Part I: The Preparations
December 22, 2012
Fast forward 3 months after, arrived at Rome/Vatican in December 22, a few days before Christmas (eve). The plan is to collect our tickets for the Christmas eve mass the first day of the collection period as noted in the confirmation letter we got. I read from other blogs that getting a confirmation is not a guarantee in getting tickets. Not wanting to push our luck, we went in the morning of December 23.
December 23, 2012
Ticket collection is at the Bronze Door of the Apostolic Palace. There was a queue when we arrived. It was my first time to see the famous Swiss Guards tasked to hand the tickets. Photo ops was not allowed (sad face).
I can recall how excitedly different it feels to have it. A white envelope with 3 green tickets as requested. I saw some were issued red ones. I don’t know what the difference was.
St. Peter’s Square was busy with preparations for the big Christmas event.
We spent the rest of December 23 exploring Vatican City and Rome’s Spanish Steps.
December 24, 2012
The confirmation letter advised us to be at the Basilica by 7:00pm. The Christmas Eve mass starts at 10:00pm. Anticipating the multitude of people that will be flocking to Vatican, we left Rome around 3:00pm.
As expected, there was already a long queue when we reached the right colonnade where security checks were being done. After passing through the security check, it was mad dash to get to the growing queue.
There’s several little things going on in the Square. Media people have started to cover the event.
There was a parade of sorts that ushered the unveiling of St. Peter’s Basilica’s presipe (Italian for manger). Vatican went for a hi-tech presipe.
Focused and determined to make it inside the Basilica for the mass, we went straight to the queue. The line wasn’t that long yet, we were in the middle of the Square close to the left colonnade. Just estimating the capacity of the church, we thought we stand a chance of getting inside the Basilica for the mass.
Darkness is falling, the crowd is multiplying. The excitement and the anticipation is building up. The energy is just contagious.
4 or 5 hours hopeful to get inside, we had our dinner in queue. I had roast pork sandwich bought in one of the stalls in the Square, if I remember it right. The anticipation keeps me from being hungry.
St. Peter’s Square is then lit. The gigantic Christmas tree, the hi-tech presipe changing colors, the Basilica. This was Christmas Vatican-style!
Again, it was mad dash as soon as the gates of the Basilica opened.
Yes! We made it inside the Basilica. As we entered, we were given a misalette. We sat at the rear area of the Basilica as it was the only area with vacant seats.
I can feel everybody’s excitement being there as soon as the clock strikes Christmas.
The festive atmosphere inside changed when the mass was about to start.
I took a video of Pope Benedict’s entrance/procession (which turned out to be his last Christmas mass as he was replaced later by Pope Frances) to the altar until my camera can record. Seated on the 2nd seat of the pew from the aisle, I can vividly see Pope make his entrance. He had this distinct and gaze that feels like he is looking right through you. I felt he was looking at me directly (not sure, I just had that feeling) and there’s something in it that made me feel holy (if there is such a thing). His presence can be felt in such a big venue amidst a multitude of audience. His presence exudes holiness.
I had no photos afterwards as I wanted to feel the solemnity of the mass. I wanted to feel that I was there.
Anyway, the mass lasted until past Midnight, past Christmas.
The atmosphere outside the Basilica after the mass was light, festive and peaceful. Most were walking on their way back to their hotels as transportation was very difficult by that time.
For us, it was a long walk back to our hotel. It was a long night, but certainly something to pleasantly remember every now and then.
Merry Christmas (in the middle of May), everyone!!!