The Catholic Defender: The History of Processions and St. Sabastian's bravery
In the Old Testament, the Israelites would march behind the Ark of the Covenant. Joshua was instructed to March around the city of Jericho one time for six days.
The Soldiers of Joshua did as instructed with the seven priests carrying ram's horns before the Ark.
On the seventh day they marched around the city seven times. The people were instructed to wait for the sound of the ram's horns and and with this signal, they were to shout aloud.
The Lord would do the rest. The walls came tumbling down and the Israelites stormed the city and took it.
Processions were a way to show the might and power of an army, the Romans and Greeks were known for such processions. The Israelites had processions in much the same way.
2 Samuel 6:14 states, "Then David, girt with a linen apron, come dancing before the Lord with abandon, as he and all the Israelites were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn".
This was a spectacular event. As a Soldier, I served as a Eucharistic Minister in the field for many years.
I remember having the Blessed Sacrament with me keeping it close to my heart as I went to conduct Catholic Communion Services in the field. I felt like David before the Lord.
2 Kings 1:38-40 speaks of another great procession, "So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and Pelethites went down, and mounting Solomon on King David's mule, escorted him to Gihon. Then Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. They blew the horn and all the people shouted, "Long live King Solomon!" Then all the people went up after him, playing flutes and rejoicing so much as to split open the earth with their shouting".
Can you imagine such a sight? The music and sound of the people was so loud that the earth "Split open".
This scene reminds me of another important procession! Jesus instructs two of his Apostles to go to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives with this mission, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them here to me. And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, 'The master has need of them. Then he will send them at once."
"The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them. The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: 'Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest'. And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, 'Who is this?' And the crowds replied, 'This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee."
I see some similarities with Solomon and Jesus procession amongst the crowds of people. Solomon was a son of David, Jesus is of the linage of David.
They both led a procession as King before large crowds. With King Solomon, the sound caused the earth to split open, with Jesus, the whole city was shaken.
These scenes were victorious and spectacular. Processions were demonstrated for various reasons, militarily and for religious reasons.
I love the movie, "Ben Hur", with Charlton Heston. The scene after saving the Roman General's life after a sea battle, Judah Ben Hur is made a son of this Roman General.
He rides in the chariot in this major procession. These processions are much like a parade as they would show their might celebrating major victories.
It was in one such procession that St. Sebastian intercepted the Emperor Diocletian.
St. Sebastian had previously been named captain in the praetorian guards by the Emperor Diocletian. Then Emperor Maximian also gave this appointment to St. Sebastian after Diocletian had gone to the East.
Neither of these Emperors had known that St. Sebastian was a Christian who joined the Roman Army to help the Christians from within.
When it was discovered during Maximian's persecution of the Christians that St. Sebastian was indeed a Christian, he was ordered executed.
He was shot with arrows and left for dead, but when the widow of St. Castulus went to recover his body, she found he was still alive and nursed him back to health.
It was during a major procession that St. Sebastian intercepted the Emperor and denounced him for his cruelty to Christians.
At first the Emperor was taken back thinking St. Sebastian was a ghost, but once he regained his composure, he ordered St. Sebastian to be beaten with clubs.
Today, St. Sebastian is remembered as the Patron Saint of Athletes whose Feast Day is January 20 and as a result, had a great impact on me. He is part of that great cloud of witnesses who prays for us.
With the advent of the Catholic Faith, processions were part of the early Church. I love the special procession where the Eucharist is taken to the streets. What a sign of Christ presence among the people.
Processions became identified in the liturgy as a sign of pilgrimage. I have always felt that the procession of the altar boys, the crucifix, the lector with the word of God presented held high and with the Priest, this represented the echo of time as in a continued journey.
The Church, the body of Christ, marching on towards the heavenly Jerusalem. The Mass will always begin with the procession of the priest and ministers to the altar. The Gospel readings are honored in this procession. The gifts of bread and wine are brought forward to the altar.
The Church comes forward in procession to receive our Lord in the Eucharist. We are all moving forward to that moment when many will meet Christ in the New Jerusalem, the eternal Kingdom Jesus has prepared for us.