Burial spot of early Christians
To complete our time in Rome we made our way to one of the ancient cemeteries – catacombs of Priscilla. The maze of 13 kilometers of tunnels was used for burials in 2nd and 3rd centuries. The catacombs we visited are known for seven popes who were buried here along with some martyrs from the early days of Christianity. The place was also used for celebrating Mass at that time. It wasn’t caused so much by persecutions but by desire to celebrate Eucharist on the tomb of a saint. After the tour we were given we celebrated the Mass as well. This very austere environment where we had Mass was a great way to connect with those times when believing in Christ came at a great price. How different Rome of that time was to what we can see today. There weren’t any church buildings and basilicas that today are just part of the scenery of the Eternal City. However the Church was expanding here not by taking in possession land but by new converts who despite dangers Christians were facing on daily basis were joining the ranks of the believers. The catacombs of Priscilla are also known for the oldest Christian painting that have been preserved. They are dating back to the second century. What struck me most was that the oldest image of Christ isn’t of the crucifixion but of the Good Shepherd. An interesting thing is that the Good Shepherd is carrying on his shoulders a goat not a sheep. I was deeply moved that those Christians who suffered so much for their faith still believed that Christ was their Good Shepherd taking care of them. One could say they could think that Jesus had abandoned them as the pagan authorities hunted them down. However it wasn’t what they were convinced about. They still believed in him who called himself the Good Shepherd.
Fr Daniel OMI
An Oblate Priest