Feast of the Dedication of Saint John Lateran
Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. This anniversary has been observed on this date since the 12th century and is an important feast for the Church because Saint John Lateran is considered to be the mother church of all Christendom and is a sign of unity with, and devotion to, the Chair of Peter. To honor this celebration, we present an excerpt from a catechetical instruction by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop, found in the Liturgy of the Hours earlier this year, on the Church as the People of God.
The Church as the Assembly of the People of God
The Church is called Catholic or universal because it has spread throughout the entire world, from one end of the earth to the other. Again, it is called Catholic because it teaches fully and unfailingly all the doctrines which ought to be brought to men’s knowledge, whether concerned with visible or invisible things, with the realities of heaven or the things of earth. Another reason for the name Catholic is that the Church brings under religious obedience all classes of men, rulers, and subjects, learned and unlettered. Finally, it deserves the title Catholic because it heals and cures unrestrictedly every type of sin that can be committed in soul or in body, and because it possesses within itself every kind of virtue that can be named, whether exercised in actions or in words or in some kind of spiritual charism.
It is most aptly called a church, which means an “assembly of those called out,” because it “calls out” all men and gathers them together, just as the Lord says in Leviticus: Assemble all the congregation at the door of the tent of meeting [cf Leviticus 8:3]. It is worth noting also that the word “assemble” is used for the first time in Scriptures at this moment when the Lord appoints Aaron high priest. So in Deuteronomy, God says to Moses: Assemble the people before me and let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me [cf Deuteronomy 4:10]. There is a further mention of the assembly in the passage about the tablets of the Law: And on them were written all the words which the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire, on the day of the assembly [cf Deuteronomy 9:10]; it is as though he had said, even more clearly, “on the day you were called out by God and gathered together.” So too the psalmist says: I will give thanks to you in the great assembly, O Lord; in the mighty throng I will praise you [cf Psalm 35:18].
Long ago the psalmist sang: Bless God in the assembly; bless the Lord, you who are Israel’s sons [cf Psalm 68:27]. But now the Savior has built a second holy assembly, our Christian Church, from the Gentiles. It was of this that he spoke to Peter: On this rock, I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it [cf Matthew 16:18].
Now that the single church which was in Judea has been rejected, the churches of Christ are already multiplying throughout the world, and, of them, it is said in the psalms: Sing a new song to the Lord, let his praise be sung in the assembly of the saints [cf Psalm 149:1]. Taking up the same theme the prophet says… I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts [Malachi 1:10]; and immediately he adds: For from the rising of the sun to its setting, my name is glorified among the nations [cf Malachi 1:11]. Of this holy, Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy: That you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth [cf 1 Timothy 3:15].
Editor’s Note: To learn more about the archbasilica itself, see our post from a previous year by clicking here.
Art for this post on the Dedication of Saint John Lateran, Archbasilica: San Giovanni in Laterano – Rome (The Papal Archbasilica of Saint John in Lateran [sic]), MrPanyGoff, 28 September 2016 own work, CCA-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons.