David placed it in the tabernacle, Salomon in the Temple under the Cherubim. When we enter the Church with the scrinium, it is as if we are joyfully carrying the ark into the Temple, and with Christ and the Church (for the ark signifies both) we proclaim that we will enter into the heavenly palace. The ark is placed under the wings of Cherubim and the people sing praises because the humanity of Christ is set among the highest orders of the angels, the Cherubim and Seraphim, and by the whole host of angels and mankind is adored with unending joy.
CAP. LXVIII. – De processione.
Nunc ut legentium vel audientium mentibus quiddam dulcedinis infundamus, aliquid de processione dicamus. In missa quidem agebatur Christi pro nobis in mundum legatio; in processione agitur nostra ad patriam reversio. Pro processionis itaque solemnitate, imitatur Ecclesia populi Dei de Aegypto egredientis iucunditatem. Qui signis et prodigiis liberatus ad montem Sinai pervenit: ibi, accepta lege et facto tabernaculo, quasi quadam processione ad terram promissionis tetendit. Populus namque armatus incedebat per turmas, et signa et vexilla anteferebant, levitae tabernaculum gerebant, sacerdotes tubis clangebant. Arca foederis a sacerdotibus portabatur, et Aaron summus sacerdos decoratus, et Moyses dux populi sequebatur cum virga. Quibus in via Amalech cum exercitu occurrit, iter armis obstruere voluit (Exod. XVII). Cum quo Iesus pugnans victor exstitit, populo iter ad patriam aperuit. Qui Iesus normam nobis processionis dedit, quando cum arca omnique populo Iericho circuivit, sacerdotalis ordo tubis cecinit, populus clamore personuit. Iericho corruit, et victor populus regnum obtinuit.
CAP. LXIX. – Significatio processionum.
Populus a Pharaone per Moysen ereptus, est Christianus populus a diabolo per Christum redemptus. Tabulae Testamenti a monte accipiuntur, et libri Evangelii ab altari ad portandum sumuntur; populus ibat armatus, et populus Christianus vadit fide et baptismate signatus. Prae turmis illorum signa ferebantur; et ante nos cruces et vexilla portantur. Eos columna ignis praecessit, et nos candelae lumen praecedit. Ille populus sanguine aspergebatur, iste aqua benedicta aspergitur; levitae tabernaculum foederis portaverunt, et hic diaconi et subdiaconi plenaria et capsas gerunt. Arca testamenti a sacerdotibus portabatur; et scrinium vel feretrum cum reliquiis a patribus portatur. Aaron summus sacerdos sequitur ornatus, et apud nos episcopus, summus scilicet sacerdos, sequitur infulatus. Rex si adest cum sceptro rector populi, significat Moysen cum virga ductorem populi. Si rex non aderit, tunc pontifex utrumque exprimit, Moysen, baculum portando; Aaron, mitra caput velando. Clangor tubarum exprimitur per sonum campanarum.
CAP. LXX. – Quid designat processio ad aliam ecclesiam facta de patria.
Dum ad aliam ecclesiam processionem facimus, quasi ad terram repromissionis tendimus. Cum ecclesiam cantantes intramus, quasi ad patriam gaudentes pervenimus. Cum circa monasterium scrinium, vel feretrum cum cantu et compulsatione ferimus, quasi cum arca Iericho cum sono tubarum, et clamore populi circuimus. Iericho coram nobis corruit, cum mundi concupiscentia in cordibus nostris aruerit. Ideo quippe crucem praecedentem sequimur, quia Christum crucifixum in omnibus sequi praecipimur, et nullus ad eum pervenire poterit, nisi qui se mundo vitiis et concupiscentiis crucifixerit.
CAP. LXXI. – De arca.
David quoque, et Salomon ad processionem nos informaverunt, qui arcam Dei hymnis, et canticis produxerunt, et David in tabernaculum, Salomon in templum sub alis cherubin reposuerunt. Cum ecclesiam cum scrinio intramus, quasi arcam in templum cum gaudio portamus, et cum Christo atque Ecclesia (quod utrumque arca designat) coelestem aulam nos intraturos clamamus. Arca sub alas cherubin ponitur et a populo laus concinitur, quia Christi humanitas inter summos ordines angelorum cherubin et seraphin locabitur. Et a turba angelorum et hominum perenni iubilo adorabitur.