More from my friend Steve’s pilgrimage:
Evening came and morning followed . . . . . .the second day.
At noon on Sunday we walked to St. Peter’s Square for the noontime Angelus prayer and address by Pope Benedict. The Angelus was in Latin, and there were projection screens on the edge of the colonnade so that we could make our responses. One of the things I most appreciated about Rome was the juxtaposition of the modern with the ancient. It somehow seemed to “work” there, but then again, Romans have been doing stuff like that for centuries.
Our Sunday Mass was in the Borghese Chapel at the Basilica of St. Mary (Maggiore). This large an opulent chapel featured an icon over the altar of Mary holding Christ that is reputed to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist. Above that icon, near the top of the space behind the altar is a relief sculpture of a pope shoveling snow in August. (I am not making any of this up.)
Supposedly this pope was taking his good old time deciding where to site this church in honor of Mary, so she took matters into her own and sent a snowfall on this site in August. We occasionally see this miracle referenced as “Our Lady of the Snows”. In a crypt beneath the main altar at St. Mary Major there is a reliquary holding what is purported to be a relic of the manger into which Mary placed the infant Jesus.
Mass was to be at 3:45, and the sacristan let me into the organ loft at 3:45. The stone spiral staircase to the loft reminded me a bit of the metal spiral stairs to the chancel (forward/smaller) organ at the National shrine in DC. The instrument at the end of my journey was a one-manual-and-pedal with a cipher (a note that sounds without any key being pressed) on the most useful stop for hymn playing. You can imagine what I was thinking.
I have been spoiled by the standard configuration on American organs. I had to contort a bit to keep my pedaling somewhat accurate. Alice could not see me over the high ledge of the balcony, she just knew I was there because there was sound coming from that direction. In any event, God was praised and God’s people were served. I am not sure if the sculptor of the stone-carved cherubs directly over my head had an especially warped sense of humor, or if it was simply a consequence of the geometry of the room, but the view from below was the cherubs” ”unmentionables”.
After Mass, we did a twilight tour of some of the ancient sites like the Forum and coliseum. We found good bar/restaurants, gelateria (Italian ice cream place) and a pastry shop that would give DiLillo’s in the Bronx a run for its money. Needless to say, there was no such thing as a bad meal on this trip.
Next installment … Assisi.