Thursday, 13 December 2012

Santa Lucia II

At the end of a quiet afternoon, I walked to the Duomo down the Corso, enchantingly lit for the first time this festive season, to rendezvous with Suore Tarcisia for the ecumenical meeting after the Mass of Santa Lucia. She took me into the sacristy resembling a wood panelled Oxbridge college common room complete with ancient portraits and a refectory table surrounded by a group of men in discussion. There I was introduced to the priest in charge. Or was he an arch-priest, since this is an archiprestal church, like the one in the centre of Vinaros. Both buildings, a thousand miles apart shared the same fortress like exterior - a reflection of  Spanish rule here in the 17th century. He welcomed me publicly at the start of Mass, and to my astonishment, I was given a round of applause. 

For the Eucharistic Prayer, he used the ancient Roman Canon, which mentions Lucia by name. I remember when this was only said in Latin, and when it was first awkwardly translated for in modern English before the the other eucharistic options were added to Roman rite, setting a precedent for every other denomination with a liturgical committee. Following in Italian was no problem. Its unusual structure remains lodged in my memory from liturgical studies at St Mike's, and hearing it used at university chaplaincy Masses during my time at St Francis Hall Birmingham, 1973.

There were about sixty people at Mass on this dark rainy night. Half of them stayed on afterwards for the ecumenical meeting. Suore Tarcisia spoke to an excellently produced Powerpoint presentation on relations between Jews and Christians, outlining two millennia of history, explaining the Vatican II document 'Nostra Aetate' and its implications for people in the pews. I had the impression this was an event for young people. The age range was between 25 and 75, and they were sympathetically engaged with the speaker and subject, to judge from sotto voce comments made throughout.

I was invited to contribute afterwards, with the promise that Suore Tarcisia would rescue me through the emergency medium of French if necessary. I used part of my little Italian script, and struggled to exclude interference from stray Spanish and French words, so stupidly determined was I not to lapse into English. The audience was so open and sympathetic (and probably cosmopolitan, given the town they live in) I could have spoken in any European language and been understood to a degree. 

I said a little about how dialogue and evangelization belonged together, because of a love of the Word of God all people of faith shared. I spoke about the struggle to communicate and live together with differences, and how important silence was for letting the Spirit in to work on our hearts. All in broken language for sure. But as Kosuke Koyama said thirty years ago in Japan, it was communication of good news in broken language which introduced his father to Christ, around the turn of the twentieth century. In mission, we all stand on the shoulders of giants.

At the end, the priest in charge thanked me, and made a joke about what being retired means, then invited me to give the blessing. I was a little overwhelmed by this. I gave the final greeting in Italian, the Aaronic blessing in English and concluded with the trinitarian invocation in Italian. I've never done that before.

What a privileged evening for a restless old geezer like me. The more I reflect on the many things I've experienced of modern global Christianity and its cultures throughout my adult life, the more each piece seems to belong to the others and somehow finds relevance here and now. Nothing is wasted or redundant, and there's joy to be found in every fresh connection made.

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