This month brings our celebration of the birthdays of two important churches in Christendom: November 5 is the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the Mother Church of the City and of the World, Rome’s cathedral; and the 18th is the Dedication of the Basilicas of St Peter and of St Paul Outside-the-Walls.
Yearly we celebrate our births into the light of this world. We celebrate the natal day, the Dies Natalis of saints into heaven, commonly fixed on the day the saint died or when their relics were moved or “translated” and finally laid to rest. We also celebrate the birthdays of our houses of sacred worship.
Each church has its own dedication feast. It is a millennial tradition on that day to light candles in special holders at the spots where the bishop anointed the temple’s interior walls with sacred chrism when the building was consecrated, set apart for God alone and worship.
Speaking of lighted candles, during the traditional baptismal rite we are met at the door, anointed with chrism, named, washed with water, clothed in white and given a candle. Churches, when they are consecrated, are also opened, anointed, named, washed, clothed and illuminated.
We are our rites. Be a holy, living temple of God! Go to Confession.
In 2008, Benedict XVI explained the connection between Christians and churches:
[T]he Word of God recalls an essential truth: the temple of stones is a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, which in their letters the Apostles Peter and Paul already understood as a “spiritual edifice”, built by God with “living stones”, namely, Christians themselves, upon the one foundation of Jesus Christ, who is called the “cornerstone” (cf 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17; 1 Peter 2:4-8; Ephesians 2:20-22). “Brothers, you are God’s building,” St Paul wrote, and added: “Holy is God’s temple, which you are” (1 Corinthians 3:9c, 17).
The beauty and harmony of the churches, destined to give praise to God, also draws us human beings, limited and sinful, to convert to form a “cosmos”, a well-ordered structure, in intimate communion with Jesus, who is the true Saint of saints. This happens in a culminating way in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the ecclesia, that is, the community of the baptised, come together in a unified way to listen to the Word of God and nourish themselves with the Body and Blood of Christ.
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