Today’s feast is of the Dedication of the Roman basilica of St. John Lateran and this might seem like a strange focus for a feast. It is however a timely feast for our Christchurch diocese in the process of rebuilding and restoring churches damaged and destroyed by the 2010 / 2011 earthquakes.
It was the emperor Constantine who built the first basilica on the Lateran site in the early fourth century. At least a couple of times since it has fallen into decline, most especially during the 14th century years of the Avignon papacy. In the early 18th century the facade was reconstructed and the entire building re-dedicated to “Christ the Saviour, in honour of Saint John the Baptist and Evangelist” as the inscription and statues atop the facade proclaim.
This Lateran basilica is the Cathedral church of the bishop of Rome who is the pope.
When Church architect James McCrery visited our diocese in 2014, he helped to restore our understanding of the potential of a Catholic church building (if it is truly beautiful) to be a compelling revelation about God. After each visit, a number of people commented to me that no one had ever taught them this stuff.
Here is the collect from the Mass of today’s feast:
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