The experience of Lent has been a bit different than I expected in Rome. I'm used to going to Stations of the Cross every Friday, going to mass more often than just Sunday, and having a much more solemn liturgy. If I am remembering correctly, the first Latin words I spoke were through grade school services during Lent. Given our travel and the Italian language barrier, I find myself nostalgic for my parish and high school especially during the most holy time of the year.
Rod proposed going to San Clemente--one of the oldest churches in Rome today--for a service on Monday. Neither of us knew what to expect, but had an idea it centered around Stations of the Cross and mass. Their special event is called Stazione Quaresimale, or Lenten Station. We headed towards church, passed the Colosseum on the way, and arrived...20 minutes late.
Class ends at 6, which is when the Stations were to begin. We sat down when mass had just begun, but surely not so late as to miss the Stations. As it turns out, the mass begins with a procession from the altar of the fourth-century basilica below the church to the present twelfth-century basilica, and there is not a stations of the cross service. Mass does, however, end with the presentation of a relic of the Holy Cross. (There is also a relic of the Cross atop the obelisk in St. Peter's Square). Much of the music was Georgian chant, led by a remarkable choir hidden from view near the altar. The moving liturgy reminded me of home, which I had been searching for all along.
San Clemente is a beautiful church. No pictures are allowed, but the apse in particular has an incredible mosaic from the twelfth century imitated by many successive churches today. It is undergoing some restoration, so the facade is hidden in scaffolding and the courtyard which fronts the church is locked from view. There is also an incredible version of the Madonna by Sassoferrato in a side chapel. I hope to return for a better tour of the church and to see the old basilica (and even a third level from the second century) underneath.