|PROCESSIONS and MEDITATION ON THE PASSION
Margery Kempe describes the Friars lifting up a cross and leading the pilgrims (Ch. 28 ). This coincides with the common practice of processional devotions, especially at pilgrimage sites: see illustration of a papal procession with reliquaries from the Très Riches Heures from 1413-16. The clergy, here, the Franciscans who controlled the Holy Sepulchre and other places of Christian pilgrimage in the Holy Land, brought the pilgrims through the church pointing out the places where Christ underwent the various tribulations of his Passion. The Franciscans were known to use a late 13th -century text, Meditations on the Life of Christ, a text with which Kempe must have been familiar. Readers/listeners were encouraged to visualize the events of Christ's life as if present at the precise place and moment they occurred. For example, the text describes the Crucifixion: Here pay diligent attention to the manner of the Crucifixion. Two ladders are set in place, one beside the right arm, another at the left arm, which evil doers ascend holding nails and hammers. Another ladder is placed in front, reaching to the place where the feet are to be affixed. from Meditations on the Life of Christ, trans. Isa Ragusa, Princeton, NJ. 1961, 133. See 1410 translation by Nicholas Love.
Kempe gives a vivid description of how she saw the events so freshly in her soul that she cried loudly and writhed on the ground, the first time she cried out in contemplation. Although she is at pains to explain the intensity of her feeling and her special gift, all of the pilgrims would have been asked to use the experience to picture the events as if they were there. The Franciscans, very possibly in several languages, explained each of Christ's sufferings, asking then for a prayerful response. Medieval prayer was invariable antiphonal, that is, it consisted of lecture and response. Contemporary litanies, a long list of praises or requests, with a common response, "Lord hear us, Blessed be the Lord" or for saints, "Pray for us" still continue that practice. As the Friars brought pilgrims around the church, there were certainly crowd responses; Kempe's was just more extreme.
A much earlier account also describes emotional
responses. A female pilgrim, Egeria,
from the 4th century, left a long account of her pilgrimage to the Holy
Land and Jerusalem. In describing the liturgy
celebrated in the Holy Sepulchre for Sundays, she notes that
"as soon as the first cock has crowed, the bishop arrives and enters the
cave at the Anastasis; all the doors are opened and the whole multitude
enters the Anastasis, where countless lights are already burning. (She
then describes prayers.) . . . And when the reading is begun,
there is so great a moaning and groaning among all, with so many tears,
that the hardest of heart might be moved to tears for that the Lord had
borne such things for us." Gingras, G. E., Egeria: Diary of a Pilgrimage.
Ancient Christian Writers 38. New York: 1970.