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Walking with Jesus in Liturgical Processions

On Ash Wednesday (photo taken in 2021) we came forward for the imposition of ashes to begin our Lenten journey.

Walking with Jesus in Liturgical Processions

By Sr. Denise Herrmann, CSA

Walking as disciples of Jesus is an important part of our faith. In the liturgy there are times when the congregation processes not only to get from one place to another, but also to express our following of Christ. Processions express in a bodily way the effort it takes to be a Christian and to walk in Christ’s footsteps. On Ash Wednesday we came forward for the imposition of ashes and began our Lenten journey of 40 days of intense prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We made the commitment to repent and to be faithful to the gospel.

As we look ahead to Holy Week, we note that there are other liturgical processions by which we join Christ in walking his path. On Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we have a procession with blessed palms into the church. We are instructed that Christ entered the city of Jerusalem to accomplish the mystery of his Passion and Resurrection. We commemorate his entrance into the city, “following in his footsteps, so that being made by his grace partakers of the Cross, we may have a share also in his Resurrection and in his life.” We join in the procession of palms both in exultation of his kingship and in willingness to join ourselves to his passion and suffering. May we who follow Christ in exultation, “reach the eternal Jerusalem through him.” (Quotes are from the Roman Missal for the blessing of palms.)

On Holy Thursday, at the end of the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Blessed Sacrament is carried through the church in procession with candles and incense to an altar of repose in the parish hall. We join in this procession as if leaving the place of the Last Supper and following our Lord to his place of prayer in the garden. We spend time in prayer and adoration before Him in the darkness of night.

On Good Friday, in the Adoration of the Cross, the cross is solemnly uncovered and shown to us. Then we go forth in procession up the aisles to the one Cross to adore that which has brought forth our salvation. “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world. Come, let us adore.” As we process, our hearts and minds are focused on Christ’s suffering and giving of his life for our sakes.

On Holy Saturday, at the start of the Easter Vigil, the new Easter candle is prepared and blessed outdoors by the new Easter fire. Then in procession, the Easter candle is brought into the dark church. The Light of Christ is in our midst and we rejoice in Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Later in the Vigil, the Easter Candle is again in procession. This time to the Baptismal Font where the baptismal water is blessed and the catechumens are led to their baptisms. During this procession we sing the Litany of Saints, invoking the help of all those who have gone before us to intercede for those to be baptized and for all of us as we renew our own baptismal promises on this night.

Following in the footsteps of Jesus, we are helped by Holy Mother the Church who provides us with processions to form us in faith and to help us express with our bodies the journey that we are on to that new and eternal Jerusalem.

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