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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Corpus Christi in Plock

After leaving Ulaszewo but before arriving in Plock, we detoured slightly to Wyszyna (see the pictures in the previous entry) because our guide thought we might find a church there which could have been attended by Joyce's ancestors. We found the church, but the old one had been destroyed, and a new (1928) one had been built on the same spot. It was interesting it itself because, heck, this is Poland! I was never in Poland! Everything is interesting! But it was just a few minutes prior to the big Corpus Christi mass and the stations of the parade were in absolutely pristine condition, having been decorated by the girls of the most recent First Communion class, and guarded from predation (as in little boys) by grown men who used this sentry duty to stay outside and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Here are a few shots. Blurry, but you get the general idea.

Plock ("Plwotsk") is the adminstrative center for Ulaszewo, and Jadwiga ("Yod-vee-gah") thought we'd enjoy seeing it because it's a medieval city on the Vistula. By the way, if you don't know much about geography, you should check out a map to get a decent idea of where and how Poland is situated. Here's a hint: Warsaw is on the same latitude (roughly) with Amsterdam, north of London, well north of Quebec (the city). In other words, gets cold and dark early. You don't want to visit there past October, our guides said. But in the summer? An excellent place to visit. Perfect if you've been broiling in Florida.

As to Plock, it was at one time the capital of Poland. Today it's one of those small, charming places with city walls and castles and churches just like everywhere else in Europe. See?

Except for the church, however, everything was closed (except the tourist train) because of Corpus Christi. At the risk of insulting your intelligence, Corpus Christi is Latin for body of Christ, and yes, we have one in Texas. It's the official celebration of the Last Supper at which Christ transformed bread and wine into his body and blood, according to the Christian tradition. So I said to Jadwiga, "but that happened on Maundy Thursday, in Holy Week." And she said, "Yes, I know, it makes no sense at all." Catholics agree that the actual first transubstantiation took place during Christ's Passion, but they celebrate it on a Thursday in May or June anyway. Maybe it's like the Queen's official birthday in England: the weather is likely to be better.

At any rate, here's a link:

Of course, I tried to put it in as a link, but in this program that's always a crapshoot.

And so we arrived on the main square in Plock right at the beginning of the Corpus Christi parade. It was probably crowded by their standards, but we were able to get a great spot. All the great spots were wide open.

We watched all this with great interest as Jadwiga explained it to us. I felt like I was in Chicago or someplace else with lots of Poles. There was a girls' high school band, nuns, brothers, priests, and a really important priest (but not a bishop) carrying a monstrance (containing conscrated host) with a canopy over the top, carried by acolytes or some similar group. Girls ran in front of this throwing flower petals in its path. At the appearance of this phenomenon, everyone genuflected as far down as they could, some leaning on fire hydrants, cars or each other to do it.

I found this devotion kind of sweet in one way, and in my cynical laissez-faire Protestant way, a trifle (but only a trifle) disturbing. I mean, I have my beliefs, too. Nothing so publicly devoted as that, but yeah, I remember when I was like that, right around confirmation time, I think.

Here are some of the possibly less blurry shots of the devotion:

Like I said, they always look better from a distance, or if tiny. They look really good in the teeny weeny icons.

My favorite part was when I winked at a really old nun, and she winked back. Something about simple faith is a little contagious, I think.

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