Today is a cold grey day, one of those days where the sun is just a patch of lighter grey in the steely sky. From my office I can just make out Castel Gandolfo, perched on the rim of ancient volcanic crater a little south of Rome. Somewhere up there His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Pontiff Emeritus of the See of Rome, is spending this day in quiet prayer. In its somber stillness the weather seems to mirror the feeling of this first day that the Chair of Peter is empty.
In fact the weather has seemed to accompany us these days. The day of the last General Audience, the sky was a pristine blue, the sun warm, the winter air crisp. The Holy Father added an impromptu word of thanks at the beginning of his address, for such a beautiful winter day. And it was fitting. The atmosphere in the square was one of warmth and joy, even if the wintry note of sadness was never absent. This struck home for me when the Bavarian band played Benedict’s national anthem for the last time.
Yesterday the weather was hazy white. A sort of low warm fog lying over everything, giving the late afternoon an air of uncertainty, as the Holy Father lifted off from the Vatican heliport for the last time. There was an incredible moment when he was already approaching Castel Gandolfo, and the city behind him was beginning to disappear, with only the massive dome of St Peter’s, silhouetted against the sunset, continuing to tower above the haze.
So though these days have been a little of summer, then autumn, it is again winter. In silence and prayer together with Benedict and the Cardinals gathered in Rome, we continue to live this Lenten journey whose beginning has been so marked by the contemplation of Christ going into the desert to pray, not only in the scriptures, but through the lived example of his vicar on earth.
But winter is a time of waiting, Lent a season of preparation. Let us await with expectation the coming of the true Spring, the risen Lord, and prepare ourselves to celebrate the Pascal mystery anew united and guided by Peter, Vicar of Christ on Earth.