19 December 2013

At attention, or at ease?

I was in St. Peter's Square yesterday to receive the blessing of His Holiness Pope Francis at the conclusion of today's General Audience.

Not having a ticket to the audience, I entered the piazza and was surprised to find it only half-filled.  The security forces kindly allowed those of us without tickets - as is the custom - to enter Square up to the point of the wooden barricades, which today were positioned on the opposite side of the great Christmas tree:

I was able to make my way right up to the barricade, just behind one of the Swiss Guard (apparently others thought this was not a good place to stand, since the barricade on either side of him was occupied):

This position turned out to be not a bad one, especially since one can never be too certain when a graced moment will come.

When, finally, the various summarizes of the Pope's address were given in the major languages of the world, the Holy Father stood to pray the Lord's Prayer with the faithful and to impart to them his blessing.

At the conclusion of the Pater Noster, His Holiness gave the usual liturgical greeting for a Bishop: "Peace be with you," which, at this moment, was immediately to be following by the papal blessing. 

As those words were spoken the Swiss Guard, who had been standing "at ease," as it were, clicked his heels together and stood at attention to receive the blessing of the Pope.  Once the blessing had been imparted he returned to being "at ease" and crossed himself.

That simple act of standing at attention to receive the blessing of the Bishop of Rome gave me much to ponder as I made my way back through the streets of the Eternal City to the Casa Santa Maria.  With what devotion, with what gratitude, do we receive blessings?  How attentive are we when receiving a blessing?  What does our posture say about our receptivity and the disposition of our hearts?  Have we allowed ourselves to take blessings for granted?

There once was a time when the faithful would kneel to receive the blessing of a priest.  This change of posture was intended to outwardly manifest an internal and humble desire to be blessed.  Those days are, for the most part, long gone but very soon we will hear and sing with joy, "O, come! Let us adore him!"  How will we do so?  At attention, or at ease?

1 comment:

  1. very interesting observation, mentioning the swiss guard makes think of when I had the privilege of being in Rome and at a Mass said by Pope John Paul. The swiss guard no matter where I saw them or what they where doing where always very professional and took there job and duty very serious but you can tell they each felt it an honor to be there and each one in there own way really is blessed.