Corpus Christi

Tomorrow we have a holiday. Corpus Christi. It’s a feast day in celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

A celebration of that strange act of transubstantiation in which the bread and the wine are miraculously transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

Not metaphorically, but literally.

I only know this because we were talking to some of the students about the holiday. None of the teachers knew what it was we were going to be celebrating.

Perhaps some of us had a vague idea, some long forgotten memory of childhood religious education classes that had been stored far, far away in the back of our minds, but most of us, I think it’s fair to say, had no clue as to the meaning of Corpus Christi.

A fact that some of the students found a little surprising.

“You no know what is Corpus Christi?”

“Err, no. Sorry.”

“You’re Catolico, no?”

“Err, yeah. Lapsed though.”

Blank stares.

“I don’t go to Church anymore, so I’ve forgotten a lot of things.”

“Ah. Okay.”

They seemed disappointed.

Not with my heathen ways, as such. More that I had a gap in my education about something they clearly considered to be commonplace knowledge.

So I shamefully slinked away to that other miraculous wonder, that global source of all modern day intelligence to look it up.

Praise be the internet!

Perhaps one day in the future we’ll have a public holiday celebrating this fantastic piece of human invention?

We can chose some binary date as the holiday. The 10th of November say (10.11).

But I digress.

It’s hard to escape Catholicism here. But to be honest I’m quite enjoying it. All the colour and the specatcle, all the strange little day to day homilies that occur.

Take the other day, for example.

I was walking to school, just taking in the morning sunshine and waking up nice and slowly as I ambled along.

On the route, I pass several churches (I’ve counted at least five in the course of my 20 minute walk) some of which already have their doors open ready for those devout brethren that happen by at that early hour of the day.

The first day I walked past I was quite taken aback to see just how many people were actually inside, lighting candles or praying.

This is at eight thirty in the morning after all.

Living as I do in a somewhat secular city, I had long stopped considering the place of religion in people’s lives.

But here it seems to be, if not exactly central, then at least an important part of daily life.
It’s quite commonplace for instance to notice people quietly crossing themselves as they pass an open church door, something which I noted the first time it occurred, but which now raises barely an eyebrow.

And in so many unexpected places you will come across icons.

The Virgin Mary adorns street signs. Patron Saints hang over doorways protecting the homes behind them.

Pope John Paul II stares out at you from shop windows, the campaign for his beatification well under way, at least in this town.

And tomorrow, well tomorrow is Corpus Christi, so that can mean just one thing in Seville.

A parade!

They have already made a couple of practice runs in my street. The statues were brought out and carried aloft to the sound of brass and drums and all the necessary checks and adjustments were made. The uniforms have been cleaned and pressed and fresh incense has been placed in the burners. So, the guys on my street, in any case, are ready to go!

It’s all quite exciting really, all this strange, religious adulation expressed with so much colour and noise.

Even for an infidel such as myself, I have to admit, the splendour of it all really is quite enchanting.

Transubstantiation has never been so much fun!

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