Nov 9 – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of the church of Rome and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope. It is officially named ‘Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour, St. John Baptist and St. John the Evangelist at the Lateran’.
It is the oldest and ranks first (being the cathedral of Rome) among the four major basilicas of Rome, and holds the title of ecumenical mother church (mother church of the whole inhabited world). An inscription on the façade, Christo Salvatore, dedicates the Lateran as the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour, for the cathedrals of all patriarchs are dedicated to Christ Himself. As the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, containing the papal throne, it ranks above all other churches, even above St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
I have chosen and consecrated this house, says the Lord, for my name to be there forever.
Today’s Gospel on the Temple and the sacred sanctuary that is Jesus reminds me of the pilgrimage I made to the Holy Land in Israel four years ago. We had made a trip to the Wailing Wall, otherwise known as the Western Wall, which was the very exact same temple that was mentioned in today’s Gospel.
We pilgrims had stood in awe and appreciated the grandeur of this structure, the only remaining fragment of the Great Temple of Jerusalem to survive the Roman destruction. It still stands today as the most sacred structure of the Jewish people. But for us Christians, this is considered a holy site because Jesus was present at this very temple. It was here that the incidents of the 4th and 5th Joyful mysteries of the Rosary took place — The Presentation of the Baby Jesus in the Temple and The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. In his years of ministry, Jesus also preached at this temple, and it was here where He expelled all the money changers.
“Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.” It was this very temple whose veil was torn in two the moment Jesus died. Jesus was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body. And when He rose from the dead, it marked the beginning of a new covenant.
The significance of this Jewish sacred structure to us Christians and Catholics cannot be understated. However, I was personally filled with confusion at that moment as I stood hesitating whether I should go up and touch the wall or not. At that time, I could not fully comprehend the significance of this place, and I seriously pondered why my fellow pilgrims were visibly moved as they touched the wall. But as I finally approached and put my hands on the cold stones, I could feel my heart pumping stronger, and it hit me, this was where ‘the Divine Presence always rests’.
On my left and right were Jews praying fervently, and yet there I was praying as a Christian. That moment was surreal to me. The prophet Isaiah called the Temple a “house for all nations”. Israel is a land where there is much fighting amongst the Jews, Muslims and Christians, but in front of the Wall, all stand equal. This is a universal centre of spirituality. The Wall has withstood time, it has witnessed war and peace, destruction and revival. For generations, it has absorbed the prayers and yearnings of those near and far.
I am still very grateful that I had this incredible privilege to go on this pilgrimage. Till now, I am still appreciating the wonders of the Gospel coming alive to me at the Holy Land.
(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)
Prayer: Dear Jesus, we pray for peace and harmony amongst all nations and religions.
Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for reminding us of your goodness and everlasting truth. Amen.