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Report 1988: Yes, Zig Has Written About our Bavaria Trip!
By Zig and Georgia from Kentucky, Spring 2010
Page 26 of 30: Thursday June 3 - Corpus Christi in Munich
window in a church outside Munich
Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ, in Bavaria is a national holiday called Fronleichnam. The religious celebration centers around the Real Presence, a Catholic teaching that, during the Mass, the humble bread (“which earth has given and human hands have made”) and humble wine (“fruit of the vine and work of human hands”) becomes transformed into the true body and blood of Jesus. It is, we believe, a reenactment of the words and actions of the last supper when Jesus elevated the bread and said, “This is my body.” He was obviously still sitting there when he said this but that simple piece of bread was somehow transformed by his words. He didn’t say, “This is like my body” or “a symbol of our fellowship.” We take his words literally. So for Catholics the feast of Corpus Christi is a very important feast day, and in a Catholic country like Bavaria it becomes a national holiday. We decided to visit the Munich Cathedral and take part in the procession.
We got there late that is after the service had already begun. The procession was moving around inside the Cathedral. It was an enormous procession with many Bishops and the Archbishop in attendance and a multitude of Priests, Deacons, Acolytes, and servers. The incense was thick, and from the outside I could see that there were even medium-sized saplings stuck in buckets of sand and wired to the enormous Gothic columns. The people were so packed that we couldn't wedge ourselves in. But we were also so caught up in the mood of the crowd that we had to find a way in.
There was a gigantic velvet curtain pulled back from the door where we were standing. I’m sure it was pulled over the door during the service to cut down on drafts. But with this crowd, the door was left open and the curtain pulled back so the greatest number of people could at least see what was happening. Perhaps we could wedge ourselves behind the curtain and find a way into the sanctuary...
Well, now we were inside the cathedral but we were behind these 15-foot maroon velvet drapes. Georgia was forced to the right by the crowd and I got caught in the undertow steadily pulling me to the left. I broke free more quickly than she did. I could see her 10 feet away but there were probably 12 people in those 10 feet. We couldn’t move closer to each without levitating. And anyway the procession was ending. People were starting to make their way out. As they would squeeze past me I would scoot forward into the hole they left behind. And so I edged upstream until I could see what was going on. That is, I could see the jumbo-trons that broadcast what was going on. We were in a religious mosh pit. All we needed was people throwing themselves on top of the crowd and “surfing” toward the altar! And then the archbishop blessed the throng and the deacon declared the Mass over. The organ burst into an amazing finale! It was much smaller than the organ at Passau, but the music was so much better! Another jewel sparkling in its proper setting.
But the trickle heading for the door had changed into a steady stream and the little shallow pools of empty space around us grew into sandbars on which we could stand together as the tide went out. And as each person left they would stop and pluck a leafy twig off the little trees planted in the sand buckets. We pulled one off as well and formed it into a small wreath, which now hangs on our bedroom wall.
We hung around the Cathedral taking pictures of the stained glass. Like Chartre it has a wide range of stained glass from the thirteenth century to the present. Walking around is like walking through a stained glass museum.
Later, at the Alte Pinakotecke - a “real” museum - we saw an amazing collection of Bruegels (the “Where’s-Waldo” painter of the Middle Ages), Albrecht Durer’s, Rubens’, and Rembrandt’s paintings. We walked our feet flat, and with the rain we opted for a long bus ride to the Olympic Park. Right next door was the BMW Welt where we took pictures of spectacular cars we’ll never be able to afford.
To rest our feet some more, we rode the U1 back to the center of Munich and visited the Hofbrau Haus. I have no excuse; I was fascinated by a beagle weaving in and out of the table and chair legs across the aisle from us. I must have 20 photos of him. The place was packed and deafening - maybe the restless beagle gave me something else to focus on besides the bedlam. And, oh yeah! Above the din, like a rich coconut icing on top of a German chocolate cake there was a lederhosen-clad ooom-pah-band on the bandstand, thumping away. If it hadn’t been so much fun watching everyone (and their beagle) I would have thought it all a madhouse.
Our huge wooden picnic table was thoroughly scarred by the initials of centuries of drunken revelers. We would have liked to talk with the 20-somethings who sat across from us but conversation was impossible. So we just drank “liquid gold” from rain-barrel-sized bier steins, rocked back and forth to your basic ooom-pah melodies, and photographed your odd beagle. Or oddly photographed your normal beagle.
Rode the tram back to St. Theresia’s Guesthouse through the rain.
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