Busy Rome 2In an annex off the Basilica of St. John Lateran, is La Scala Sancta (the Holy Stairs), which tradition says St. Helena—the mother of the first Christian Emperor, Constantine—brought back from Jerusalem. These are believed to be the stairs that Jesus would have walked on when He was brought before Pontius Pilate. The ancient marble staircase has a wooden riser on top, but you can see, and feel the marble between each stair. As we ascended the twenty-eight steps on our knees, I was thinking of the scripture passages at this point in His passion. I touched the marble steps as we climbed. At the top, I sat on a bench to the side while Ed took photos, and I meditated on the fact that I could well be sitting near where Jesus stood when Pilate said, "Behold the man" (Jn. 19:5). Going up these stairs on our knees wasn't easy, but that was nothing as we thought of His sacrifice for us. As we left, for a while we were both quiet, absorbed in our own thoughts about what we had just experienced.

Across the Tiber, sandwiched between other buildings, is the site of the oldest Christian church tolerated by the early Romans. Built in the early 3rd century, Santa Maria in Trastevere is very humble in comparison to some of the other churches we saw. It is in a quiet Roman neighborhood, and the present church was built in the 12th century, on the site of the original. The church was crowded, but people were very reverent as they looked at all the Byzantine mosaics and frescos. I didn't want to disturb anyone by Ed describing the art to me, so I just sat to wait for him.

In this church, I hadn't expected to sense much of what it looked like, so I thought about the fact that I was where the original church on this spot was built less than 200 years after Christ. Then a cantor began to sing a Latin chant a cappella! This hauntingly beautiful chant lent to the liturgy a medieval feel, and was another gift God gave me so that I could "see" this ancient church!

This was a trip that we never wanted to end!