Corpus Christi and the translation of feasts

I am personally not a fan of transferring feasts unless absolutely necessary. The absolute necessity, for instance, lies in transferring feasts outside Holy and Easter Week and outside the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter. (Of course, even within the Anglican Communion, the rules differ according to which part of the world one is in. In Canada, the Birthday of St. John the Baptist, 24 June, is considered “a Feast of the Lord” and therefore can take precedence over a ferial Sunday, much like in the Roman usage. In the Philippine Church, sadly, it is not—even if Manila’s patron saint is indeed John the Baptist.)

What I am deploring here is the tendency post-Vatican II to translate some weekday feasts like Corpus Christi to Sundays, mainly because of a mistaken belief that most people only take part in Mass on that day. It is a slight exaggeration. I could say “many,” and imagine the numbers of people at all the weekday Masses in the Ortigas area!

In any case, what I am deploring is a tendency to disrespect the traditional rationale for such odd, or in Filipino/Tagalog, alanganin occasions. Corpus Christi was appointed on a Thursday because it was supposed to be seen as a more festive parallel to the Maundy Thursday celebration of the institution of the Eucharist. (In fact, I think it should be clear to liturgists in parishes that the “more festive” nature is shown in that Holy Thursday transfers of the Eucharist should not involve the same ceremonial for Corpus Christi processions.)

My favorite pet peeve of course is the translation of Epiphany to the nearest convenient Sunday after New Year. If that were the case, we should stop singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” because the twelve days in question run from Christmas Day to the traditional date, January 6. Twelfth Night is a Shakespearean play which may have been performed for that occasion which, in many parts of Europe, still remains the culmination of Christmas celebrations. Fortunately, this year the feast of Epiphany, transferred or otherwise, fell on the correct day.

The point is that one of the disconnections (paradoxically) that modern society makes is the separation of the sacred from the secular. The “stripping of the altars” in the English Reformation of which Eamon Duffy speaks, and more dramatically in the Puritan regime, was also a desacralization of time. The phenomenon of “Sunday Christians,” with the so-called “more holy elite” taking part in weekday religious rituals, is a modern one that may have to be resolved by trying to bring back a sense that all time is sacred. And it may start with a reminder that days like Corpus Christi fall outside Sunday to remind us that the Lord’s marvelous works happen every time.


Oh, and by the way, any Corpus Christi processions this Thursday or Sunday?


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