Happy Solemnity of the Annunciation! This feast is fun because it's also a bit clever. If Jesus is born for us every December 25, what happens 9 months before that day? Yup, today on March 25th Mary says 'yes' to God and so the Holy Spirit brings a bun for the oven. The official 'Incarnation Day' of God is worth celebrating as a Church! The feast is called the Annunciation because God's plan of salvation came to us through the announcement of the archangel Gabriel to Mary. See, it all makes so much sense.
I'll try to keep today's post short and sweet; these things can start to snowball if you're not careful. Our Tuesday station church takes us almost all the way out to Santa Maria Maggiore again. A fair bit of walking. But thankfully the weather was cooperative -- it didn't start raining until about 10am.
The namesake of this church begins with a Roman senator named Pudens (possibly the same Pudens mentioned by Paul in 2 Tm 4:21). What interesting names they all had back then. Pudens had two daughters, Pudentiana and Praxedes. His daughters (like St. Cecilia's husband St. Valerian and his brother St. Tiberius) collected the remains of the Christian martyrs and laid them to rest in a well within their home, which sat on the spot of this church. By the end of the 4th century there was a bath hall standing over the remains of their house which was renovated and expanded to become instead a church for Christian worship.
That church included the current rear apse which you see can below. And in that apse is a mosaic which hails all the way back from the time of the church's initial expansion and renovation. Whoa! This makes it one of the only mosaics from the late 4th / early 5th century that has survived to the present day. The difference with the latter mosaics found in other churches in the city is striking: instead of the gilded and stylized Byzantine appearance from churches a few centuries after this one (like the apse mosaics of A LOT of the churches we have seen), here we have a mosaic expressing a truly Roman style of art with figures all dressed in the style of ancient Rome.
The beautiful and important part about this church is that the house on which it stands, Senator Pudens' house, was also the welcoming and living place of St. Peter for at least six years while Peter guided the Church in Rome. It is therefore generally believed that this spot is the first place Peter ever celebrated the Mass in Rome.