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The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

The Word This Week

A most unusual feast! The Lateran Basilica is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome – an ancient church first built near the walls of the city of Rome by the Emperor Constantine at the beginning of the fourth century. Every Diocese in the world celebrates the feast of the Dedication of their own Cathedral, since the cathedral is the “mother and head” of all the churches in the Diocese (in Salford this is celebrated on 14th June). The Lateran Basilica, since it is the place where the Pope has his “cathedra” or Episcopal throne, has the title “Mother and Head of all the Churches of the City and the World”. On this day we both celebrate and pray for the unity of those churches gathered in communion with the successor of Saint Peter. The marbles and mosaics of the Lateran, which together form a splendid and beautiful building, are a sign of the beauty of God’s family, the Church, gathered in worship – the living stones of the temple of the Lord. This is a day to reflect on how this building, and cathedrals and churches everywhere are not just meeting-places, but visible signs to the world of the Body of Christ in prayer.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Ezekiel 47:1-2.8-9.12

At the root of a lot of the prayers relating to church buildings are references to the Temple of Jerusalem. We see this in today’s readings, particular Ezekiel and the Gospel. This reading is a vision of Ezekiel, acting as praise of the Temple from which God’s presence and glory spread blessing through the Land. In the Christian understanding, this may be a reference to Christ, the New Temple, and the source of God’s presence with his people, from whose right side on the cross flowed life-giving water. This reading should be fairly straightforward to proclaim: take your time, and be enthusiastic about all the good things that the water brings as it flows to the Arabah – listing the amazing bounty with audible joy (especially the trees that bear fruit every month!)

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:9-11.16-17

The key to understanding this reading is the first sentence: “You are God’s building…” Saint Paul is reflecting on what this means for us. He begins by describing the process of “building the Church” on the foundation of Christ. The second paragraph is asking a real question of your congregation, so give them time to think about it – a slight pause after “…was living among you?” will be enough. The final words of this reading are a wonderful affirmation of the congregation gathered in your church this morning or evening: it would be good if you could look up at them all as you read “…and you are that Temple.”