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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Signum magnum

I arrived at the Piazza Spagna at 3.30. I took out my Monastic Diurnal to say None, and found this antiphon: Signum magnum apparuit in coelo: mulier amicta sole, et luna sub pedibus ejus, et in capite ejus corona stellarum duodecim. I looked up. And there She was, at the top of the column, just as my Office says. The Roman firemen had already placed the wreath upon her right arm, and the crowd was saying a rosary and singing hymns in expectation of the Pope. The Spanish Embassy hung special drapery with the coat of arms of the new pope. The base of the column had been surrounded by copious flowers from the Roman people, to which people added their own as the night progressed.

My height prevented me seeing the Pope, even though I was only about five meters from him. I was nevertheless delighted to see the return of the magnificent winter mozzetta, lined in ermine. The sound system was poor and he spoke softly, so we couldn't understand him. The crowd joined in the Alma Redemptoris, and he gave his blessing. I did my best to kneel in the tight crowd.
Some very nice pictures from Mary, who apparently had a better position than I, and also got into the papal Mass in the morning.

After the happy event, I walked over by the Via Condotti to attend Vespers and Mass at San Gregorio. I never realised how good the acoustics in that place was, sounding full and rich with only ten men in choir. The glorious Ave maris stella was sung, with its soaring melismata. During the Magnificat, the antiphon was sung between several verses, and the image of Our Lady on the left side altar was incensed.

More wandering, and I found myself in vast church of SS Apostoli. In the Confession under the sanctuary are the relics of SS Phillip and James. It was the end of Mass, with Our Lord Cardinal Re celebranting. The choir there is actually very good (surprisingly for Rome). The church, home of the Conventual Franciscans, was magnificently decorated, as you see. The Vatican basilica had chandeliers of this sort and in this array up until the 60s. It was a glorious end to a happy day.
This is one of my very favourite feasts. If it is anything, it is about (at least to me) true beauty. We are reminded in the contemplation of Our Lady's beauty of the ideal of the human race. Eve was created pure, but we now live with her sins; Our Lady was created pure, but she retains this dazzling purity. Both were human, as we are. In the Immaculate Conception God calls us to return to that true nature which was meant for us, the greatest of his works. The human person is capable of such goodness and beauty. There is sin, as we all know, but the Lord has not forgotten us. With this unique event in the history of the world, the darkness of the past has been destroyed; utter goodness once more can found on this earth, the lily amongst the thorns. The earth in turn is shown capable of supporting the such goodness as it has forgotten, where now it too is recalled to its original purpose as the habitation of God and his people. Remembering our true nature, we are reminded of our closeness with our Creator, our nature which he did not spurn. With true beauty and goodness comes true joy. She is the Civitas Dei, where dwelt our Salvation; the Virga Iesse after centuries of waiting finally bearing fruit; the Cedrus exaltatus chosen for the Ark and the Temple; the Fons hortorum pouring forth living water for our wearied souls; the Stella maris leading our eyes to the promised land; and the Porta caeli, through which we enter, to enjoy eternity in beatific contemplation of our Lord and our God.

Comments [5]

Blogger ondeb:

Beatiful pictures indeed!
Many thanks for this "review", Juan...

Here in Palermo we have also a beautiful statue of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, with the same ceremony with firemen deposing a wreath

You can see the statue at

In Christo


Sat Dec 10, 12:07:00 PM GMT  
Blogger ondeb:

Ops... with firemen placing a wreath... I'm not sure "deposing" would be right in English... sorry ;)

Sat Dec 10, 12:09:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Perpétua:

Goodness me - that is magnificent! A tilt of the veil to you, indeed! Our dear Blessed Mother, the boast of the human race, our assurance that nothing as catastrophic as the Fall can happen again - Our Mother and true safeguard :)

Sat Dec 10, 12:44:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Juan:

I thought earlier that they placed a crown on the statue, after it had been blessed by the pope during the ceremony. Everyone talks about the "incoronazione."

Sat Dec 10, 06:36:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Boeciana:

How lovely!

Sun Dec 11, 04:26:00 PM GMT  

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