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The Dedication of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior
commonly called St John Lateran (under Pope Sylvester in 324)
Some day, I am sure, you will have a chance to go to Rome. And when you do, you will have the further chance of visiting the mother of all churches, the Basilica of St John Lateran, Cathedral of Rome. Today the entire Catholic world recalls the dedication of that glorious monument – the first public place of worship erected after the legalization of Christianity in 313. I have been there. Right now I am there again in my imagination…. I see the wide plaza spread in front of the noble, neo-classical façade, topped with immense statues of the Fathers of the Church, from the East and the West. I enter the marbled vestibule, glancing at the Roman imperial statue representing Constantine, the emperor who set Christianity free. I touch the cold and stern bronze of the immense doors, doors that were removed from the ancient Roman Senate building, marking the transition from the Roman Empire to Christianity. And then I walk inside…
Shall I continue? Shall I describe for you the fascinating blend of artistic and architectural styles, unified by the baroque genius of Borromini through sculptures that summarize the grandiose and marvelous unity of salvation history? Shall I point out the medieval canopy glinting its gold leaf over the high altar, housing its haunting statues of St Peter and Paul, statues which double as reliquaries, containing as they do the skulls of those two tireless apostles who founded the Church in Rome? And the altar, that marble altar, hollowed and hallowed to encase the old wooden altar that St Peter himself used to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…
Well, my dear nephew, you can tell that I spent a long time in that building, that prayer made out of stone. It nourished my soul just to stand there and drink in the beauty, contemplate the meaning… It still nourishes my soul. I wish I could give you a tour of the place. Well, perhaps someday I will. In the meantime, however, you and I both can keep working on decorating the interior of our souls, adorning that eternal temple of the Holy Spirit with virtues even more magnificent than the marble of that holy, though finite, space.
Your loving uncle, Eddy