AN ancient tradition will be revived by a city-centre church tomorrow night when it stages a robed procession through the streets – thought to be the first of its kind since the Reformation.
St Michael and All Saints Episcopal Church at Tollcross will mark the Feast of Corpus Christi by parading out of the church and along nearby roads, singing hymns.
Corpus Christi, which means Body of Christ and is a thanksgiving for Holy Communion, is widely celebrated in traditionally Roman Catholic countries, such as Ireland, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Colombia and Peru, and in many places it is a public holiday. Father David Standen, who has been rector at St Michael and All Saints for nearly a year, said there had been a tradition of Corpus Christi processions in some places in England and some still took place in the west of Scotland, but he was unaware of any in the east.
He said tomorrow night’s procession could be the first in Edinburgh since the Reformation.
St Michael and All Saints, which is at the forefront of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Scottish Episcopal Church, has held a service for Corpus Christi every year since 1867, but up until now the accompanying procession has only been inside the church.
Tomorrow, the procession – with Father Standen leading the choir dressed in full robes – will leave the church in Brougham Street around 8.30pm and follow a route along Tarvit Street to the King’s Theatre, then along Home Street and through the Tollcross junction into Lauriston Place, along Lauriston Gardens, Panmure Place and back to the church.
Father Standen said: “We have been part of the Tollcross community for 145 years and many residents value the presence of the Scottish Episcopal Church here.
“This procession enables us to be a visible witness in this area. It is a sign of our continual prayers for the people of this area and our commitment to being part of their daily life, and it is hoped that many local residents will want to join in the procession.”
The procession will follow High Mass in the church at 7.30pm. At the end of the service, a specially blessed wafer, known as the Host, will be placed in an ornate holder, which will then be carried as the centrepiece of the procession.
It is customary for rose petals to be scattered at the front of the procession, providing a carpet of flowers for the priest to walk on, but practicalities mean this will only be done as the procession leaves and then re-enters the church.
History books refer to Corpus Christi as “the great holiday of the year everywhere in Christendom”.
One account says that, in Leith, “all the craft guilds of the town went in procession through the streets, the members walking two and two in gala dress, bearing with them banners and other emblems, and forming a spectacle of the greatest splendour, each craft vying with its neighbour in the magnificence of its display”.