Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17
Of sacred places in the church building the Bishops document, Environment and Art, names as special the baptismal font, the ambo, the altar and the assembly of the people. When the Rite of the Dedication of a Church and an Altar is celebrated, baptism is referred to in the blessing of the water to be sprinkled on the people, walls and altar. But nothing is said of the font, the tomb and the womb of those who make up the Church.
Our celebration today of the dedication of the ‘Mother of all the other Churches’, the Cathedral of Rome, does not let us forget the importance of our birth. The early Christians renounced sin as they stood facing the West, then turned to face the rising sun as they made their profession of faith. Our first reading shows Ezekiel being led to the gate facing the East where he can see the glory of God approach. He hears a sound like the running of many waters. The feet of the Lord will be planted in the holy temple. The God whose appearances are always surprising and unpredictable will take up lodging among the people.
Paul, in the First Letter to the Corinthians, moves us quickly from the temple made by human hands to God’s work in us: "You are the temple of God; the Spirit of God dwells in you".
The altar is a symbol of Christ, the font where we see ourselves born. From the womb we set off to find our way to the altar to be nourished by the one we follow. At the end of our spiritual journey we will be placed near the altar, close to the one we first met at the waters of Baptism. Upon the altar the feast of the banquet of heaven will be celebrated to feed those who continue the journey and who will pray for us and remember us as possessing the fullness of the banquet.
We are the temples in which the Lord takes up lodging. The geography of the church, especially our Mother Church of St. John Lateran, is reflected within us who are living temples where the Spirit dwells. Our celebration today reminds us who we are and how we were born. The inscription in the Baptistery of St. John Lateran says in nicely,
Here is born a people of noble race, destined for Heaven….
Mother Church conceives her offspring by the Breath of God,
And bears them virginally in this water….
This is the spring of life that waters the whole world,
Taking its origin from the Wounds of Christ…
There is no the barrier between those who are reborn and made one
By the font, and the one Spirit, and the one faith.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery parish in Baltimore, MD.