Tuesday, November 21, 2006

This liturgical week... (for Romans)

Two of my favourite liturgical celebrations happen this week.
Wednesday is the Feast of St Cecilia - worth attending is the evening Mass (I'm not sure precisely what time...) in her basilica where the Sistine Choir honour the patroness of musicians.
Thursday is San Clemente. The Irish Dominicans are kicking off the celebrations at 8.15pm on Wednesday night in the Church of San Clemente with Domincan-rite Compline and Salve Regina sung by the Utrect Gregorain Choir. On the feastday itself is a procession with the relics of San Clemente through the neighbourhood, followed by Mass. The procession starts at 6pm, I think.
Matt of the Holy Whapping was there back in 2003 when the procession was held on the eve of the feast. (This year it is on the feast day):
The St. Clement's day festival in Rome is so Italian it could happen in New York. It has that concentrated, wonderfully cinematic Italianness one simply can't find beyond the watery bounds of Manhattan. After a long and harrowing detour around the Palatine and back towards the Campidoglio to avoid another tiresome pacifist demonstration that was cluttering up central Rome from Il Gesu to the Vittoriano, I arrived to find the procession had already begun. So I followed the lights and the music.
A scraggly-looking brass band played vigorously at the head of the cortege, followed up a banner-bearer, torchers in the black and scarlet habit of the clerks of the Propaganda Fide, as well as assisting Dominican clergy in surplice and tunic. Then came the great gilded head-reliquary of the saint on a litter borne on the shoulders of four men in identical martyr-maroon sweatshirts with the Latin inscription Nihil dificile volenti, the meaning of which is entirely lost on me. After them followed Dominicans in cappa and tunic and surpliced acolytes. And then us, the laity, some bearing burned-down wax tapers.
A truly Italian touch came in the fact that at each corner of the sedia were plastic flame-shaped red lights that blinked on and off the whole time. Only in Italy.
On either side, people ran ahead and lit spark fountains affixed to the walls or taped to stop signs, blazing away with magnesium whiteness until the flammules died in a halo of gold on the sidewalk. Overhead were strung extravagant exotic displays of lights that had a faint hint of some small-town orientalist movie palace. It was great. It was tacky. It was pious. It was holy. It was Italy.
We processed into the church through the side door, the banner dipping as we entered. Incense, and the first notes of the organ prelude. Six candles shone on the altar, and four more burned before the grating of St. Clement's tomb, decorated with the palm branches of martyrdom. The prayers alternated between the American-accented Italian of Cardinal Stafford's prayers and the Irish-accented Latin of the Dominican schola. Everywhere was the scarlet of blood and the white of papal purity, in the vestments of the clerics, in the festoons of flowers bedecking the choir enclosure, in the banner on the high marble ambo.

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