We visited St. Peter’s Cathedral in Fiesole this morning for Sunday Mass on the Feast of St. Francis.
Fiesole sits above Florence, a village dating to Etruscan times. A Roman arena and other ruins can be seen near the town square. Today the square was alive with a market, with stalls selling antiques, lace, and books.
As bells clanged, we walked through the fair to the cathedral, an imposing Romanesque basilica at the end of the square and at the foot of the hill leading to the Franciscan monastero. The front doors were open wide and sun streamed into the dark interior, lighting the central aisle leading to the modern altar, the raised presbytery, and the high altar above with its golden triptych and glittering domed mosaic. Below the level of the nave, where we sat, stairs descended to the crypt, where I recalled the relics of St. Romolo, a ninth-century bishop of Fiesole, lie, sanctifying the church.
We knelt in a back pew, prayed our thanksgivings for the church, the clergy and the people. We looked around, absorbing the vast vaulted space, waiting for our eyes to adjust to the dim light.
As I waited, shapes and forms, light and darkness emerged from the gray tones, and I thought how this waiting was like waiting on God, that if we are patient, sitting in His presence, we will see more, be granted increased vision. Columns running along the side aisles grew brighter, the dark wood of the pews turned to a burnished gleaming russet, the triptych glimmered and glowed in the raised chancel, the mosaics in the apse slowly took form to reveal God the Father, Saint Peter, Our Lady. The altar at the head of the central aisle, awaiting the Eucharistic celebration, stood solid under white linen with four thick candles. A boy lit the candles, and my eyes rested on the beckoning flames. A large crucifix stood to the right of the altar.
The church grew bright as I waited, the colors and shapes revealing themselves, and I knew that in the next hour, now that my vision had grown keener, God would reveal Himself as well, in the great Eucharistic offering of the Mass.
He would offer Himself to all of us there that morning in the bright sanctuary – the young families with children, the aged with stiff limbs and bent backs, the couples sneaking kisses and whispering in one another’s ear. And they would offer themselves back to Him.
St. Francis, who knew the love of God as well or better than anyone, would have agreed.