Saturday, January 9, 2010

Synaxis of the Theotokos; or, An Afternoon in Florence

I wonder if, having kept the feast of the Synaxis of the Theotokos (the Cyrillic I read as Sobor Bogoritsi) by attendance at the Divine Liturgy this afternoon, therefore to-day for me is a great feast excluding the usual Friday penance? But I heard two more Masses, just to be sure...

Pursuant to my post about keeping Ukrainian Christmas, I ought mention one blessed blessing of the Byzantine Rite: one is for ever crossing oneself in the older, Eastern fashion, with thumb and forefingers joined in honour of the Trinity, the last two digits pressed in the palm to remind us of Christ's Natures twain, and making the saving Sign from right to left, as was done also in the West until the time of Innocent III, who noted in his writings that people were starting to do it our modern way.  One also bows a good deal.

The priest preached a long and doubtless most Marian homily which unfortunately I couldn't understand, though I think he said he was preaching on the kontakion and hypakoe of the feast, and talked a great deal about the Mother of God (Bog / Bozhe, like Gospode, are some of the first words one learns in Ukrainian, being the equivalents of Deus and Dominus; he used both Bogoritsa, which is in Latin Deipara, in Greek Theotokos, and also something like Mater Bozhe).  I filled in the time by reading Sext, whose psalms (83 and 86) were most appropriate, as one can read them as referring to Our Lady.

As only three made their communion, I refrained out of a desire not to cause admiratio.  (Hence the other two Masses in the evening: at the first, at Santa Trinità, I had eaten less than an hour before, so I went to Santa Maria Maggiore for a second Mass so I could communicate fasting.)

Annoyingly, earlier on I couldn't find the church where St Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi's relics are kept.  But I did visit several other churches, among them that paramount gem, Orsanmichele, sheltering the most glorious image and shrine of the Madonna delle Grazie, so resplendent, as if Our Lady had in person descended to earth.

In particular, late in the day I came to Ognissanti (All Saints), now in care of the Immaculate Friars, where is preserved the very habit that St Francis wore when he received the Stigmata.  What a motive for prayer and contemplation!

Santa Trinità is in care of the Vallombrosan Benedictines.  Excellently, they have absolutely no modern Cranmer tables, only stone altars firmly fixed to glorious sacred images, and therefore Mass was said ad orientem, not ad populum (though pro populo, in the general sense).  It just looks and feels so much better.

Santa Maria Maggiore has an altar up the front on the left, with a most unusual inscription, which didn't seem to relate to any of the art around it:


I take it as a message to be relayed to those thinking of a Tiber swim -

"Remember the Rock whence ye have been hewn"
(Isaias li, 1)

- that is, come to Rome, videre Petrum, to see Peter, in every sense.  As I've repeated before, it wasn't Lambeth Palace that lost a tile...

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