Rome Sabbatical – Day 6

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Due to what I assume are the lingering affects of jet lag, I am having enormous trouble getting to sleep at night. We sleep with our windows open and although it is a fairly quiet neighborhood, we can still hear neighbors talking, babies crying, dogs barking, etc.. Then again, it may be all the espresso and cappuccino I am drinking everyday.

Street scene in Trastavere

Street scene in Trastavere

Speaking of espresso, our apartment has one of those stovetop espresso pots and thanks to “wiki-answers” I figured out how to use it. We enjoyed several cups for breakfast this morning with our toast, eggs and fresh strawberries.

dsc02317Today being Sunday I felt a bit out of sorts for a couple of reasons. First, I was not preaching. With the exception of summer vacation I am most always behind the pulpit either here at FBC or by invitation at another church. Secondly, we had no place to go to church this morning which I know sounds strange in a city like Rome. In our neighborhood, however, I have no idea where the nearest church is and I am certain that the closest church will be both Catholic and in Italian. This reinforced to me the importance of sharing community with a local church, which I always miss when I am away from FBC regardless of the circumstances.

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Worship on Sunday came for me not in a traditional service but through visiting – or actually revisiting – some churches in the Trastevere area of Rome. I am positive that you, careful reader, have already noted that is where I visited yesterday, and of course you are correct. Amy and the boys, however, had not and so we decided to take a leisurely stroll through this beautiful area. It turned out to be a wonderful way to spend Sunday together as a family.

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Our first stop once leaving the bus was back to San Francesco a Ripa – I wanted to show to Amy and the boys the inspiring Bernini sculpture, the “Ecstasy of Beata Ludovicia.” I noticed the sexton was waiting patiently for us to finish and, I suppose, lock up. I remembered that St. Francis of Assisi stayed in that very church on several visits to Rome in the early 13th century. In my best southern accented Italian I asked the him about this to which he brightened up and took us on a behind the scenes tour up the bell tower stairwell that led to the very cell of St. Francis! There he showed us his stone that was used for his pillow and the altar that he used for prayer and worship. In a mixture of Italian and English he talked about Francis’ respiratory problems which warranted a stone pillow to elevate his head. The room was essentially original with the exception of an embellished and heavily ornamented altar – which is ironic when once considers that Francis renounced his wealth in order to better identify with the poor. What a gift of time this patient sexton gave us and he seemed so grateful to explain all of this to us. When we left he politely closed the church door behind us and locked it until the next mass.

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We visited St. Maria of Trastavere and its exquisite mosaics. Adorning the walls of its portico are fragments of marble engravings recovered from Christian catacombs in the first few centuries of Christianity. Upon entering the sanctuary we were treated to a recording of Gregorian chant being played for the benefit of the many visitors. Sitting in the cool, relatively dimly lit sanctuary listening to chant and viewing the brilliant gold and blue mosaics the presence of God of was softly felt. I guess I did go to worship today!

Piazza of Santa Maria

Piazza of Santa Maria

We spent a good portion of the afternoon just wandering in and out of the many alleys of Trastavere looking at shops and eyeing menus. We had just past a door that was propped open with a potted plant when I noticed mandolins, violins and guitars hanging from the rafters. The owner noticed my peeking and invited us in. He was from Iran but has lived in Rome for the past 35 years. He showed us instruments as old as 500 years and harps and lutes that he was crafting for the next generation. He had horns from the Renaissance period and  drums that were contemporary (well, in the last 100 years). This portion of Rome is just full of wonderful surprises. I dropped him a coin or two and took a picture.

We walked to the top of one of Rome’s many hills which offered a wonderful view of the city. The lane (and for that matter most of Rome) was lined with huge sycamores – what is it about all those sycamores? When we returned our late breakfast had long since been walked off so we found a pizzeria recommended by Rick Steves – Dar Poeta. We enjoyed wood-fired pizzas topped with prosciutto, hot salami, and mushrooms. It turned out to be a great recommendation from a tour book.

We had a beautiful Sabbath together in the family. This has proven to be the ideal location to look, listen, and learn.

Tonight I am sitting at the tiny kitchen table with Amy as she is rummaging up something for the boys to eat. The evening light is fading and I am looking forward to a good night’s rest. As I am prone to say at the conclusion of Sunday evening worship services – it has been a good day all day.

Bless you,

Greg