The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

I admit that for the first 30 years of being Catholic, I spent very little time concerned about the feast of the day. There are a lot of things to celebrate in the church, and the named saints were, by all accounts, wonderful people, but this isn’t my focus. I am a Christian first, a Catholic second.

But the feast days are the catalog of Catholic history, of Christian history, and it behooves us to ensure we remember them. Today is a perfect example. Today is the feast of a building. Yep, a building, not a saint. The Lateran Basilica is officially named the St. John Lateran, dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, and called “Lateran” because it was built on the property of the Laterani palace. The property was donated by the Emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor, so in a way this feast celebrates our religious freedom. The basilica was dedicated November 9, 324. St. John Lateran is the official cathedral of the popes, not, as is commonly believed, St. Peter’s.

Those who design the lectionary planned it so that all three readings address the temple in some way. This Sunday we kick off our Sunday family lectionary reflections.

Brothers and sisters:
You are God’s building.
According to the grace of God given to me,
like a wise master builder I laid a foundation,
and another is building upon it.
But each one must be careful how he builds upon it,
for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there,
namely, Jesus Christ.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple,
God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

 As a family, we read the entire passage, which adds what Miss T called “The Three Little Pigs” version: “If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each one’s work.” (v. 12, 13)

I like this reading, because it’s like the punch line, the final reveal – WE are the temple of God. As Father Bryan said in his homily today, the building is the external representation of the church: our stewardship, our faith, our history. But we are the dwelling place of the Spirit.

Paul was the first teacher to the Corinthians and as such the “master builder.” Lacking Paul’s direct presence on a daily basis, they had to rely on other teachers, as we do now. When Paul says “and another is building upon it” he is talking about the leaders among the Corinthians adding to the teaching he provided. Gordon remarked that the Corinthians had far less to go on than we do, they didn’t even have the written Gospels, and yet we still aren’t sure we have it right. As a family we talked about what we do to build up our spiritual home, how we use the Bible, and how we choose our teachers. Not everyone is a qualified builder.

To celebrate the day, we ate Simnel Cake in honor of Mothering Sunday. I thought Mothering Sunday was about youth coming home from their first service at the large homes and farms of the rich, but evidently some believe it’s the Sunday that mass is celebrated at the cathedral, or “mother” church. Anyway, the Simnel cake recipe I had makes something of a sweet biscuit and is reminiscent of the bricks used to build the church. How appropriate, heh, heh.

Simnel Cake


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