November 9, 2014
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
The Vatican Website, http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/it.html, has a link that leads to a set of webpages for the Major Basilicas. The one for St. John Lateran includes a detailed history as well as many colorful photos of the beautiful basilica. Here is an excerpt from the Vatican website about St. John Lateran;
Second Reading I Corinthians 3:9C - 11, 16 - 17
Gospel John 2: 13 - 22
"The basilica was consecrated in 324 (or 318) by Pope Sylvester I, and dedicated to SS.mo Savior. In the ninth century., Sergio III, also dedicated to St. John the Baptist, while in the twelfth century. Lucio II also added San Giovanni Evangelista. From the fourth century until the end of the period of Avignon (XIV c.), in which the papacy moved to Avignon, the Lateran, was the only seat of the papacy. The Patriarchate, or stay the Lateran (the ancient seat of the Papal), adjacent to the Basilica was the residence of the Popes throughout the Middle Ages. The Lateran, therefore, it was from this period until the fourteenth century. the seat and symbol of the papacy and therefore, the heart of the Church's life. There were also hosted five ecumenical councils."
On November 9th we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. The above history tells of the spiritual and historical importance of this place of worship going back to the early fourth century. In celebrating this Feast the church gives us readings that present to us two different perspectives of church.
The Gospel points out the importance of treating a holy place with respect, and Saint Paul emphasizes the community as being the Church.
The dwelling place of God has always been seen as a sacred place, whether it be the tent used from the time of Moses to Solomon to house the Ark of the Covenant, the grand temple constructed by Solomon, or the temple begun by Herod the Great. Jesus was brought to the temple when he was eight days old to be circumcised, and later on pilgrimage with his family he was left behind. He preached there, ministered there, and most importantly, he prayed there. When Jesus sees how his "Father's House" was made into a "den of thieves" selling animals to be offered, changing money and other practices that had crept into the holy place, he became infuriated and cleansed the temple of these people who are showing disrespect to the sacred dwelling.
This reading should make us look at how we view our churches and chapels. Do we approach them as holy places and demonstrate that in the way we behave, dress and conduct ourselves? We might not have made our churches into dens of thieves, but do we enter it as we do a public gathering space like a theatre or auditorium? Or are we entering them with a sense of awe at being in God's dwelling?
When Saint Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus he heard the voice of Jesus say, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" What Paul was doing in persecuting the Christians was a persecution of Jesus himself. From this encounter comes the realization of the unity of the believers with Jesus and with each other. Christ dwells within the community and as Paul writes to the Corinthians, "we are living stones." Sometimes we focus on our imperfections to the point that it is hard to accept the fact that we are the body of Christ. He dwells in us and those around us. This calls us to respect and honor his presence in ourselves, and in others.
Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B.