Saturday, 15 December 2012

Testament Lesson

It turned warmer overnight, and I switched the central heating off for comfort. With sun shining through haze, I walked to the piazza Sant Agostino, where people dessed in their most stylish back outfits were arriving for a wedding, and kept arriving for the next thrre quarters of an hour. Apparently the bride and groom were already there, to judge by the occasional round of applause and faint sounds of music coming from within.

A Fiat Cinquecento nuovo decorated for a wedding car was parked in front of Sant Guiseppe church. A young lady in party dress was in charge of it, and spent the first half of the ceremony outside on the church balcony, dangling the car keys and smoking a cigarette with the guys, before squeezing herself in through the crowds blocking the entrance. Parked in front of the wedding car was a shiny vintage Cinquecento. I saw it there last week, used as a prop for the Korean fashion photo shoot I watched. The fifty year old model is two thirds the volume of the modern version with its innovative turbocharged flat twin cylinder eco-engine. The Nuovo looks roughly the same, but doesn't have grandad's charm.

I was amazed at how people came and went from the church taking a peek, then stopping outside to chat. Some guests didn't go in at all, mostly men. I watched two expensively attired older guys walk up and down talking intensely arm in arm for the best part of an hour. When their spouses turned up near the end, they came from the shopping street rather than the church. Either bride or groom, or both, must work for the 'Protezione Civile' as several of the guest donned their official jackets to form a guard of honour for the exit, and posed for photographs together with the happy couple. They'd been in church for at least an hour and a quarter, somewhat longer than an British wedding, though the photo/video shoot following took just as long. The guests strolled off up the Corso toward the Porta Catania, to retrieve their cars and go to the reception. 

Bride and groom left the piazza last, with him driving the Cinquecento Nuovo after a photo in front of the Christmas tree. Just then, an electrician on a mobile platform was hanging lights above and behind them on the tree. He didn't stop working, nor did he hide. Will he be cropped out of the official photos I wonder? Not in mine for sure. Earlier I observed the caretaker, removing decorative ornamental trees, then sweeping up rice from the church balcony, working around guests still there photographing the bride and groom. No sense of deference to the occasion as you'd find in Britain. Even so it was a time for happy meeting and greeting for scores of people, before during and after. Parking half a kilometre away and walking to church chatting on the way is part of what they're used to, part of making time for important moments in life.

It was business as usual for Vespers at the convent this evening. Their simple presepio is erected in one of the central arcades of the nave in front of a votive altar. Joseph and Mary stand gazing down at an empty crib, ready to welcome the Christ-child. The blanket awaiting the baby in the crib is a Jewish prayer shawl. Underneath is a sheep's fleece, either side two recumbent china lambs The holy couple stand with backs to a rustic stable door, with a key-hole in it. Framing the key-hole is a golden star of David. In front is a dish with seven tea-lights - one for each day of the week before Christmas, the days of the great 'O' Magnificat antiphons. How well thought out this scene is, to remind us, as Suore Tarcisia did in her Thursday evening talk, of the Jewish roots of Christian faith. Not in the Old Testament as we're used to calling it, she reminded us, but in the First Testament, the one in which Jesus was raised and nurtured.

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