During an entire liturgy full of beautiful, sweet and touching moments, there was an especial sweetness to the conclusion of today’s Ash Wednesday mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, which was also the last public liturgy that will be performed by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.
Rocco Palmo has the moment, and the video, and his title, quoting Benedict, can appropriately summarize the entire pontificate of Joseph Ratzinger: “Thank you; let us return to prayer…”
Even for two millenia of a very full, yet never boring history, the Catholic Church has never seen a moment like this.
Remember, folks – the “new” St Peter’s Basilica was only opened some three centuries after the last time a Pope resigned.
As prelates and people alike were seen fighting back tears, here are the closing moments of Benedict XVI’s final turn at the Altar of the Confession (homily), a site literally upon the “rock” on which the papacy – and the church it guides – is built….
It was a spontaneous outburst of applause, sustained and warm, for our Holy Father.
It goes on, and on. At about the 2:00 mark, if you close your eyes, it sounds like a steady drenching rain of love.
As an introvert I can tell you: it takes a lot of humility — and a great deal of courage — to stand there and let people love you, as Benedict does. But then, when it seems like the attention has strayed too far from where it belongs, he smiles at the crowd and says, “Thank you; let us return to prayer.”
Ite, missa est.
I am cranky about applause at mass, particularly when it becomes habitual, but when it’s spontaneous — as I have seen happen at a nuptial kiss, or after particularly good sermons — you can’t gainsay it, because you know it’s coming from the heart, as this is.
But Rocco notes that song became spontaneous, as well:
. . . the Sistine Choir burst into Palestrina’s setting of the Roman pontiff’s mandate – Jesus’ exhortation from the 16th chapter of St Matthew’s Gospel….
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Of course, the tail-end of those words now ring the dome of the Vatican Basilica… and roughly a month from now, even before the cardinals’ choice dons the white robes that come with his election, the Conclave’s senior deacon will proclaim those words while standing before Peter’s 265th successor – the new Pope.
Go over to Rocco’s place and watch the video
And do read Benedict’s excellent homily, which is a great kick-off to Lent!
Tom McDonald captured some excellent images of the mass, including the one above.
Rebecca Hamilton shares some thoughts
Kathy Schiffer on today’s touching papal audience
Fr. George Rutler: Benedict’s Decision in Light of Eternity