November 9, 2019 (Dedication of the Lateran Basilica—Feast)
I saw water
Dear friends in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. This is so important to us all, because when Christianity gained its freedom after many years of persecution, the Emperor Constantine gave the palace on monte Celio originally belonging to the Laterani family to Pope Miltiades and commissioned the building of the first Christian Cathedral on the property. For 1000 years this Basilica was the home of the Popes and remains the Cathedral of the Pope and the City of Rome. On its door is inscribed, “Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head.”
The first reading today (Ezekiel 47:1-2.8-9.12) is indeed very appropriate. From it we have the hymn Vidi aquam, which is sung immediately after the rite of Baptism, at the Easter Vigil, while the Priest sprinkles the congregation with water from the fount. It translates, “I saw water running from the Temple, and all those to whom the water came were saved.” This hymn describes in the most appropriate language, what the Temple stands for. More than any other church, the Lateran Basilica, is a clear reminder of the struggles and the blood of the martyrs, which became the seed of the Christian church and faith. Before this passage, Ezekiel had described the rituals and the holiness associated with the Temple. Here in his vision, that comes even clearer. He talks about the healing and life giving properties that comes with the water, which flows from the right side of the temple. This imagery reminds us of Genesis and the waters of the garden of Eden. No matter how lifeless a place or thing has become, the water from the temple refreshes and brings back life.
In the second reading (1Corinthians 3:9-11.16-17) Paul takes another look at how important we are in the scheme of salvation. First he calls us God’s building with a foundation he had laid. But more clearly he says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you…For God’s temple is holy and that temple you are.”
In the Gospel (John 2:13-22) John tells us that while Jesus spoke of the destruction of the temple and it’s rebuilding in three days, he actually was speaking of the temple which is his body, a message that became clearer after the resurrection. Obviously, spiritual life and holiness are not limited to the temple made of brick and cement, even though our buildings help our worship, the truth however is, a good christian is more beautiful in the eyes of God than the most beautiful basilica in the world. The house of worship therefore is a place from which the blessings of God flow out to his people, and the people in turn become living temples for God where the Holy Spirit dwells.
Let us pray: O God, you have honoured us with the presence of your Spirit in our lives. Make us into temples fit for your dwelling. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.