« Procession of the Holy Ghost Processions Prochet, Matteo »


PROCESSIONS: In restricted ecclesiastical usage, the term applies to the solemn entrance of the clergy and their assistants to the altar for mass or other liturgical worship, or of their return after the service to the sacristy. In a more general sense, procession means the moving in formal order, within or without the church, of a religious body, the head of which, such as bishop or priest, walks last, those highest in dignity next before him, and those lowest come first. It is taken as an obvious symbolism representing the Christian journey, and arises from the interest in giving expression to varying inner religious states, beyond the confines of the altar. They may be (1) processions of festal joy or commemoration, expressive of thanksgiving; or (2) of prayer and penitential processions (called litaniæ, rogationes, supplicationes), as on days of petition and on occasions of great calamity or visitation; or (3) processions of honor to bishops or other dignitaries at their consecration or visitation; or (4) funeral processions. The procession may be attended with prayers and music and accompanied by candles, by statues of saints as on saints' days, or by relics as in dedications. They may be extraordinary, called by special ecclesiastical order, or, as most frequently, ordinary, prescribed by ritual law, such as Palm Sunday and Corpus Christi. In early times the persecutions hindered their growth, although funeral processions seemed to have been known. Tertullian names processio, procedere, alongside of stated worship and fasting, as a religious practise in the sense of church attendance (Ad uxorem, ii. 4; Hær., xliii.; Eng. transl., ANF, iii. 264). By the fourth century processions with relics were common. In Constantinople where the Arians were not allowed to worship within the walls, they moved in processions on the streets with the singing of hymns, and Chrysostom instituted similar ones among the orthodox. A notice by Ambrose (Epist., xl., ad Theodosium) shows that processions were in use in the West at the same time, at least among the monks. During the Middle Ages this feature in connection with all ceremonial was developed with great magnificence by the Roman Catholic Church.

Bibliography: Bingham, Origines, XIII, i 12, XXII., iii. 8; DCA, ii. 1715–17; J. Gretser, De catholicæ ecclesiæ sacris processionibus, Ingoldstadt, 1600; J. Eveillon, De processionibus ecclesiasticis, Paris, 1641; D. Vatar, Des processions de l’église, ib. 1705; J. E. Riddle, Manual of Christian Antiquities, pp. 757–758, 771–774, 833, 2d ed., London, 1843; M. E. C. Walcott, Sacred Archæology, ib. 1860; L. Duchesne, Christian Worship, passim, London, 1904; KL, x. 448–450.

« Procession of the Holy Ghost Processions Prochet, Matteo »
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