(Yes…a tease of a title)
I had (sort of and totally unreasonably) high hopes that what used to be the most awesome element of a papal coronation (as it was called) would be restored by Pope Francis.
It’s the part in which, as the Pope is being carried in on the sedia, he stops three times, a bunch of quick burning flax is lit, burns and disappears, while Sancte Pater, sic transit gloria mundi!” is chanted.
(Translation: Holy Father, thus passes the glory of the world.)
My hopes were especially high when I read that Pope Francis was bringing in friars from La Verna for the ceremony – La Verna being the spot where Francis received the stigmata. I was under the impression that in the past, it was a Franciscan who had performed this role in the ceremony, so the possibility of a La Verna friar doing this in 2013 didn’t seem far-fetched. It would seem to fit his sense of discipleship and ministry.
Well, it was far-fetched, apparently. Of course it didn’t happen. Besides, as I learned later, it wasn’t necessarily a Franciscan who would do this, but just one of the Masters of Ceremonies.
Below is a clip from John XXIII’s coronation. You can hear the sic transit chants at about 4.20;5.20 and 6:50. You can see the moment the last two times, only hear it the first.
The whole thing is quite fascinating. (Well, the “whole thing” is a few dozen parts long on YouTube, and I’ve not watched it all, but the parts I have interest me for a number of reasons, one of them being the genial hubub of the ceremony. Watch the Kyrie clip to get a taste. No regimental stiffness. Ministers in fairly constant instructional conversation, much wandering. The strength of confidence of the Pope’s voice is striking as well.)
Yes, that part of the ceremony is rooted in the centuries when the pope was monarch of more than a few square kilometers, and perhaps needed the reminder more than they do now. But still. Even with that changing historical context, it would still be fitting. And awesome.
So now, a couple of points:
Two comments – this and this comment at Catholic Answers were in understanding where Pope Francis, as a religious, might be coming from in terms of liturgy. I was especially appreciative of this explanation of Pope Francis not preaching from the chair, which I admit, bothers me. I mean – cathedra – bishop – teaching – authority – pretty ancient and important. I don’t know if this is true – perhaps someone can confirm.
It was also important to notice that he did not use the cathedra to preach. This is also a very Jesuit custom. Jesuit bishops (the few that there are) do not use the cathedra, because it’s a royal symbol. St. Ignatius banned all forms of the regal from the Jesuit order.
Being a religious myself, I know how much it is drummed into our heads to avoid all of these things, to the point that they make us feel very uncomfortable. Think about it this way. It takes 10 years to become a solemnly professed male religious. That’s the reason that there are so few communities in solemn vows. Most make simple vows. The formation is shorter. During the 10 years, the idea of simplicity and shunning anything that makes you look like a secular priest is drummed into you to the point that you have to push yourself, when you do have to accommodate. This may take some time for him or he may never do it. We’ll just have to wait it out. The good part is that he is not being liturgically sloppy. He’s just being a religious.
(Well, we can say…not a Benedictine kind of religious, either.)
I am still not sure how this works out – what takes precedence. We’ll see.
And for Holy Thursday, such welcome news that Pope Francis has enlisted the Diocese of Rome and the San’Egidio community to bring 3000 of Rome’s poor to Mass – I am presuming at St. John Lateran, where this Mass is celebrated. Bringing it all together – the people of God praying together in and through beauty and truth.
Confusing but now clarified- Pope Francis will celebrate the Chrism Mass at St. Peter’s in the AM , and then the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Marmo prison in the evening, and wash the feet of prisoners there. Both Pope Benedict XVI also celebrated Mass at this prison – the Fourth Sunday of Lent 2007 – and Pope John Paul II visited.
And…A 2011 piece on Popes in Prisons – a survey of papal visits to prisons, written on the eve of Benedict XVI’s second visit to a prison as Pope. The John XXIII story is particularly interesting. Here’s a video of Benedict XVI’s 2011 visit to Rebbibia Prison (very moving) and the text of his Q & A with prisoners. It’s all rather…you know…pastoral. )