PROCESSION

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PROCESSION, in the Roman Catholic church; a solemn march of the clergy and people, attended with religious ceremonies, prayers, singing, &c, around the altars and churches, or in the streets, for the purpose of returning thanks for some divine blessing, or averting some calamity, &c. See PUgrimage,) Processions, as a partof the symbolical worship of nature, were in use among the ancient heathens; thus they formed solemn processions about the fields, which had been sowed, and sprinkled them with holy water to increase their fertility, and to defend them from injuries. The festivals in honor of Bacchus, Ceres, Diana, and other divinities, among the Greeks and Romans, were solemnized with processions, in which the images of the gods were borne about; and similar rites are still found among most heathens. (See Juggernaut.) They appear to have been introduced into the Christian church in the time of St. Ambrose (q. v.), bishop of Milan, in the fourth century. In Protestant countries, processions, as well as pilgrimages, have ceased.