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Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, 2014

November 9th marks the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica.  Why are we celebrating the dedication of a church?  Well, because this is perhaps the most important church in all of Western Christianity.  The official title of this church is:  The Cathedral Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist at the Lateran.  “The Lateran” in this case refers to the Lateran Palace which belonged to the Laterni family, an ancient noble Roman family.  The palace was acquired by Constantine and donated to the Pope in order to be the cathedral of the city of Rome.  This is where the cathedra, the Bishop’s Chair, sits.  Contrary to popular belief, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is not the Pope’s Cathedral.  The Pope is foremost the Bishop of Rome, so therefore his Cathedral Church is in the City of Rome (not Vatican City, which at the time of Constantine was little more than a hill outside of Rome).  This is the oldest church in the West, and as such is considered the mother church.

The Word for the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
Psalm 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17
John 2:13-22

Our first reading comes from the book Ezekiel… the priest and prophet who was among the first to be sent into Exile in Babylon… some ten years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the mass deportation that followed.  He was first and foremost a Temple priest, but it was in his Exile he developed his prophetic voice (though his prose sounds very much like priestly law at times).  This Sunday’s passage come from the later part of his book, where he is describing visions of hope for a return to Jerusalem.  He is describing a vision where the angel brings him to the entrance of the Temple, and from that entry flows water… water that flows to the sea and brings life to all it touches.  Not only does it remind us of our baptism, it shows the ancient Israelites (who are in Exile) that a new Jerusalem and a new Temple can be a source of light and life.  Our Psalm is a reflection of this vision.

Our second reading is from Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians.  It is here where Paul teaches us that we are all temples of God.  This is new thinking, not only for the Jews of the time, but gentiles as well, who both have a firm understanding that the Temple is the home of God, and this is where we worship.  Paul’s teaching is both practical and enlightened.  Practical in the fact that he is dealing with a people who have no Temple… how can God have a home if there is no Temple?  But the enlightened aspect of this teaching reminds us that God is and lives within us as well as outside of us.  In us Paul laid the foundation of our faith… Faith in Christ Jesus… and from that foundation we build our lives of faith, hope, and love.

Our gospel, being a special occasion, comes from John.  Here we have the story of Jesus expelling the moneychangers in the Temple.  This story is such a powerful and important moment in the story of Jesus it is included in all four Gospels.  As is typical with John’s Gospel, however, there is both the story on the surface and the story underneath.  This is much more than a purification of the Temple, but Jesus himself is established as the new Temple… the body of Jesus to be destroyed in the soon to come crucifixion, but restored through the Resurrection three days later.  God is not within these stone walls, but within us.

So on this day where our readings make clear that our bodies are the new Temples of God (made holy through our Baptism), why all this fuss about a building?  We've firmly established that God does not need a house (you can’t put God in a box), yet we Catholics still place an importance on our church buildings.  Why is that?  Simple…while God may not need a house (or a Temple), the people of God, us, still need a place to gather… a place we can call home.  A place where we can gather and worship together.  A sacred space where we can feel safe and at peace.  A place where we can be reminded of that spirit of God within each of us and celebrate that fact in quiet contemplation or joyous celebration.  The Laterni family gave their home as Rome’s Cathedral, and from that many more homes and buildings became communal gathering places for the faithful.  Hence we celebrate the dedication of this Archbasilica as a reminder that we from this place we gathered and grew as Church.

Final Thoughts:
As our Liturgical year draws to a close, we have a number of special celebrations the US Bishops have put on the calendar.  The Church has a hard time letting go of certain seasonal cycles, so she has a tendency to position important memorials and feast days at the beginning and the end of Ordinary Time, I think this allows us to ease in and out of the liturgical cycles without such abrupt change.
This year our calendar is as follows:

  • Nov 4:  Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop
  • Nov 9:  Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
  • Nov 10:  Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
  • Nov 11:  Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop
  • Nov 12:  Memorial of Saint Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr
  • Nov 13:  Memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin
  • Nov 17:  Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious
  • Nov 21:  Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Nov 22:  Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr
  • Nov 23:  The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
  • Nov 24:  Memorial of Saint Andrew Dŭng-Lạc, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs

November 23rd marks the final Sunday of the Liturgical year, in which we celebrate Christ the King. For us Here at Our Lady of Refuge, we have our traditional Thanksgiving Day Mass on Thursday, November 27th, at 9:30 AM.  This is a true celebration of parish family, and helps take us out on a high note before we begin the penitential season of Advent.

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