Home and Away

Dear Sor Juana,

Journeys are full of home and away moments.  You are both home and away at the same time. For the act of coming home to yourself you don’t need to be away.  Invisible Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs trails appear on the landscape having been sown into the subconscious years ago lead my pilgrim steps.  There is deep time (and I have written about this previously) occasionally seeping in between the rocks, cracks and crannies. One such home and away moment recently was spent in a Roman basilica, resting place of brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius. In this lavish palace, once home to a Pope you will find generations of stories laid and overlaid and each breadcrumb you follow will take you down deeper.

In Rome, St Clemente Basilica’s  will lead you under ground to discoveries all the way back to the first century. There you find remnants of a home fed by a still functioning fresh water spring, and is the foundation for the religious community finding refreshment through their faith. At the same time the living museum above is drenched with incense being dispensed by bejewelled thurible’s being held by bejewelled princes of the church.   A smoking ceremony of long past to cleanse and bless the place of worship. This night the feast of the brothers  is celebrated and more than a millennia of history, remembered . The ancient chorus, call and response reverb up and down the crypt sung by the faithful.  It is not my home though and I am resolved to be visiting a living museum.

Sor Juana you would have been at home here in the crypt and with all the trappings of a well-heeled court still visible in the treasures on the walls and behind glass, yet at the same time, I think you too would have felt alienated from this grandeur so far away from the simplicity and radical message at the origins of the faith and the drivers that took Cyril and Methodius to take them far from home to spread their version of good news.

I am home and I am away.


St Cyril’s Feast Day

Gregorian chant

Gold, frankincense and myrrh

Painted stone

Layers discovered below

Another above disappears

Crests and capes

Crowns adorned with rubies, emeralds, pearls

The Holy Roman Empire strikes a chord

While the founder of the firm

Dies (again) of embarrassment.

St Clemente Basilica

St Clemente Basilica


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