The Feast of the Dedication of Basilica St. John Lateran (St. Saviour) Rome
9 November 2014
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you. If anyone destroys the temple of God, him will God destroy; for holy is the temple of God, and this temple is you.” I Cor. 3:16-7
Today, we celebrate the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rom. It is the Mother Church of all Christendom and from it all other churches have generated. This is why it is still the Church of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. In the fourth century, the Catholic historian Eusebius spoke of this glorious triumph of the Church over Roman persecutions in the opening of the tenth and last book of his History: “Glory to the Almighty! Glory to the Redeemer of our souls!” The Roman Emperor Constantine had placed the imperial treasury at the disposal of the bishop and new churches were built throughout Christendom. Constantine built St. John Lateran in Rome because in Rome he had conquered by means of the cross and Rome was the capital of the now Christian world. This is significant for it marks an end to the persecution of the Church by the Roman emperors and the Church’s acceptance by the Emperor of Rome. The inscription at its entrance reads: “Mother and Head of all Churches in the Holy City and throughout the world.” Dom Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Live Vo. 14 quotes Eusebius on this on this glorious time for the Church: “(Eusebius) Himself a witness to the triumph, he describes the admirable spectacle everywhere displayed by the dedication of the new sanctuaries. In city after city the bishops assembled, and crowds flocked together. From nation to nation the goodwill of mutual charity, of common faith, and of recollected joy, so harmonized all hearts that the unity of Christ’s Body was clearly manifested in those multitudes animated by the same inspiration of the Holy Ghost. It the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies: the living city of the living God, where all whatever their age or sex, praise together the Author of all good things. How solemn were the rites of therein displayed by the pontiffs, the enthusiasm of the psalmody, the inspired readings, the celebrations of the ineffable mysteries, formed a divine pageantry.” Eusebius, History, eccl. X, 1-4
Mysteries of Faith
The Holy Father, the Pope, celebrates in this basilica the Vigil of Easter Sunday with the greatest of all mysteries when we are reborn in the saving waters of Holy Baptism. In this way, by the Sacrament of Baptism, we become “the living stones” of the Church built on the foundation of the Apostles. This is the meaning of Jesus’ words to Zacheus and to all of us in today’s gospel (Lk. 19:1-10): “Today salvation has come to this house.” Lk. 19:9 The house, of course, is not only the building but especially the house of the soul, “the temple of God.” I Cor. 3:16
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” Rev. 21:1
Not only is the soul the temple of God, but it is also the bride of Christ. This is the meaning of today’s Epistle from the Book of Revelation (Rev. 21:2-5): “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.” Rev. 21:2 What we see operating here are two levels of meaning: first, there is the union of Jesus Christ with His bride, the Church, and then there is the union of each individual soul in sanctifying grace with Jesus Christ. Salvation comes to the Church in the person of Christ who brings the sacraments, especially Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, as signified by the blood and water which came from the side of Christ when the lance pierced His side after He had died. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross which takes place in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in every Catholic Church. Jesus also comes to each individual soul as His bride, like He comes to Zacheus’ house, in today’s gospel with sanctifying grace in baptism. Every soul is the temple of God and every soul is “A bride adorned for her husband.” Rev. 20:2 St. Paul tells us this in his Epistle to the Ephesians 5:32: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and delivered himself up for her.” This double analogy of the love of Christ for the Church and husbands for their wives emphasize the spousal of love each, Christ for the Church and all its members and husbands for their spouses in marriage.
“This day salvation has come to this house.” Lk. 19:9
Jesus brings salvation to the house of Zacheus just as He brings salvation to every soul on the altar in the holy mysteries of the Eucharist with transformation of the bread and wine into His body and blood during every Holy Mass. The transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ shows the divine power of grace in the transformation of Zacheus with the grace of God; this rich tax collector is now willing to give half his fortune to the poor and to return fourfold the money with which he might have defrauded anyone. Salvation in the person of Jesus Christ has come to Zacheus in his house when Jesus comes to be with him: “Zacheus, make haste and come down: for this day I must abide in thy house.” Lk. 19:5
We are living stones
There is a great mystery in today’s special feast for the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. We should be so grateful for the great churches of Christendom, like St. John Lateran, but we must also be grateful for what they represent to us. They are the temples of God on earth just like we are the temple of God. Salvation comes to us in these temples through the sacred mysteries. Today’s Postcommunion prayer reminds us that we are the “living and chosen stones” which St. Peter described in his First Epistle: “Be yourselves as living stones built thereon into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” I Pt. 2:5 We need to be holy as we are a spiritual house, the temple of God. We need to be holy because we offer with the ministerial priest our spiritual sacrifices. We need to be holy because we are the brides of Christ who will present us to Himself at the end of our lives as His bride without spots or wrinkles. Christ loved us, His Church, “and delivered himself for her that he might sanctify her, cleansing her in the bath of water (baptism) by means of his word; in order that that he might present to himself the Church in all her glory, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she might be holy and without blemish.” Eph. 5:25-28 Dom Gueranger, OSB in his book, The Liturgical Life sums up the meaning of today’s feast when he says: “...Christ is the Corner-stone on which other living stones, all predestined, are built up by the apostolic architects into the holy temple of the Lord. Thus the Church is the bride, and by and with Christ she is the house of God. She is already in this world, where in labour and suffering the elect stones are chiselled, and are laid successively in the places assigned them by the divine plan. She is such in the happiness of heaven, where the eternal temple is being constructed of every soul that ascends from earth; until, when completed by the acquisition of our immortal bodies, it will be consecrated by the great High-Priest on the day of the incomparable dedication, the close of time. Then will the world, redeemed and sanctified, be solemnly restored to the Father who gave it His Only-begotten Son, and God will be all in all. Then it will appear that the Church was truly the archetype shown beforehand on the mount (cf. Exodus 26:30), where of every other sanctuary, built by the hands of men, could be but the figure and the shadow. Then will be realized the vision of St. John: ‘I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: ‘Behold the tabernacle of God.’” Apoc. 21:2-3....” Gueranger 212-3
Glorious Triumph of the Church
Today’s feast reminds us of the glorious triumph of the Church under Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. The building of the Basilica of St. John Lateran (St. Saviour) and so many other Churches in the Roman Empire at this time reminds us that the great age of persecution under the Romans was all part of God’s plan to bring a glorious triumph for His Church, His bride and spouse. This earthly triumph foreshadows the final triumph of the Church in the heavenly Jerusalem where all the “living stones” of God’s elect will reign gloriously with their Spouse Jesus Christ for all eternity in heaven. How blessed we are that “salvation has come” to us in this world through Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church.
Souls in Purgatory: November in the month in which we remember the poor souls in Purgatory who cannot help themselves. They rely on us to shorten their time of purification.
All-Souls Lists: Please put the names of those who have died on the All-Souls list, and we will include them in our Masses during the month of November .
Let us remember all those who given their lives for during the Two World Wars by recalling the words of this lovely poem.
“In Flanders Fields”
by John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”