The birdsong was such a blessing, my last morning in Rome – trills of joy resounding in the crisp stillness of the convent courtyard, soothing the flayed edges of my Self and who knew how many others seeking refuge amidst the hidden treasures and the humble service of the sisters.
It took more time than usual that morning to reassemble the essentials of this incarnation and the moment… Who am I? Where am I? This is my body…. Sorting images and sensations until this time and dimension came into soft resolution, I felt Catherine’s presence, and Massimo’s, and wafts and swells of so many others whose consciousness reached out to me through time and space. Gratitude flowed past my tears, warm and sweet, to the whole, vast web of Being, beauty and Life….
The day before had been rough.
I had returned to Rome on my own with some trepidation, sensing something looming but mercifully ignorant of exactly what. I just knew that I had to go inside the Vatican and St. Peter’s – check – and next was Lux in Arcana, announced from lampposts and billboards throughout the city – the Vatican’s Secret Archives made public for the first time….
I walked my mind carefully through the events of the previous day.
I had procrastinated – or was it preparing? – for most of the morning before finally winding my passage through the city to the Capitoline Museums. There’s a different energy in the piazza in front of the Capitoline – it feels full of …citizenry, present and alive. People were loudly discussing politics, political posters hung from the ancient stones …even the statue of Poseidon looked as if he were texting on his mobile….
There was no line to wait in, and the people who were there just before me bought tickets for another exhibit altogether. Up some stairs, past a dissonant array of lights and numbers flashed against the marble walls and floor and somehow reminiscent of displays I’ve seen in Holocaust museums around the world, around a corner, was the entrance marked Lux in Arcana , inviting the visitor into the dark, cool and quiet rooms beyond. Eyes adjusting to the darkness, I walked into the room where spotlighted manuscripts were encased on pedestals, with videos playing on loops beside each one. I turned slowly back to the front of the room and the first exhibit. As my brain registered what I was staring at, I tried to stifle an involuntary gasp of shock. Looking back at the guard over the hand I’d clasped over my mouth, my eyes questioning for confirmation, she replied with the classic Italian shrug and raised eyebrows , nodding her head, “ È vero…”.
Before me, on yellowed paper in faded ink, I read, “Io, Galileo Galilei….” This was the piece of paper that saved Galileo’s life – the betrayal of his truth that spared him the wrath of the Inquisition…. The immense weight of the document – historically, metaphorically, energetically – melted my knees, but there was no place to sit. Stunned, I looked around at the other people in the room: a couple of young-ish priests seemed suitably impressed with what they were reading a bit further along, but the few other visitors were wandering through with varying degrees of vague interest and not a trace of leaky emotions…
In a semi-trance, I paced a lemniscate in front of Galileo’s writing to help transmute the energies still held there…and then went on.
Maybe some day I will find the strength to write of all that I saw and felt and did in those darkened rooms – for now, two areas are asking to shared.
One room was surrounded by images of dancing flames projected onto three dark walls. In the centre, a long strip of parchment was unrolled from a huge scroll and extended up to a slot high in the remaining wall, upon which was projected the hazy figures of two knights with red crosses on their white tunics. 231 depositions attached end to end form 60 metres of recorded anguish – these are the records of the proceedings of the trial of the Knights Templar in Paris , from 1309 – 1311. Surrounding the scroll in the room were arrayed:
-Pope Leo X’s register containing the transcription of Exurge Domine – the excommunication of Martin Luther;
-a summary written in 1598 of the Inquisition file on Giordano Bruno, burned alive in 1600 for refusing to recant his belief in multiple worlds, part of an infinite universe;
– a 1236 copy of the Capitula contra Patarenos, Pope Gregory IX’s handbook for the Inquisition;
-the record of the papal absolution given to Grand Master Jacques de Molay and 4 other high-ranking Templar knights in 1308 after being tortured in the castle of Chinon;
-the 1571 “Holy League’s“ agreement to launch the last of the Crusades;
-a letter written by the King of Poland in 1683, describing the slaughter of the Turkish army that had lain siege to Vienna;
-Pope Innocent III’s bull of excommunication of the Crusaders who razed and plundered the city of Zara (full of Christians, not “infidels”) as a way of financing their next adventure.
I wandered around this room, and in and out of it, absorbing the layers of significance contained there, dumbfounded at what I was reading and experiencing.
Another room – ONE room – was dedicated to documents written by women. There’s one from Mary Stewart , written to Pope Sixtus V on November 23, 1586, when she learns of her death sentence. Another queen in similar circumstances, Maria Antonia of Hapsburg-Lorraine, who we know as Marie-Antoinette, writes New Year’s greetings from the Temple Tower in Paris where she and her family are imprisoned. Lucrezia Borgia, whose father, Pope Alexander VI, has used her beauty as a political tool since she was 11 years old, writes a letter to warn him to be careful of the Sforza family into which he has married her. The brilliant Queen Cristina of Sweden signs a solemn deed of abdication of her throne and the Protestant faith. Bernadette Soubirous, shepherdess-turned-nun after her visions of the Virgin at Lourdes, writes to Pius IX , wishing him the blessings of the Lady. The sainted Teresa of Avila writes to a priest friend, “For heaven’s sake, don’t write ‘Lady’ in the title. That’s not how we talk.” These women were alive through their handwriting – their spirits present and strong.
It felt as if I were in that labyrinthine world-between-worlds for days. When I finally stumbled out onto the rooftop for air and a drink – I would probably have ordered myself a Scotch, if they had had it! – I saw that two dear friends had tried to contact me while I’d been inside, feeling that I needed help and support. It felt as if it was going to be impossible to move my body off that rooftop and back to the convent…. Catherine managed to get a call through from England and told me she would sound her Sun gong, sending me its energy. I gathered my strength and plodded back to the refuge of the convent – an two-hour walk through the maze of Rome.
The full force of the experience hit me once I got to my room. My body became freezing cold and I shook uncontrollably. I couldn’t cry, and recognised that I was in a state of shock. I sent out a call for support, and Catherine called again, with words of comfort and the love of a sister. Selma and Agnes were present in their energies; Massimo sent me reiki. I eventually was able to take a hot shower and collapse into the arms of Morpheus, awakened only by the life-affirming caress of birdsong and the light of a new day on my face. And then this old woman’s body began to bleed, shedding the suffering that was left, transforming it, as we each transform the Life that flows through us….
The next morning, today, I awoke in Paris….
Blessings and Love,