In the parish we kept the Feast of the Epiphany before I left - on Sunday 2nd January as the Lectionary permits. But it was great to find Christmas and the lead-up to Epiphany on its proper feast day of 6th January in full flow in Rome. Lights abounded in the streets - and a profusion of Crib Scenes. Notably a depiction in lights on the roundabout of the Piazza Venezia in front of the Victor Emmanuel Monument (and reindeer on the other side!), life-size and huge at St Peter's Basilica, and a walk-in stable amongst a collection of crib scenes in the cloister of the Church of San Lorenzo fuori le Muro. The Sant'Egidio Community had its own particular take on the Nativity at the entrance to Santa Maria in Trastevere. And perhaps most moving is Il Presepe dei Netturbini, "The Sanitation Workers' Manger Scene," between the San Pietro Station and St. Peter's Square. This scene has developed over the years as the Street Cleaners add to it. The figures are tiny, the stable scene just one small part of a huge project, and around the stable people get on with the humblest of tasks. As in many of the other crib scenes, the stable is not centrally placed. This is something that needs to be looked for. But it's saying that God is here, even if apparently hidden or not obvious - and he honours the lowliest and humblest.
As for the Feast of the Epiphany, it's a public holiday in Rome. The place was heaving, especially in and around the Piazza Navona, which was in fairground mode. And the Via del Corso was packed with thronging crowds - it took at least three times as long as I'd estimated to walk along it (the few motorists who ventured onto the street couldn't move) as we went to Mass at Santa Maria del Popolo. There was a choir of choirs, a marvellous sound with a fantastic acoustic for a short Mozart Mass (strangely the Agnus Dei was said, not sung), and although there were about 700 in church with about half receiving Communion, the whole thing was over in 50 minutes - though the choir then moved into the nave for a performance of sacred music.
I came back to ice and snow - and Church Bank was officially closed at the weekend with a barrier to prevent traffic entering. Our numbers were well down on normal, but a surprising number made the effort to get down to us in the almost the most treacherous conditions I've known. Lots of falls - and I'm afraid one fractured wrist.
No more snow pictures. But you can find lots more pictures from Rome here.
And here's a link to a sermon by our Reader, Rosie Junemann, for yesterday's Feast of the Baptism of Christ.