These posts are getting all out of order...
Wednesday I kept the Epiphany with Mass and Office in Edinburgh. Mark continued to be a generous friend, touring me around the city, to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, to the new Scottish Parliament (an excellent thing, devolution; and who knows, perhaps to...), to the church at the Cowgate - where we revered the shrine of the Venerable Margaret Sinclair (1900-1925), a poor hardworking local lass who died in the odour of sanctity as a Poor Clare extern, known as the "Edinburgh Wonder Worker", whose Cause is advancing - to Edinburgh Castle, on to a very decent late lunch at Dario's, then off in the early evening to Mass for the Epiphany, courtesy of Fr Emerson, F.S.S.P. The choir were very good, mixing chant and polyphony, with a very talented organ accompaniment, to effect.
Alas, on Thursday I had to arise at 3 a.m. to get my taxi to the airport for a pre-dawn flight (such the time one must allow for airport security and all the rest these days). The flight to Paris was very pleasant, but I found finding my way around Charles de Gaulle Airport quite terrifying, as I had little time and no idea where to go to find my connecting flight. I was so distracted I left my mobile, rosary, etc. in my pockets when I was security-screened, setting off the scanner and making the security guards (on high alert owing to that Christmas bombing incident) very wary and a bit cross, fairly enough. (Looking back to this I suddenly realize how serious it was, golly.)
Finally getting to the right place just in time, we were in due course off for Florence. Compared to Heathrow (where the customs officer was rather harsh, unfriendly and even rude in his manner) and Paris (where owing to my blundering who knows what trouble I all unwittingly nearly brought down on myself), Italian airport security was, well, extraordinarily light: there was a dog sniffing bags, and I think I had to show my passport, but that was it!
Florence is beautifully warm after freezing England and Scotland. Yester-day was sunny, to-day a bit rainy, but still great.
The taxi-driver turned out to have returned from several months' holiday in Australia, having seen more of it than I have...
I've booked in at my customary lodgings, the Hotel Plaza Lucchesi: suffice to say I have my own balcony overlooking Santa Croce. Why stay anywhere else? (I'll sound like Fr Z, but the complimentary breakfast alone has three courses, with liveried waiters.)
After a good soaking bath to revive my drooping spirits, I set off around Florence for a good walk.
First, I found what I'd missed last time: the Florentine Oratory, the Church of St Philip Neri (originally, the Church of San Firenze, an early eponymous bishop of the city). Good Philip remains solicitous for me, his unworthy client. The church has six side altars (one of St Philip, with painting thereof), a high altar (with the Bambino Gesu enthroned above the tabernacle, it being Christmastide), and a new and actually very appropriately furnished forward altar and sanctuary furniture.
It was providential that Thursday Sext contained the very words used in praying him since his death: "Look down from heaven and see, and visit this vineyard, and perfect the same which thy right hand hath planted" (quoted in Latin on the ceiling also, under the painting of him in ecstasy, with the quotation from Acts - Spiritus Domini rapuit Philippum). A sign pointed into a side chamber for the Presepe (praesepio, crib): a whole altar (of the Sacred Heart) had been covered over with a huge representation of the Nativity scene, complete with running water and all.
In the side chamber was also the tomb of Pietro Bini, a Florentine and early follower of St Philip, who returning to their native city established the Oratory in Florence; he died a most holy death in 1635.
I didn't go far before I found myself at the Divine Liturgy (see last post below)... thank you, St Philip!
In the evening, I just wandered about entranced by the beauty of this Flourishing city, having a mild case of Stedhal syndrome (the palpitations and even psychosis engendered in visitors overcome by the concentration of art in Florence: the local mental hospital treats cases every year).
Again, I'll do a Fr Z and mention two nice comestibles: hot roasted chestnuts still in their shells bought off a street vendor; great big hot waffles stuck together into a prodigious sandwich with lashings of warm chocolate sauce - the latter of which I ate at the steps of the Duomo, at the foot of its facade, facing the Baptistery.
Florentia, civitas Christi Regis, floresce semper!