Thursday, November 6, 2014

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Year A, B, C
Dedication of the Lateran Basilica


Value of a Church

Points to note

Everyone knows St Peter Basilica in Rome – it is the largest and grandest church in the Catholic world.  But, it is not the official seat of the Pope even though many official functions takes place there.  The official cathedral church of the Pope as Bishop of Rome is the Lateran Basilica, officially known as the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and of Ss. John Baptist & John Evangelist in the Lateran. As such, it is the mother church of all Catholics and is often treated as the symbol of unity among Catholics.  It is the oldest of the four major basilicas (consecrated in the year 324) and the only one with the title of Archbasilica.  Originally a Roman palace, it was given to the Church by Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome.

Every Catholic church in the world commemorates the its dedication (often on the feastday of the saint it was dedicated to).  The Lateran Basilica is unique in that its dedication is celebrated world wide due to its position as the mother church of Catholicism, a practice that really started in the 16th century.


Acclamation before the Gospel

Alleluia!  Alleluia!
I have chosen and consecrated this house, says the Lord,
for my name to be there forever.

The Lord be with you.
All:   And also with your spirit.

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew
All:   Glory to you O Lord

 (Jn 2: 13-22)
Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.


Today is the Feastday of the Dedication of St John Lateran. Every Catholic church in the world has to be consecrated by the bishop in a mass called the Dedication of the Church.  This day became a feastday for the church every year.  Explain about St John Lateran as noted in Points to Note above.

Explain that the session today is about churches. When you look around he church, what do you see (you can refer to for a full introduction):

Entrance: Plague At the church entrance, you will sometimes find a plaque, which tells the date and the Bishop who consecrated that church. A Catholic church can only be a Catholic church when it is consecrated by the Bishop and is given the name of its patron saint.

Blessing before entrance The holy water at the entrance of the church is for you to bless yourself when you enter the church. This is to allow you to approach heaven (the altar) with a clean heart. The confessionals are near the entrance of the church so that people can make their confessions before going for communion at mass.

The nave: Once inside the church, you are in the nave. The word comes from a old Latin word, meaning ship (same root word as in naval). It refers to Noah's Ark, when everyone in the Ark is saved while all those outside the Ark are lost. So, when you walk down the nave, you can imagine yourself within a huge ship, safe from any storm outside.

Stations of the cross Along the nave church walls, you will find the 14 Stations of the Cross, either as paintings or as wooden images. They depict the final journey of Jesus from his condemnation to his burial in the tomb on Good Friday. We use the images to celebrate the Stations of the Cross, normally during Lent and on Good Friday.

Sacred Images You will sometimes find statues, paintings of people along the nave walls, or on stained glass windows. These people are saints, who are our friends in heaven and we remember them & what they did by these images. Each saint is often depicted by a symbol. For instance, St Peter is the bearded guy with two keys in his hand given to him by Jesus and St Francis of Assisi often has a bird around him

The sanctuary: This is that part of the church where all of the activity for the mass take place. They are normally distinctly different from the rest of the church, for instance built in a different stone like marble or cordoned off. In the olden days, if a criminal reaches the sanctuary, he cannot be arrested unless he voluntarily leaves the place.

Altar The altar is that big table in the middle of the sanctuary normally made of solid wood, stone or marble, where the sacrifice of Mass takes place. The altar is normally covered with a white and clean altar-cloth. On the altar, you will see only candles, maybe a microphone for the priest to use, and sometimes some flowers. The centre of the altar is normally left empty so that the bread and wine will take a pride of place during mass.

In the middle of all older altars, there is a small square hole, in which is an altar-stone. The altar-stone is what used to make an altar an altar. It is marked with five crosses to represent the five wounds of Jesus and contains the relic of a saint. Relics are normally a piece of bone, hair or something related to a saint.

Crucifix Behind the altar is the crucifix. A crucifix differs from a cross in that it has Jesus on it. In all Catholic
crucifixes from the big one in the church to the little one in our rosary beads, there is a little square on top
with the letters INRI, which stands for Iesu Nazarene Rex Idumea, which is Latin for Jesus of Nazareth
King of the Jews. This was what Pontius Pilate wrote on top of the cross when Jesus was crucified to tell the world what he was accused of.

Lecterns That is the reading desk at the front of the sanctuary for the readers and priest to read the readings and the Gospel as well as for the priest to give his sermon and is called an Ambo. In some of churches, it is decorated with symbols of the four Gospel writers - a man for Matthew, a lion for Mark, a bull for Luke, & an eagle for John.

Tabernacle On the wall behind the altar is a little box, like a safe deposit box with a key in it. This is the tabernacle, where we keep the consecrated body of Jesus after every mass. During mass the priest or a communion minister will unlock the tabernacle and bring out the consecrated bread in there. The bread is then used for mass together with any freshly consecrated bread.

A red light is lit next to the tabernacle called the sanctuary light, which indicates the presence of the Body of Christ in the tabernacle. When we cross in front of the altar, we bow or genuflect as a sign of respect to the Body of Jesus as indicated by the lit sanctuary light.

Church wings: Normally, both wings of the church contain side altars. The right altar, being the more important one (in olden days, right is good and left is bad), is reserved for Our Lady or the Sacred Heart. The left altar would be for St. Joseph, or the patron saint of the church.

Baptism font This is a basin where people are baptised by affusion (by pouring water over the head). It is commonly at the wing of the church or at the front left hand side (Jesus' left) of the sanctuary (because the ambo is on the right). In some churches which practices baptism by immersion (by immersing the whole body under the water), the baptism font is a shallow pool, often cross-shaped, with steps leading down to the water. As it is much larger than a basin, there is no place for it in the sanctuary and is often moved to elsewhere in the church.

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