“And David and all the house of Israel brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord with joyful shouting, and with sound of trumpet.”
In 2 Samuel 6:12-15, King David brings the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, “the city of David”, and is greeted with singing and dancing with music playing. This speaks so profoundly about the Catholic experience of public piety. The Israelites did not deem it idolatry to parade the Ark through town with singing, dancing and music and neither do we when we parade statues, icons or relics through towns, villages or the countryside. This is commonplace in Catholic cultures like the Mediterranean countries, Latin America and the Philippines, even in many other countries they are commonplace. There are many reasons for these parades: they get the attention of those they pass by (thus bringing more people into the procession), it gets many others to join in prayer, it is a mini-imitation of the Israelites’ 40-year journey through the desert in which the priests carried the Ark and the people followed.
Saint Jerome said, “Still we honour the relics of the martyrs, that we may adore Him whose martyrs they are” (Letter 109:1:2). Since the earliest days Christians have been carrying the relics of saints in procession for veneration. The Smyrneans mentioned, “We took up the bones [of Saint Polycarp], which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together as we are able, in gladness and joy, and celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom.” Christians proceeded to take the body of a martyred saint from the place of martyrdom to a place of burial and on the way pray to God on their behalf and pray for their help.
The picture can be found here: http://www.mydestination.com/malta/travel-articles/72276/the-good-friday-procession-in-malta
Today I saw a moving video of a Greek Orthodox priest incensing a statue in a Roman Catholic procession in Malta. I assume the statue is of Saint Dominic or Thomas Aquinas. Here it is.