Every time I come to Florence I promise I won’t take pictures of the frescoes that Fra Angelica painted in the monk cells at the Convent of San Marco. I never keep that promise. Here they are again. Pace e bene.
One of my go-to prayer churches in Florence is St. Trinita, a small, gothic style church on Piazza Trinita, and near Ponte Trinita. A trinity in itself.
I sit in a pew that gives me a view of Christ’s life through art.
My pilgrimage to Italy starts April 4th. I’ll spend four nights in Rome, three in Assisi, one in Cortona and six in Florence. Unlike my usual two week stay in an apartment in Florence, I’ll be staying in monasteries-turned-guesthouses run by nuns. The bedrooms are simple, but thankfully ensuite. The public rooms are quiet, but thankfully without TV. Thankfully, the nuns are servants of Christ.
I’ll still be writing and walking around with God, but this trip feels different. What can I anticipate? What can I plan so I don’t treat these convents as just an inexpensive place to stay?
Let me start with a theological question. What does God want me to hear on this pilgrimage and what might I do to listen? Asking what God wants me to hear is a big shift for me. I’d rather set the agenda and tell God the kinds of things I want God to tell me. To listen I need to be silent; to be silent I need to quiet my mind.
Of course the practical response never changes: pray and walk, pray and sit, pray and meditate, pray and gaze, pray and be in the moment. Nothing new here, just a reminder to practice, practice, practice listening to God no matter where I am.
How very grateful I am to be going on a pilgrimage in these places, at this time in my life. How very grateful for help with arrangements through www.monasterystays.
I did it again, something I’ve done on every visit to Florence. I went to the Convent of San Marco and took photos of Fra Angelico’s frescoes on walls of the monks cells.
Christians are encouraged to study and contemplate God’s word as revealed in Scripture. The Dominican monks in the fifteenth century did this by reading and praying the picture on their cell walls—a spiritual experience. Today we read the Bible—an intellectual experience.
My visit to San Marco, however, was a mind, body, spirit experience. My mind drew from my reading and study of the Bible. My spirit was touched by the visual message of the frescoes. My body experience the visceral experience of a monk in his cell.
Santa Trinita is an empowering place to pray. I have discovered the perfect to pew, where at a single sweep of my eyes, I can take in artwork representative of many theological concepts that give power and definition to Christianity.
December 8 on the Roman Catholic Church calendar is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is celebrated in a big way here in Florence, and I’m sure, in all of Italy. As I passed the Duomo this morning at 10 I was witness to a procession of priest and two, yes two, cardinals because I saw two red hats. They came out of the church and turned a few paces to bless the nativity scene already assembled with all the cast of characters beginning to assemble. When dark comes this evening, the big Christmas tree nearby will be lit and Advent will have burst forth.
If you look really hard you can see the red hat. The top windows on the building are mine.
I’m writing an article entitled ‘Walking Around with God in Florence.’ In it I tell about the morning walks that I take to the most prominent churches, my visits to a few of my favorite churches, and those that offer an atmosphere for prayer and meditation. My dilemma: where to post it? Definitely on this blog, but what about acottagebythesea, or a public site such as the Lonely Planet? *
This quandary underlies an issue that people of faith like me experience these days. We don’t want to be misunderstood as bigots, political conservatives, or stupid. So, we don’t say a word about our faith.
This is definitely our problem. We had better own it, speak out and stop worrying about what others might think. The good news is the miraculous chance that others may get an inkling that our faith helps us be loving and compassionate.
* Does anyone know of a religious public site where I might post the article?
I’m in Florence, walking around with God. That’s what I tell some folks, and they get it, at least my prayer friends do, and of course those of you reading this blog. Recently I’ve been using that phrase with friends outside my prayer circle, and they too seem to get it. It’s a heart comment, not a head one, although I also tell them that I walk, write, visit churches and museums, and eat..
You either get the idea of walking around with God or you don’t, and you only get in your own way. The detailsare difficult to put into words but here’s my try: I express praise for God’s creation and thanksgiving for all I am experiencing; I pray for people on my prayer list; I pay attention to the moment, trying not to live in the future; I say the Jesus Prayer; I breathe God’s love into my heart.
Of course I can walk around with God at home, but here in Florence it’s my only practice; gratitude overflows.
Yesterday I attended 5 o’clock Mass at the Duomo. An Irish (?) priest officiated in English, and two women read the scripture and passed the offer plate. The Gospel reading was the story of Lazarus; the message was the expectation and acceptance of change.
I took communion, not because no qualifying invitation was offered, but because I wanted to take in the spirit of love. I attend a church where anyone who wants to follow Jesus’ example of love is invited to the table. That is how I always approach communion, and so it was yesterday. I need all the reminders I can muster to keep a loving heart. Communion is one way for me.
The Roman Catholic church preaches love and following Jesus. But their invitation to communion is limited to those confirmed in the church, and who thus believe in transubstantiation, that the bread and wine actually becomes the body and blood of Christ. This dogma goes back to the councils of the fourth century when, for its very survival, the growing church was dealing with heresies. What was important then, may not be important now. When should we hold on to tradition? When is it time to let a tradition go?
Christianity and Christians have always been challenged by what to take literally in the Bible, and what to interpret metaphorically.
What did Jesus mean when, according the Luke 22:20 he said:
“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” ...
What did Paul mean in Corinthians 11:24: and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.”
The Church may have its answers, but individual Christian have theirs. We come to their own understanding of what communion means so we can be loving.
I’ve just finished writing an article entitled, “How about a Writing Vacation in Florence?” Now I am considering writing one about prayer, working title, “Walking around Florence with God.”
You don’t have to be Roman Catholic or even Protestant to do this. Maybe you don’t have to be Christian, but it probably helps because Jesus is present wherever you go in this city. It’s hard to get away from him. On the other had, if you meditate, any church will do. People leave you alone; it is socially acceptable to sit in church with your eyes closed.