Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lenten Journey Week 3: Palatino

The Palatine Hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It is between the Roman and the Circus Maximus. (It is the origin of the word "palace".) According to Roman mythology, the Palatine Hill was the location of the cave where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf. During the Roman Republic many wealthy Romans had their residences there. During the Empire (27 BC – 476 AD) it was home to several emperors, including Augustus, Tiberius and Domition.

Santa Anastasia: In the late 3rd or early 4th century a church was built on the Palatine Hill. It was one of the first parish churches of ancient Rome, given by a woman called Anastasia and later dedicated to a martyr of the same name. Parts of the 4th century church, as well as parts from the rebuilding in the 6th century, are preserved. It was the official church of representatives of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) empire who resided on the Palatine.
Santa Anastasia was restored several times over the centuries. The present church is the result of 17th and 18th century rebuilding.
The current façade dates from the 17th century and is the work of L. Arrigucci, a student of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The previous façade was destroyed by a whirlwind in 1638. Underneath the church are the ruins of an ancient portico from the 1st century AD, as well as ruins of a group of insulae (multi-storied dwellings), that provided shops and services for the nearby Circus Maximus.
When I was a child, this Basilica of Santa Anastasia was the titular church of our archbishop, James Francis Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles. The first titular priest of the church was St Jerome who died in 420. (He was never actually a cardinal; he was given the title posthumously in the 13th century, and assigned to this church because of the tradition that he celebrated Mass here.) The present titular priest is Godfried Daneels, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, who was appointed in 1983.
The nave uses ancient columns that were in the earlier church buildings on the site.
The ceiling is frescoed with a martyrdom of the saints (1722) by Michelangelo Cerruti.
Beneath the high altar is a statue of St Anastasia by Ercole Ferrata, in a style of Bernini.
The church has perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in a side chapel, and is therefore open 24 hours a day.

The Gospel for the 3rd Sunday in Lent recounts the parable of the fig tree. The owner of an orchard is ready to cut down a fig tree that is not producing fruit. The gardner replies: "Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it. It may bear fruit in the future." For nearly 2,000 years this site has been a place of prayer. And today, people are praying here 24 hours a day. It was interesting to look at the organizational calendar for this round-the-clock prayer vigil. There are at least two people all of the time. I wish that my life could be better organized. There are many wasted moments during each day. May I "cultivate and fertilize" my days (and prune away the unnecessary activities) so that my life may produce better "fruit."

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves
to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and
inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all
adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil
thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
From The Book of Common Prayer

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