We are in Rome, Italy, at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Under the main altar is a chapel containing an alleged piece of the manger of Jesus (it’s authenticity seems doubtful to me). More likely is the claim that part of St. Matthias is buried under the chapel. His remains were divided between Rome (Italy), Thier (Germany), and perhaps in the nation of Georgia. The Rome allocation is thought to be here.
I asked various people about the exact location of the relics of St. Matthias. One girl knew nothing about it but a man involved with archeology said St. Matthias was under the manger. It was not something that could be seen. St. Matthias was buried.
St. Matthias had been selected to be an Apostle by lot and was said to have preached in Judea and Ethiopia, where he may have been crucified. There are various stories about this. No one knows for sure.
I meditated in front of the main altar but many tour groups were passing through and it was not a quiet situation.
“Do you know what is down there?” Karen asked a tourist, pointing to the manger chapel. The woman looked at her blankly, apparently not aware.
“This is not a good situation,” Karen noted. “The tour guide does not even know about St. Matthias. How do we known that he is here?”
“Sometimes you have to believe without seeing,” I replied.
We went to the Basilica of Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli) and saw the very chains that miraculously fell off of St. Peter when he was in prison (Acts 12: 7). Apparently, Pope Leo I compared the chains with those from St. Peter’s first imprisonment and the two sets of chains miraculously fused.
“The old Sumarian linking chains trick,” Karen said skeptically.
“It’s a story,” I replied. “Stories can free your mind.”
Most tourists were more interested in a side altar sculpture of Moses by Michelangelo.
We saw the Colosseum where Roman citizens saw gladiators fight, animals eat condemned people (Christians, when available), men fight animals, and similar forms of entertainment. A sign said that the gladiators rarely fought to the death but the intellectuals of the day were concerned about the effect of the spectacles — maybe this form of entertainment was a sign of moral decay? The stadium did not seem large enough for chariot races or football games.
We began our search for the Basilica of the Holy Apostles (Chiesa dei SS. Apostoli) which holds the tomb of St. Philip and St. James, the Just (also called St. James, the Lesser, to distinguish him from St. James, son of Zebedee….St. James, the Greater). This basilica is off the typical tourist path and we struggled to find it.
When we finally got there, it was closed until four PM, so we hung out in a pizza place, the Apostles Pizzaria. It was a typical traveler situation, with good and bad sides: tired, looking at a map, pizza, music.
We really wanted to complete our task of visiting the bones of Philip and James, the Lesser. This James was actually the first leader, the guy in charge in Jerusalem while Peter and the other guys were spreading the news. Jesus had said that James, who was his brother, was to be his successor. Later church authorities left this out of the collection of accepted Gospels and James, the Just, was given the nickname of James, the Lesser — which must have irritated him.
Here is where our miracle story begins. As we waited for the church to open, a foreign couple joined us (Scandinavian, probably). Four o’clock came but the gate was still locked and it seemed as if no one was coming to open it. Eventually, a man came and we entered. Once inside, the couple spent much time praying. Then, as I approached the Apostles’ relics under the main altar, the woman began singing. She had an astonishingly beautiful voice.
This seems like an omen to me. We had overcome all obstacles and now we were receiving a sign that our prayers would be answered. You, our readers, will find inner peace through following the Inner Path.
I meditate before the main altar. Close your eyes and listen.
Lao tsu writes (chapter 41):
“When a superior man hears of the Tao,
he immediately begins to embody it.
When an average man hears of the Tao,
he half believes it, half doubts it.
When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
he laughts out loud.
If he didn’t laugh,
it wouldn’t be the Tao.
Thus it is said:
The path into the light seems dark.
The path forward seems to go back.
The direct path seems long.
True power seems weak.
True purity seems tarnished.
True steadfastness seems changeable.
True charity seems obscure.
The greatest minds seem unsophisticated.
The greatest love seems indifferent.
The greatest wisdom seems childish.
The Tao is nowhere to be found,
yet it nourishes and completes all things.”
How can it be nowhere yet complete all things? Because it is not something that is or is not. You reach it by going nowhere and doing nothing. Practice non-doing meditation. Stay still, watch your breath, and let what arises pass away.