Pentecost in Rome
In the Pantheon and Basilica of Sancta Maria ad Martyres – Rome’s oldest and best preserved church – the Solemnity of Pentecost is something to behold. Celebrated seven Sundays after Easter, Pentecost (from the Greek pentecostē, “50th day”) is one of the major feast days in the Christian calendar and it marks more than just the conclusion of the Easter season. Celebrated ten days after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, it signifies the beginning of the evangelizing nature of the Church, since the Holy Spirit descended to bestow on Mary and the apostles the gifts to go and preach the Gospel to the world.
The tongues of fire that came to rest on their heads are represented in the Pantheon Pentecost Mass by scarlet rose petals! Prior to the Mass, the firemen of Rome scale the world’s largest, unreinforced concrete dome which was completed by the Emperor Hadrian in 128 A.D. and consecrated as a Catholic Church in the year 609. At the end of the Mass, at twelve midday, thousands and thousands of rose petals are showered on churchgoers through the nearly nine-meter-wide oculus of the dome, to the choir chanting “Veni Sancte Spiritus”. The deep red rose petals are generously donated each year by the Municipality of Giffoni Valle Piana in the province of Salerno. The ancient tradition was suspended for some years and resumed in 1995 much to the delight of Roman and international pilgrims.
Mass Details and How to Participate
Put simply, join the queue early. I would suggest lining up no later than 8:00am for the 10:30am Mass on Sunday, 9 June 2019.
The 6.4m high double bronze doors open to the public from 9.00am and once 800 people have entered the church, the doors will be closed for security reasons. Priests who intend to concelebrate should be inside the chapel before 9.30am with their own red stole. Red vestments are worn to symbolize the tongues of fire and God’s burning love. Many members of the congregation will also wear red during the Mass such as the Knights of Malta in the first few rows. Presiding over Mass will be His Excellency Msgr. Aurelian Percu, Auxiliary Bishop of Iasi, Romania. The Basilica Choir and the "Grace Choir" from the U.S.A. will accompany the Mass.
While you are waiting for Mass to begin, you’ll have ample time to gaze around and enjoy one of the greatest achievements of the early Romans, standing 43.4m wide and high (about one-half the length of an American football field). Many visitors to the Pantheon may see it solely as an ancient monument, understandable with the throngs of tourists it draws daily. On days like Pentecost, however, there is the incredible opportunity to experience it as a place of Christian worship, one filled with all the pomp and ceremony that makes it so popular on the Roman calendar of events. See you in the line!
Before Pentecost Sunday on June 9, be sure to visit the uncovered marble Holy Stairs that Jesus climbed to receive his death sentence from Pontius Pilate during his trial on Good Friday. All the details here in my article for ROMEING Magazine.