On My Knees at the Scala Santa

My scant interest in anything associated with the church limited my first visit to Italy, where I opted only for visits to the Vatican and to a church in Milan where the body of a saint was on display, encased in a glass coffin. The rest of my time there, I trended toward different sorts of attractions, many of which predated Christianity.

Of course, I now know my folly. On my most recent visit, the Youthful Adventurer and I were able to see more of the religious history of Italy and of the universe. Honestly, St. Peter’s still does not resonate with me. Too crowded. The Pietà behind glass. A large statue of the soldier who stabbed Christ, causing blood to poor into the Holy Grail. I was surprised that man would merit such a large statue. The restored Sistine Chapel was very bright and, in my mind, not the best painting. I preferred the dark stillness of the place, then under restoration, during my first visit.

It was on a hot, dusty, more recent day that we made our way to Scala Santa at Piazza di San Giovanni in Rome. Here, we were to climb the stairs that Jesus climbed to face Pontius Pilate. We would be on our knees. We would proceed slowly. We would be wary of pickpockets, warning signs reminded us. Nuns wearing habits were ahead of us. We started out a big giggly, Are we really going up on our knees? The other visitors slowed us, swayed us. Someone near the top would ascend a step, and, slowly, the movement would cascade down.

We could move up one more. We could think some more. My thoughts transcended as we approached a glass-covered blotch that several women were kissing. It supposedly protected a spot of Christ’s blood. I couldn’t help but wonder that the steps weren’t mopped one time in hundreds of years. I was skeptical of that blood.

Going up the step, knee by knee, minute by contemplative minute, my mind focused more on what had transpired here, on these steps, how they were brought from Jerusalem to Rome by Constantine’s mother, or maybe his wife. I thought about what it would be like to walk up these steps to be judged. I wondered what Jesus thought, whether scenes of his life raced through his mind or if His was a calm ascension, a sense of predestination, a knowing fulfillment of a walk up these steps.

We rise one more.

Could I face the crowd calmly, be mentally removed, at a peaceful place at a moment of chaos, in a flash that will alter the world’s history?

We go up one more. What was He thinking? What was He thinking?

By the top, all that remained was, Christ was here, Christ was here. He walked this planet, these steps. He was here.

—Lori Tripoli

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