« AnteriorContinuar »
dinals, robed in their penitential attire. Without indulging in the language of exaggeration, it is an assembly such as seldom can be witnessed. You have a meeting composed of men eminent for piety, or science, or age, or long and arduous habits of business, and often conspicuous for a combination of all these qualities; and if the ancient Gaul was tempted to stroke the beard of one of the Roman senators, to try whether the god-like assembly was composed of mortals, none need fear the imputation of that awe which ignorance or barbarism inspires, in pronouncing the senate of the Roman cardinals the most venerable and majestic assembly in the world.
The magnificent ceremonies of Christmas day formed an appropriate close for the preceding functions of Advent. At an early hour in the morning I went to St. Peter's, and had the great consolation of celebrating three Masses in the subterranean chapel over the tomb of the Apostles. Afterwards I attended at the solemn Mass sung by his Holiness. At nine o'clock the cardinals, with their appropriate trains, together with the bishops, prelates, and clergy, were to be seen crossing the nave from the sacristy to a chapel on the right hand, near the great entrance-door from which the procession commenced. At this time the scene became animated by the crowds that were thronging to be present at the august sacrifice; the bustle, however, was hushed on their entrance, for, though some on moving up the nave seemed in the attitude of conversation, not a whisper was heard in the distance, and their little figures seemed to disappear, as they spread in various directions, to procure the most convenient view of the ceremonies. Still the city continued to pour in its fresh multitudes, yet the crowds were comparatively unnoticed in its yastness.
The nave was lined by two files of Swiss guards, whose singular equipment in arms and costume contributed to heighten the effect of the solemn scene. Behind the high altar a magnificent screen was erected, covering the tribune of the church, and leaving the intermediate space for the performance of the ceremonies. Against this screen, which was tastefully hung with richly embroidered scarlet, a platform was raised, ascended by seven steps, with a magnificent pontifical throne, elevated in the centre. Benches for the cardinals, bishops, and other ecclesiastics were tastefully fitted up on either side, and temporary galleries erected, for the accommodation of
many of the immense congregation. After nine o'clock the procession began to move; first the different ecclesiastics in their respective robes, next the bishops, and then the cardinals, sweeping, in a lengthened and varied train, over the church, while the Roman Pontiff, seated on his throne, and borne aloft by the nobles of the city, formed a suitable close to the gorgeous spectacle. The liturgy was then sung with all the power and harmonious variety of intonation for which the Pope's choir is justly celebrated. The epistle and gospel were sung in the Greek and Latin tongues. The impressive solemnity with which the divine mysteries were celebrated fixed the attention; but when the sudden clangor of trumpets, mingling with the explosion of cannons from St. Angelo's, announced the elevation, the effect was truly electric, and there was not a heart, that was not a rebel to its own feelings, that was not prostrate in gratitude to adore that God, who then, as in Bethlehem, came under a mysterious form — a sacrifice of peace and of propitiation. Christmas day has everywhere its peculiar claims to devotion. There are, from the humble huts in Ireland, as pure and precious orisons offered to the Almighty, as from any temple on the globe. There are hearts in which God kindles the sacrifice of his love, without any remote or intermediate incentives. There is, however, no other place which furnishes so much of fuel to enkindle the flames of devotion, as this temple. The august sacrifice of Melchisedeck offered on the anniversary of our Redeemer's birth, by one who exemplifies not only the rite but the person of the royal patriarch, in the circumstance of being at once a king and pontiff in a city which is the cemetery of ancient Paganism, and the centre of the Christian world; on the spot beneath which, with the kindred ashes of St. Paul, repose those of the Prince of the Apostles, whose spirit still animates and sustains his successors, realizing the promises of the divine Founder of the Church, whilst they survive the shifting dynasties of the world – perpetuating the oblation of the sacrifice of love, and that under a dome whose lofty roof draws up the soul to heaven -- these were circumstances calculated to awaken feelings which cannot be forgotten; whilst the vastness of the edifice reminds you that it cannot be the temple of any one country that you are treading; but as you walk along, with the sanctuary still receding from before you, and view the tribunals of mercy, with their inscriptions in various lan
guages, inviting Greek and Hebrew, you are struck with the hidden and mysterious immensity of the place --- an emblem of Him to whom it is dedicated — and forced silently to exclaim that this is no "other but the house of God," into which "the nations should be continually flowing from the four winds of heaven.”
*JOHX, BISHOP OF MARONIA.
respective tongues. The Sunday within its octave witnessed one of the most gratifying exhibitions which any country could exhibit, the young students, to the number of about fifty, delivering compositions before the assembled dignitaries of Rome, in the varied languages of their respective countries. It was a scene which bore attestation to the Catholics of the faith of Rome, as well as to the union which links its most distant members, to see a number of young men, brought up in adverse national prejudices, and speaking from their infancy different languages, now assembled together, and moulded into one intellectual mass, animated by one spirit, and like their predecessors of old, in the day of Pentecost, all understanding through their different dialects the voice and faith of Peter, conveyed in one single language, is a continuance of the gift of tongues still perpetuated in the Church, and which cannot fail to make its impression on a reflecting and religious mind. In the evening, a large and selected society of some of the most distinguished strangers in Rome, as well as the natives, enjoyed the elegant and princely hospitality of the Cardinal Prefect of the Propaganda. On that occasion, Monseignore Mezophanti* addressed a large number of the guests in their respective European or oriental dialects, with ease, if not with elegance. His acquirements as a linguist are rare and extraordinary ; Crassus and others acquired great celebrity for their ready talent in conversing with strangers in their own language : it is not, I am sure, any exaggerated praise to assert, that in variety of languages, or readiness in speaking them, they could not have reached the excellence of Mezophanti.
Among the numerous and richly assorted libraries with which Rome abounds, the Vatican is far the first in the number and variety of its volumes. It may be, therefore, easily inferred, that far beyond competition, it is the first in the world. Its majestic entrance is worthy of such a library, as well as of the celebrated Pope, Sixtus Quintus, who contributed so much to its literary treasures, as well as to the embellishment of its architecture. A magnificent picture, seen as you enter, exhibits Fontana, the architect, unfolding his plan to the Pontiff: then you behold on one side, a series of the most celebrated libraries in the world, and on the other, a succession of the General Councils, by which the faith of the Catholic Church was
• He has been since, and deservedly, honored with the purple.