Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

On this day in 324, lands and buildings that originally belonged to the Roman Laterani family were formally dedicated as the Cathedral Church of Rome by Pope Sylvester I. The during the reign of Emperor Nero, the Laterani family lost the property to the Emperor when a family member was accused of some unknown impropriety against Nero. From the the time of Nero to the early years of the fourth century, the ‘ownership history’ is somewhat sketchy as the property eventually passes to Constantine's wife, Fausta. What is clear is that with the Edict of Toleration, the Roman Empire's relationship with the Church changed dramatically. Not only were bishops appointed civil magistrates by the emperor, Constantine also began an aggressive 'renovation' project taking existing Roman buildings and permitting the bishops to use them for places of worship and ecclesiastical gatherings/meetings. New buildings were also constructed during this time and dedicated as Churches to signal the Church’s clear visible presence in the Empire. Robin Jensen notes that this ‘church building campaign’ “symbolized the beginning of Christianity’s transition from a minority community adapting what it had available and expressing itself in familiar terms, to a powerful, wealthy and dominant segment of the population, now able to determine the forms and styles by which it expressed its own cultural identity. The imposing scale and potential grandeur of the basilica design well suited the gradually more elaborate liturgy, even as it reflected the changed social and political status of the church and became a definitive and monumental symbol of the church’s new self-understanding and cultural integration (Christianity: Origins to Constantine, page 585).”

“Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” (John 2:13.)

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on this verse from the Gospel proclaimed during today’s Mass:

“This account of the multitude of sellers who were cast out of the temple is given by all the Evangelists, but John introduces it in a remarkably different order. After recording the testimony borne by John the Baptist to Jesus and mentioning that he went into Galilee at the time when he turned the water into wine, and after he has also noticed the sojourn of a few days in Capernaum, John proceeds to tell us that he went up to Jerusalem at the season of the Jews’ Passover, and when he had made a scourge of small cords, drove out of the temple those who were selling in it. This makes it evident that this act was performed by the Lord not on a single occasion but twice over; but that only the first instance is put on record by John, and the last by the other three.” (Harmony of the Gospels, 2.)

O God, Who from living and chosen stones
prepare an eternal dwelling for Your majesty,
increase in Your Church
the spirit of grace You have bestowed,
so that by new growth Your faithful people
may build up the heavenly Jerusalem.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen