It was a solemn, a sublime moment, for the pope must now receive the communion—the vicegerent of God must drink the blood of the Lamb. But still the pope remains sacred; he cannot, like other mortals, make use of his earthly feet; he must not, like them, approach the altar. Sitting upon his throne, he has partaken of the holy wafer, and, as it was unbecoming his dignity to descend to the altar in order to come to Christ, the latter must decide to come to him!
The golden chalice at the high altar contains the blood of the Lamb; the Cardinal Francesco Albani performs the holy office. He has the blessed host, and under his consecrated hand will now be effected the miracle of turning the wine into the blood of Christ!
And Cardinal Albani lays the golden tube in the cup, and another cardinal passes the other end of the tube to the pope.
Through this sacred tube will he sip the consecrated wine, the blood of the Redeemer!
Rushing and thundering recommences the high office, the trumpets renew their blasts, the drums roll, the bells ring, the organ rattles its song of jubilee, the trombones crash in unison. It is the greatest, most sublime moment of the whole ceremony. The pope, having put the golden tube to his lips, sips the wine changed into blood.
While the pope drinks the two cardinals who to-day are on service approach the sacred throne. They hold a torch in the right hand and a small bundle of tow in the left, and according to the custom, set the tow on fire.
It flashes up in a bright flame, is soon extinguished, and a small, almost imperceptible quantity of ashes floats from it to the feet of the pope.
“Sic transit gloria mundi!” (So passes the glory of the world!) exclaimed Francesco Albani, with proud presumptuousness and with maliciously scornful glances, while with an expression of savage triumph he stares in the paling face of the pope. “Sic transit gloria mundi!” repeated Albani, in a yet louder and more thundering voice.
The bells ring, the hymn resounds, the trombone and organ clang; the audience are on their knees in prayer. A bustle arises, a suppressed murmur—the holy father of Christendom has fainted upon his throne like any common mortal man.
Since Paulo had left her, and she found herself alone, Natalie felt sad, solitary, in the paradise that surrounded her. No longer did she sing in emulation of the birds, no longer did she hop with youthful delight and the impetuosity of a young roe through the charming alleys. Sadly, and with downcast eyes, sat she under the myrtle bush by the murmuring fountains, and frequent heavy sighs heaved her laboring breast.