Changed out of my coffee-stained clothes quickly and went to the 5:30 pm Stational Mass round the corner from the B&B at S. Maria Maggiore. Cardinal Law wasn't presiding (apparently, he did at this morning's 7 am English liturgy), rather it was an unidentified Bishop along with the canons of the Basilica. [Rocco has an interesting note on the perks and vestments that canons of Patriarchal Basilicas receive.]
While the stational liturgy on Monday had tons of beautifully printed programs available, there were none in sight here. I think maybe 4 of the 150-200 congregants seemed to be following along in a booklet. Guess one doesn't need to participate at a Patriarchal Basilica? :-) There was a pretty decent men's schola that did chant and polyphony (thought it seemed that their counter-tenors were really straining at the higher registers) for the liturgy.
After the entrance procession, the relics at the altar -- of the Holy Cross -- were incensed and then we followed the Cross and ministers around the Basilica, and outside while chanting the Litany of Saints in Latin. Before the Liturgy of the Word began, everyone (well those who had programs. I know half the verses.) chanted the Miserere (in Latin as well).
I just love the smell of incense!
Not having a program, and given the resounding echo, I missed a lot of the readings and most of the homily ... ... there was something about Nineveh being 3 days journey across, and walking and journeying with Christ in Lent, about conversion, penitence, and lots of reference (yet again!) to the Holy Father's new encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est."
I truly enjoyed the polyphony -- an interesting way of doing this, alternating a line of the hymn or chant with verses in polyphony. Same for the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei. It worked. The acoustics were fantastic. The smell of incense, and the amazingly beautiful mosacis on the triumphal arch (the apsidal area was in darkness, being under scaffolding right now). As we knelt on the mosaics on the floor, I couldn't help but think of all our forebears in faith who'd worshipped in this spot down the ages.
At the benediction, we were blessed with the relic of the Holy Cross (that's twice in a week!), with the episcopal benediction chanted in Latin.
Benedictus sit nomen Domini! Usque ad aternum.
Adiutorium nostri in nomine Domine. Qui fecit caeli et terram.
Blessed be the name of the Lord! Now and forever.
Our help is in the name of the Lord! Who made heaven and earth.