Feast of the Dedication of
the Church of Saint John Lateran
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17
The Dedication of the Church of St. John Lateran, is a feast of the living stones; the church building giving way to the primacy of the assembly. The two prefaces for the dedication of a church, and the prayers for the mass, set before us many rich images: The Church is a house of prayer to which we come on pilgrimage, a place of blessing because of the presence of God. We see in sacramental signs, and we become one in unseen bond of grace. Love is at work, grace upon grace, helping us to our glory as the Bride of Christ, the joyful mother of a great company of saints; living stones coming to full stature.
It may take a bit of work to translate the beautiful images into the people, the living stones, who we know and who regularly attend the same mass that we do each week. Faithful attendance does not guarantee that each of us at every mass will be wide awake and ready to sing. At any mass a baby can become cranky, minds wander, things go wrong.
The images set before us do carry a practical message. The Lateran basilica is the cathedral of Rome. Here the Pope celebrates on Holy Thursday as bishop of Rome together with his priests and deacons. It reminds us of our local churches, gathered around our bishop. At the same time it shows the origin of all of our Churches in the Mother Church of Rome, historically situated in the Lateran Basilica.
A little over a week ago on the Feast of All Saints, ten Episcopalian religious women who live near the Passionist community in Baltimore, MD, and who had become Roman Catholic two years ago, were added as a new religious order in the Church of Rome. Archbishop O’Brien who officially received the community into the archdiocese said it was a great gift for the church in Baltimore. Captured in this event we see both the local Church and the larger. There is also a beautiful postscript. Three of the sisters from the original community chose not to enter the Roman Church. They continue to live with their sisters of many years. Rome and the Episcopal Church are together in an unspoken ecumenical embrace in this community of religious women.
Practical also is the way we see the ‘living stones’. We are the architects and builders of this Church of living stones. What medium shall we choose – bricks or wood? Can we imagine they are stones shaped and chiseled by fidelity, forgiveness, and patience; their color determined by suffering, humility or generosity?
Practical also is this Bride who becomes joyful mother to the great company of saints. The venerable baptistry of St. John Lateran bears the inscription, "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."
A Church one with other Churches, fashioned in our uniqueness by the grace of God, and at the font of baptism, made one in Spirit and one in faith with no barrier between us. This is what we celebrate as we remember the Dedication of the Church of St. John Lateran.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery parish in Baltimore, Maryland.