First, to my great shame, I forgot one of the best features of Bari when I posted yesterday! They have a very unique interpretation of Advent wreaths. By “very unique,” I mean “barely recognizable.” None had evergreen, for starters. One sported candles of blue, red, yellow and white. Another was perched on a weirdly shaped tree trunk. My favorite, though, was this:
Yes. Four white candles floating in pillars of water, surrounded by the elements. I do love the progression of the materials: lifeless rock is refined to dirt, which is life-supporting; from this comes the simple greenery, and finally this is brought to rich, colorful, vibrant life. OK, I can buy it. And besides, this was in the Cathedral, which has seen worse than dirt in it (refer to my post yesterday)…
Right, back to Rome. I said arrivederci today by the same means with which this city and I have shared our love all semester: meanderingly. Two of the churches I’d planned on visiting (of course, the two that were far out of the way and hard to get to) were closed. The internet is good for many things, but discovering the truth may not be one of them. However, I got to take a beautiful walk regardless, and soak in the warm weather and, well, Romanness of it all:
Of the churches that were open, most of them were rather boring. This is good, as I would have been rather upset with myself if I’d discovered a gem on the very last day. In San Giorgio in Velabro, I was greeted with a bowl claiming to contain the “cranium” of St. George, which could translate to anything from “brain” to “skull.” It didn’t look like bones; that’s all I know.
In the nearby Sant’Anastasia, I must steal some theological analysis from Fr. Gray. Saint Anastasia’s feast day is Christmas, and her name refers to the Resurrection. This beautiful connection of the Incarnation and the Resurrection is somewhat well captured in the church (I have high standards, in case you cannot tell). In the apse, there is a painting of the Nativity. OK, fair enough. In the chapel where perpetual adoration is held, instead of a monstrous monstrance, the Eucharist is displayed within the tabernacle, but with the door open, as if emerging from the tomb. The connection is weak, but they get my positive regards for the effort.
The last church of the day about which I have anything meaningful to say was called Santi Luca e Martina. It had a nice ceiling.
These adventures were followed by a slightly-less-furious-than-I-had-anticipated packing spree, a vigil Mass (in English!) and a truly wonderful meal with the entire Rome program: students, teachers, administrators and the fantastic seminarians who have been with us this whole semester. In short, a great group of friends with whom I have shared these blissful times. We dined well, the conversation was incomparable, and it nothing was lacking on this last evening. Indeed, everything about this day was ideal and, though slightly tinted with sadness, a meaningful and fulfilling conclusion to my time here. So, it is no passing comment to say that I have saved the best for last. This morning I woke up at an unspeakably early hour for a completely candlelit Extraordinary Form Missa cantata. It was one of the most beautiful, symbolically resonant Masses I’ve ever experienced.
This was exquisitely beautiful, and the type of thing that is really special and unique to being here in Rome with these wonderful people. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect beginning to my last day.
I have one concluding post to publish, a summary of sorts, but this is the last one about actual events, per se. A presto!