Sunday, June 28, 2009

Papal Vespers for the Conclusion of the Pauline Year

In a few moments, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will begin the celebration of Solemn Vespers - first Vespers of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul - on the occasion of the conclusion of the Pauline Year, commemorating the 2000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul, in the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Here is the booklet for those who want to follow along. Below you will find some images of the ceremony.

Before we come to them, however, here are some pictures of what is probably the oldest icon - in the sense of a cult image - of St. Paul the Apostle, probably dating from the end of the fourth century. It was discovered, as today's edition of L’Osservatore Romano reports, last Friday 19 June in the course of restoration works in the Roman catacombs of St. Thecla on the Via Ostiensis, not far from the burial place of St. Paul:

And now for Papal Vespers:

The Holy Father arriving and being greeted by the Archpriest of St. Paul, Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo:

The Pope entering the Basilica:

Descending into the Confessio to venerate the tomb of the Apostle:

Having venerated the altar, the Holy Father goes to the throne:

A nice view of the confessio, the altar, and the Pope at the throne in the background:

The Pope at the throne. The Cardinal Deacons are the Archpriest of St. Paul, Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, and, if I am not mistaken, Cardinal Raffaele Farina, Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church:

In this close-up, note the fine silver laminee of the covering of the papal throne:

The homily. During the homily, the Pope revealed that a special minuscule probe has been inserted into the sarcophagus of St. Paul, which has never been opened, and a radiocarbon examination of a very small piece of bone retrieved in this way, along with traces of precious vesmtents and incense, has shown that the bones belong to a person who lived between the first and second century. In the words of the Holy Father: "This seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul. All this fills our mind with deep emotion."
The entire homily is incredible, I would say among the greatest of his pontificate, I will post an English translation once it becomes available (see post above):

Incensation of the altar...

...and of the tomb of the Apostle at the Magnificat (the practice of having the incensation performed by two deacons - a feature, I believe, of the Ambrosian rite - seems now to have become a fixed element of papal Vespers under Msgr. Guido Marini):


Veneration of the altar:

The Holy Father leaves the Basilica:

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