Thursday, November 9, 2017

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

"How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven."
~Gen. xxviii. 17

Today the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Dedication of St John Lateran, also called the Basilica of the Savior. As the Pope's official church, it is known as the "Mother Church of the World." Every Christian is called to be a Temple of the Lord, a tabernacle for the Divine Indwelling. This feast celebrates the holiness of the house of God, of every church building consecrated to His glory, of every Christian who through baptism becomes a sanctuary of the Most High. We look beyond the scandals of this world to the Bride of Christ, coming down out of Heaven from God, to the nuptial banquet at the end of time, of which we have already partaken. For every church is a miniature heaven, and every Mass is the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The purpose of the feast is here described:
By making the dedication of the papal church a feast throughout the world, the Church intends to stress Catholic unity without detracting from the glories of lesser churches. Other churches also have feasts, and each diocese celebrates the anniversary of its cathedral's dedication. Every church consecrated with chrism and marked on its stone-work with twelve crosses has its anniversary. But today, all churches everywhere, even bare rooms in poor towns, or huts in tropical missionary lands, align themselves in prayer with the Church's church: "Grant that whosoever enters this temple to ask good things from thee may rejoice in the obtaining of all his petitions" (Collect).
While we have one great High Priest, Jesus Christ, one Sacrifice in the holy Mass, one Faith, one Baptism, still it is for our convenience that in thousands of places we have God's temple, with thousands of human priests through whom Christ acts. The underlying unity of the Catholic Church compares with Christ's seamless robe: it is a mark of true Christianity.
For more than a thousand years successive popes ruled the true Church from their home near the Lateran basilica. Now, basilica means "house of a king," and you will recall that Pilate styled Jesus "King of the Jews" in mockery. Today the Lateran basilica is home of the King of Kings, and occasions a feast of praise. But the feast's special significance is that the Vicar of Christ the King maintains this church as his cathedral. The Pope lives now on the Vatican hill, near St. Peter's church, but he keeps the tradition of St. Sylvester: "This is that holy place in which the priest prays for the offenses and sins of the people" (Breviary).
Here is a beautiful quotation from Butler's Lives for November 9:
Hence churches have been usually consecrated by solemn rites and prayers, and it is a grievous sacrilege to profane them, or do in them anything but what has an immediate relation to the divine service: the church being the house of God. Though he be everywhere, he is said to reside particularly in heaven, because he there displays his presence by his glory and gifts. In like manner he honours the church with his special presence, being there in a particular manner ready to receive our public homages, listen to our petitions, and bestow on us his choicest graces.

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