Posted by: fvbcdm | November 9, 2011

Feast of the Dedication of The Lateran Basilica (9 Nov 2011)

In the year 313, after nearly three centuries of persecution of the Church by the Roman emperors, the Emperor Constantine had a famous conversion experience and decreed that the Church could function openly and freely throughout the empire. It was an enormously important moment in the history of the Church.  The second wife of the Emperor Constantine was a lady named Fausta, which means “happy” in Latin, of the wealthy family of the Laterani in Rome.  Her family mansion came into Constantine’s possession, and he gave it to the Pope for the use of the Church of Rome.  The home developed into both a church for worship, and the residence of the Pope and his entourage.  The Popes continued to live there until they went to Avignon in the 14th century.  On their return to Rome some forty years later, they went to live in the Vatican which was easier to defend in case of invasions by the enemies of the Church. The Popes have lived in the Vatican ever since, but the church standing on the former property of the Laterani has continued to be the official church of the Bishop of Rome who is the Pope.  It is therefore the cathedral of the diocese of Rome; over its main door we can see the Latin inscription which means: The Mother and Head of all the churches of the City (Rome) and of the World.
It is this preeminent church, cathedral, and basilica whose dedication the Church celebrates each year on November 9th.  And as we open the book of readings for the Mass of today, we find very interesting and appropriate ones.  The first reading, from the prophet Ezekiel, describes his vision of water flowing out from the temple of Jerusalem and working great good for the land and the people to whom it flowed.  Appropriate indeed, as the spiritual water which flows from the Church, especially the Papacy, is immensely valuable for the salvation of those whom it benefits.
The second reading is from Saint Paul to the Corinthians in which he tells them, and us: “You are the temple of God; the Spirit of God dwells in you.”  Inanimate churches exist for the sake of human churches, and we are human churches as long as God dwells within us by his grace and holiness.  This beautiful fact always reminds me of the story of Origen, one of the fathers of the Church.  He and his wife had taken their newborn baby to the church to be baptized.  On their return home, Origen laid the baby on its bed and very reverently kissed the child as if kissing something very sacred.  When his wife asked what he was doing, he replied that he was reverencing the temple of God which their baby son had now become by his baptism.
And then, the gospel of today’s Mass is that in which Our Lord made whips with cords and drove the money-changers and the animal merchants out of the temple precincts, creating quite a scene by upsetting the tables of the money-changers and knocking down the piles of dove-cages so that some of the birds could fly away with much cooing and fluttering of wings.  The angry victims of his temple-cleansing demanded to know by what right Jesus did these things.  His answer was very odd.  He did not directly answer their question, but he said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  He was speaking of the temple of his own body which they would kill by crucifixion but which he would bring back to new and eternal life by his divine power.  The use of this reading in this Mass is an implication that the Lateran Basilica and every Catholic church as well, especially where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, is a temple of God.  And that we whose bodies are temples of God are destined for resurrection at the end of time. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.


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