How Lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Today is a most unusual feast of the Church, the Dedication of the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, a day when a church is born and dedicated for sacred rites. But the celebration is more than architecture; it is about the birth of men and women into eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit through the sacraments of He established for this purpose. The proper name of the Pope’s cathedral -not Saint Peter’s–is the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior, Saint John Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist at the Lateran. The honor the Church bestows on us today is remembrance of the cathedral on the day it was consecrated. It ought to be noted that the Church in Rome also liturgically remembers the basilica on the feast of the Transfiguration (August 6). The Lateran Basilica is “omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput…the Mother and head of all the Churches of the City and the World.”
The basilica was built by Constantine and dedicated by Pope Sixtus III in the 4th century.
One of the best things about the Lateran is the baptistery, though it is a beautiful church in general, but I love the 8-sided baptistery. There one reads:
Here is born a people of noble race, destined for Heaven, whom the Spirit brings forth in the waters he has made fruitful. Mother Church conceives her offspring by the breath of God, and bears them virginally in this water. Hope for the Kingdom of Heaven, you who are reborn in this font. Eternal life does not await those who are only born once. This is the spring of life that waters the whole world, Taking its origin from the Wounds of Christ. Sinner, to be purified, go down into the holy water. It receives the unregenerate and brings him forth a new man. If you wish to be made innocent, be cleansed in this pool, whether you are weighed down by original sin or your own. There is no barrier between those who are reborn and made one by the one font, the one Spirit, and the one faith. Let neither the number nor the kind of their sins terrify anyone; Once reborn in this water, they will be holy.
And so we say with the words of Scripture: zeal for your house consumes me.