While we celebrate a feast in honor of a building, an edifice of brick and mortar, the readings for the feast, particularly the reading from First Corinthians, remind us that the real Temple of the Lord is God’s people. God has chosen to reside among his people. God is not far off but as close to us as our very selves.
We have all been taught that paying a visit to the Blessed Sacrament when we pass a church is a worthy action. I wonder how often we realize that we can pay also make a visit simply by quietly turning within ourselves and recognizing the presence of God within our very bodies. God has chosen to be with us.
This is even more manifest when we are gathered in prayer together, for if we pay attention to St. Paul’s grammar, we realize that the “you” that he repeats in this passage from his First Letter to the Corinthians is the plural form. St. Paul is addressing the community gathered around the table of the Lord when he makes this statement.
The Lateran Cathedral is also a basilica. The two terms designate two different realities. It is a cathedral because it is the place where the chair of the Bishop of Rome is located. It is a basilica, a term that means a “royal chamber.” It is the dwelling place of a king. The Lateran is a papal basilica. This means that only the Holy Father is permitted to celebrate Mass at the main or principal altar of that basilica. All other priests and bishops use a different altar, usually placed behind the papal altar.
The name given to the Lateran Cathedral and Basilica at its dedication was “Christ Our Savior Cathedral.” It is popularly called St. John’s because the front of the church is decorated with two statues: one of St. John the Baptist and the other of St. John the Evangelist. Because the proper name of the basilica is “Christ Our Savior,” this day is designated a Feast of the Lord. As is the case with all Feasts of the Lord, three readings are proclaimed in this liturgy.
As we keep this festival today, we give thanks to Almighty God for being present in our midst, for choosing to dwell with the People of God rather than in a distant reality. God is in our midst, as the Eucharistic Prayer reminds us, when we gather to break open the Scriptures and the bread which is the Body of Christ.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator