Written By: Noami Toms
A few years back, while on a month-long trip in Poland with my brother and two close friends, we found ourselves in Gdansk (a coastal city bordering the Baltic Sea) on the feast day of Corpus Christi.
What ensued, I soon learned, was fairly typical for most everywhere across Poland.
All the city streets had shut down. Instead of cars driving, crowds and crowds of people filled up the roads, and those who weren’t in the middle of the action were hanging banners outside their apartment windows. A few brass instruments were blaring sacred melodies. As we followed along, we found ourselves stepping on flower petals, scattered generously along the way.
And in the middle of the crowded action, under a beautiful canopy, the monstrance was raised, carrying that humble round wafer – Christ physically present among the throngs and throngs of His people.
That must have been the most memorable Corpus Christi I have ever experienced.
Now, the reason I tell this story is not merely to reminisce about a happy celebration in honour of the feast day we just celebrated this past Sunday (or this past Thursday, depending on where you were).
More than that, the image of this great procession, this incredible witness to the Real Presence of Christ that flooded that entire secular plane and engulfed it – could there be any better visual for what we’re called to do every day of our lives?
Our very nature as Christians, as the Body of Christ, is this: to be Christ-bearers. In all things, we are called to bear Christ to the world.
“To surrender all that we are, as we are, to the Spirit of Love in order that our lives may bear Christ into the world – that is what we shall be asked.”
These words come from Caryll Houselander’s classic, The Reed of God. In it, she meditates upon the primary model and example that we have of this vocation – Mary.
As we see the monstrance, carried by the priest in the midst of the countless faithful, we may call to mind the very first humble monstrance, making a hasty procession through the hill country of Judea to bring God, physically present in her womb, to Elizabeth. There was no brass band tailing her – she sang the sacred music herself, praising God in her song. No one had scattered flower petals before her – but ever since, all generations have called her blessed (Luke 1:48).
Now, we too have Christ growing within us. Through baptism, we were given new life in Christ. Through the Mass, we receive Him again and again, and are renewed in His presence within us. But His presence isn’t meant to remain a secret. He hasn’t been given to us to be hidden away.
Instead, God is forming each one of us into a human monstrance. He’s growing Christ within us, calling us “to put aside […] every motive except this single one, the forming of Christ in our life.” And He’s sending each one of us out on our own processions, to bring Him to all those we meet.
He calls us, as the Body of Christ, to flood the streets with His presence, so that the world can’t miss Him. And, as Mary’s gift brought Elizabeth the joy, hope, and awe at the discovery that God Himself had come to her, so we, too, must allow God Himself to be shown in us – so that the whole world may rejoice in that discovery.
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Caryll Houselander, The Reed Of God, (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2006), p. 36.