Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday: Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

St Joseph's Church on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

There are those who question why the universal Catholic Church celebrates the dedication of a building, albeit a church. And, quite honestly, it is a good question. Let's look at this picture of a beautiful church where this blogger celebrated Masses for the last year. It depicts a beautiful building, a very clean, neat and polished edifice. But there is something about this picture that tells us why we celebrate the dedication of a church. Your answer? Read the words of a Preface Prayer us for the Celebration in a Dedicated Church. Here you may have an inkling to the answer.

We thank you now for this house of prayer in which you bless your family as we come to you on pilgrimage. Here you reveal your presence by sacramental signs, and make us one with you through the unseen bond of grace. Here you build your temple of living stones and bring the Church to its full stature as the body of Christ throughout the world ....

Here at St. Joseph's Church, as in any Catholic church or chapel, there is profound mystery not solely in the presence of the Eucharist but in the presence of the people and clergy. So we celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome for several reasons: (1) it is the mother church in Rome (not St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City); (2) it is the official "cathedral" of the Holy Father; (3) it is a reminder that our churches are the places where we build community, the body of Christ; (4) it is the locus for the celebration of most sacraments in our Church. In essence, a church or chapel is a unique place where the community of believers gathers to celebrate their faith, to build strength as the people of God.

So, the first reading today, from Ezekiel, is a symbolic presentation of the church as a grace-filled experience for believers, all those who are touched by the "waters of grace" throughout their lives.

This celebration of the dedication of a church so far removed from most people's experience is simply a reminder that all of our churches are indeed holy places where we join ourselves with one another and the whole Catholic Church. It is in and through these sacred edifices that we, the "living stones ... bring the Church to its full stature as the body of Christ throughout the world."