Swirling incense run about in the streets, candles flickering and fragrant flowers, priests in surplices, cassocks, stoles, and copes. Altar servers in albs and surplices bearing torches and the crucifer, often in a tunicle bearing the cross of Our Lord, images of wood and ivory often processed in gilt carrozas, float-like carriages in which an images are often placed along with lighting, flowers and other embellishments such as figures of angels swirling about. Such is the spirit of the procession, and it is a good spirit, for it shows the devotion and the piety of the parish, especially in regards to parishes placed within the cluster of a secularized, atheistic cities. Things such as these spectacles often move the hardened heart, as the cathedrals of Europe often demonstrates upon a religiously indifferent viewer. As Napoleon himself said with regards to that sublime beauty which the Cathedral of Chartres is. He said that “Chartres is no place for an atheist.” We could even add that: “it is not a place for an atheist, for an atheist exiting its walls is no longer an atheist.” This should not be taken literally (or the quotation as even coming from Napoleon, for that matter). The gist of the quote, what it is saying is that beauty moves the mind, and in turn the heart, first due to its beauty, but as human minds mature, it will lead that human mind from merely appreciation of beauty to the contemplation of what it points to, on why it is beautiful, and why does it exist for, and that is the Divine.
The same goes for public processions, for by the virtue of it being a public procession, it brings forth beauty which is the characteristic of such processions. A procession brings the Divine into contact with the mundane and very busy world. Although not in the sense as that of the Mass, which is the greatest and the highest prayer of the Church. A procession, with its many images, praying participants and lit candles, as well as solemn chants or prayers of the rosary sung and said aloud by the priest (an important personage in a religious procession), evokes to the simple minded and the secular-minded individual a sense 0f the Divine, a feeling of the Divine and a source of curiosity in which if they so shall entertain all the more, will eventually, God willing, led them to the His Church.
For the simple layfolk, a procession with religious images and solemn grandeur serves as a simple catechism for them. It shows and teaches them the lives of the saints, the Passion and Death as well as the Resurrection of Our Lord, the Life of Our Lady amongst other mysteries and teachings of the Christian Faith.
For the parishioner who is as active in the parish, a procession is a very special and unique way of showcasing and as well as directing his effort towards the greater glory of God. By every flower, by every rosary, by every hymn and by every effort in dressing up or cleaning the image, one can concretely both perceive and appreciate the goodness, omnipotence and the perfectness of almighty God, as well as His plans for the salvation of all men. It also humbles the man who exactly does this, for he may then fathom the idea that, with all these preparations, these actions, these things that we, mere mortal men but with an immortal soul, has sight, smell, touch and feeling in order so that we may understand, the we may be helped and be aided by these faculties in order that we may be both edified and spiritually nourished. Although in the end, we might all just exclaim, in admiration and in lowly submission: “O Lord Our Governor! How excellent is thy name in all the world!” (Ps. 8:9)
But of course, smell, taste, touch and hearing are not means in themselves alone in order that we believe. We of course has limited intellect. We cannot know all except those that have been revealed unto us, and even some of our beliefs are at a glance, a bit impossible. Is it St. Thomas the Apostle who first doubted the Lord if He indeed Resurrected from the dead, for the reason that he did not touch nor saw the Lord, nor heard His voice before the Lord Himself appeared, spoke and let him touch his wounds? So, therefore, they are not sufficient enough. Saint Thomas Aquinas ever so rightly exclaims in his hymn, Pange Lingua pertaining to the Eucharist that:”Præstet fides suppleméntum/Sénsuum deféctui.” (Faith will tell us Christ is present,/When our human senses fail.) and so repeated once more in his Adoro te Devote:Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,” (Taste, and touch, and vision, to discern Thee fail;). So therefore, these faculties are not enough to believe and to worship God. But it is an undeniable fact that they can be used, they must be, to some extent, to be useful and to be utilized in glorifying and worshiping Our Lord. For after all, the reason why men have been endowed such abilities is to both comprehend to some extent His plan for salvation and to be used in worship of Him.
And what more better way for it to be expressed outside the Sacraments of the Church and many notable devotions such as the Rosary than at a procession?