Lateran basilica’s day

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Today is the feast of the dedication of the basilica of Saint John Lateran. That church, also known as “the pope’s church”, is the first building in Europe where Christians were permitted to hold Mass in freedom and without persecution. That was freedom was granted by Constantine, who also provided the palace of the Laterani family for that church. It is known as the pope’s church, because it is the cathedral of Rome, and the pope of course is “bishop of Rome.” That building also commemorates the first time a building was called church. Prior to that the church was not the building, but rather the people that gathered together as Christians. Those gatherings took place secretly in members’ homes, or in the catacombs. The church was the assembly of people, as living stones, that form that mystical body of Christ; and that is an important point to remember. Sometimes people get fired up over the architecture, and the altars, and the windows, and the statuary; it becomes easy to forget that the church is its people gathered together collectively as Christians. The building is a symbol of the importance of that gathering. Along with it being the congregation of Christians which now assembles in a building called a church; church too is that singular Christian who carries Christ within them. That singular church, is at its perfection, the image of Mary who carried the Christ. It is she who is Image and model of the Church. Holy mother Church.

There then are a few reasons why this day is important. It celebrates Christian freedom while remembering Christian persecution. It celebrates Christians gathered as church community, and it reminds the individual of their role as church personified by Mary. Being “the pope’s church,” it also reminds one of that universal church and its role. Catholic means universal. This day is so much more than simply celebrating a building, it is celebrating all of the meanings of that word Church. It also celebrates the dedication of that beautiful ancient basilica in Rome…

    

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