Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Roman Pilgrim at the Station Churches - Part 3

As I wrote in an article a few years ago, the Thursdays of Lent were originally aliturgical days in the Roman Rite, on which no Mass was said; the Masses for these days were instituted by Pope St. Gregory II (715-31). It has often been noted that by his time, the chant repertoire fixed by St. Gregory the Great was looked upon as a closed canon, and so the Masses of these Thursdays were compiled from various earlier Masses. On Thursday of the first week of Lent, the station is kept at the church of Saint Lawrence “in Panisperna” (the name of the street), and the traditional introit for the day reads, “Praise and beauty are before him: holiness and majesty in his sanctuary.” Bl. Ildefonse Schuster tells us in The Sacramentary (vol. 2, p. 67) that these words refer to the beauty of both the station church of the day, where St Lawrence was burnt, and that of the church built over his grave, St Lawrence outside-the-Walls.
Procession in the courtyard next to the church.

The faithful venerate a relic of St. Lawrence.

“The place of St. Lawrence’s Martyrdom”, at the entrance to the church’s crypt.
The altar in the crypt.

Back when the Pope himself kept the Lenten stations on a regular basis, there was also kept on the ferial days a “Collecta”. (see article here) At a church not too far from the Station, the faithful would gather (colligere) over the course of the day; the Pope then came to the Collecta in the later afternoon, vested for the Mass, and processed with the clergy and faithful to the Station. The common Roman custom of singing the Litany of the Saints at the Lenten Stations is a remnant of this tradition. The Collectae, however, dropped out of use fairly early; they are not listed in the Missal, and several of them were at churches which no longer exist. Nevertheless, some of the Stations are now kept in Rome in a similar fashion. Yesterday, the Station Mass at the church of the Twelve Apostles was preceded by a procession from the nearby church of the Most Holy Name of Mary at the Forum of Trajan. (Holy Name of Mary is the cardinalitial title of H.E. Darío Castrillón-Hoyos, retired President of the Ecclesia Dei commission.) Likewise, on Ash Wednesday, the Popes have in recent decades traditionally processed from the abbey of St Anselmo to the nearby Station at Santa Sabina.
The interior of the church of the Most Holy Name of Mary.
The procession makes it way through the Piazza Dodici Apostoli (also a popular site for noisy political rallies)

The crypt of the church of the Twelve Apostles, seen from the top of the staircase leading down into it (nice shot, Agnese!)

His Excellency Bishop Matteo Zuppi, the Auxiliary Bishop of Rome responsible for the historical center of the city, in which almost all of the Station churches are located.
The crypt of the Twelve Apostles was completely renovated in the mid-19th century, a period in which a group of Roman archeologists, led by Giovanni Battista de’ Rossi, were busily hunting for and rediscovering the ancient Christian cemeteries known as the catacombs. (De’ Rossi is often called by Italians “the Christopher Columbus of the Catacombs.”) The decorative patterns painted on the walls (now themselves largely in need of renovation), in which colored bars separate the various sections, are all based on designs found in the early Christian burial chambers.
The church of the Twelve Apostles was originally dedicated to only two of them, St Philip and St James the Less, whose relics have reposed in the church since the mid-6th century. This is the origin of the Roman Rite’s tradition of giving them a shared feast on May 1st, just as Saints Simon and Jude are kept with a joint feast on October 28th, since their relics are kept together at St. Peter’s Basilica.

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