Nearing the end of our pilgrimage I asked if I may, and gracefully was granted the blessing of doing the reading in Santa Sabina, this was to be my first reading of the pilgrimage. Santa Sabina is the Roma Basilica which is so especially united and connected to our church back home, and personally feels so especially united and connected to my spiritual journey. Above all else . . . . . I have looked so very forward to discovering and praying in this space.
By complete default, one day last year when I was researching early depictions in art of Mary Magdalene, I stumbled across an interesting internet article which brought me to the attention of some ancient wooden church doors in Rome. They boasted the eldest known carvings and earliest known depictions ever found in art of the crucifixion, and of the two Marys standing at the foot of the cross.
I could not believe my eyes, when on my Rome pilgrimage I discovered that those very same doors are the ancient doorway through which we pass into the Basilica of Santa Sabina. Perfect.
During our parish pilgrimage we had visited so many beautifully embellished, jeweled, ornate, regal, richly golden Basilica’s, but when I stepped inside Santa Sabina I was absolutely breath-taken. Blown away.
So still. So prayerful. Such a sacred sacred space.
I was absolutely astounded by her sheer simplistic and perfect beauty.
The reading chosen for me was 1 Corinthians 8. It was a harsh and cruel reading. To have to read this particular piece aloud in front of my fellow pilgrims, for a woman of 42 years of age, for whom it is a mortal sin to touch or be touched by the man she is bonded to in marriage, so as not to commit either of us to live in mortal sin, and who is now living as brother and sister.
Just this week it was put to me by a new respected Catholic friend and dear kindly woman, that I should return to my marital bed for the sake of my husband and deny myself the right of receiving the Eucharist. The fact that this would re-project us both into a state of now conscious mortal sin and would be inauthentic completely alluded her.
It was a cruel reading, for somebody that also has been denied the physical friendship of the one she Loves, with all the deepness of a pure and dignified Love, bestowed by Gods magnificence.
It was a cruel reading, for somebody who has had to learn the ways of spiritual intimacy by feeling her way in prayer through the loneliest longest nights, by teaching herself the braille of the soul, when for her the language had never yet been written.
It was a cruel reading. It asked me to acknowledge the sin of a marriage, which I have lived with for many years, for having lived a love not bestowed sacramentally sin free in Him. And so too it asked me to acknowledge my sin of being a temptation and a threat to my brother for a Love which was first pure and chaste and True. Regardless of my personal conduct, by my very nature form and stature I am to confess.
But despite the painful reading, some how, I am not quite sure how, Santa Sabina bathed me in quiet dignity, she breathed beauty and grace upon me, and she upheld my very humanity within the nature of original sin, gently transcendent.
Santa Sabina is such a dignified space.
Whilst we in all our beautiful humanity may be held sinners first then Saints, I know with my whole being that Love bestowed by Him, and in Him is never a sin. And by His Grace may that Love be ever held eternal. †