Many anti-Catholics often accused the Holy Catholic Church of idolatry by engaging or participating in the so-called religious processions which they thought to be paganic, demonic, and anti-scriptural for they allegedly violate the commandments forbidding the making of and worshiping of graven images. However, do these religious processions have biblical foundation?
As stated in Section 1679 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, religious processions are an ancient form of popular piety that accompany the sacramental life of the Church, as it reads: “The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in the various forms of piety which accompany the sacramental life of the Church such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross and the rosary. The Church sheds the light of faith upon and fosters authentic forms of popular piety.”
In the New Testament, religious processions are inspired and prefigured by Jesus’ triumphal entry to the Holy City of Jerusalem, in which the Lord Himself was in the center of the procession. In Matthew 21:9 (New Living Translation; see also Mark 11:9), it reads: “Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, ‘Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Praise God in highest heaven!’” In 2 Corinthians 2:14 (New International Version), St. Paul describes all Christian faithful as Christ’s captives following Him in His triumphal procession, as it reads: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.”
Also, in the Old Testament, there are numerous descriptions of festal and solemn processions leading from the streets to the Sanctuary and Altar of the first Temple, which clearly provide a beautiful typological foundation in the Bible for Catholic processions, as follows:
⚫ Psalm 118:27 (New International Version) — “The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.”
⚫ Psalm 118:27 (New Revised Standard Version) — “…Bind the festal PROCESSION with BRANCHES, up to the horns of the Altar.” Psalm 68:24 (New International Version): “Your procession has come into view, O God, the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.
⚫ Psalm 68:24 (Amplified Bible) — “They see Your goings, O God, even the [solemn processions] of my God, my King, into the sanctuary [in holiness].”
⚫ Psalm 68:24 (New Living Translation) — “Your procession has come into view, O God— the procession of my God and King as he goes into the sanctuary.”
⚫ Psalm 68:24 (New King James Version) — “They have seen Your procession, O God, The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary.”
⚫ Psalm 118:27 (Good News Bible) — “The LORD is God; he has been good to us. With branches in your hands, start the festival and march around the altar.”
⚫ Psalm 42:4 (English Standard Version) — “These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.”
FURTHERMORE, these anti-Catholics remain ignorant as they misquote Jeremiah 10:3-5, saying: “For the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.” Lo, the great prophet here in this verse talks about the foolishness of those who worshipped the pagan idols rather than serve the true God. Take note: those are IDOLS that are different from IMAGES. Remember that an IDOL is something worshipped as divine under the mistaken belief that it contains something divine or is itself a god; while an IMAGE is a representation of its prototype that reminds of good people and events, sometimes viewed during prayer. The images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, saints, and angels are not idols for they are not worshipped as gods, and they are not considered as gods either. Moreso with that of the Lord for He is not a false god but a true God.
Hence, the carrying of images especially that of the Blessed Mother (Ark of the New Covenant) was already pre-figured in the Old Testament as the ancient Israelites carried the Ark of the Covenant (cf. Kings 8:1-10) that contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod, and a golden jar of manna (cf. Hebrew 9:4) in procession to God’s Holy Temple. In 1 Chronicles 15:28-29 (New International Version), it is reported that the Ark of the Covenant was taken by a procession of the faithful to the City of David accompanied by joyful shouts, songs and music, which was then revealed in the New Testament where the Apostle St. John wrote in the Book of Revelation 12:1-2 that he saw the Ark of the Covenant in heaven, and then saw a woman with the moon, sun and a crown of stars. In the Canticle of Canticles (the Song of Solomon) 6:10 (New International Version), even the Stars are in procession that, of course, prefigures Mother Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, as it reads: “Who is this that appears like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as the stars in procession?”
NEVERTHELESS, all of these biblical references are prefigurations of the Holy Catholic Church’s processions which culminate at the altar where the priest, like the High Priest of the ancient Israelites before Him, offers the sacrifice of the Mass – the Paschal Lamb – to God.