Thursday, 6 November 2014

9/11/14 God is for us a refuge and strength

The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

This week we celebrate what may seem like an odd feast concerning the dedication of a church building. So in today's a little liturgy, I have tried to reflect on what the physical building of a church conveys to us.  However, as we know, it is not the bricks and mortar that build a church but its people.  Being part of a church helps us dedicate ourselves to God.  It is no coincidence that the ceremony of dedicating a church involves anointing, sprinkling of holy water and the giving of a saint's name; this is a very similar process to our dedication to Christ in Baptism.

Summary of Liturgy of the Word

First Reading
Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12
The prophet Ezekiel tells us of a vision he has where an angel leads him to the temple.  There he sees a stream flowing east towards the sea.  The angel tells Ezekiel that wherever the river flows it will bring life and health because it comes from the temple.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 45;2-3,5-6,8-9.R.v.5
The waters of a river give joy to God's city,
the holy place where the Most High dwells

Second Reading
St Paul to the Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17
St Paul is teaching about our relationship with God.  He says to the Corinthians (and us) "You are God's building".  He says that the foundations of the building have already been laid by Jesus and that everybody must work on the building carefully.  He then goes on to say that we are God's temple and that God's spirit lives among us.  The reading finishes with these words: "If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple".

John 2:13-22
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  When he entered the temple he found people selling things and dealing in money.  He chased them out and said "stop turning my Father's house into a market".  The Jews asked him to give a sign of his power to do this.  He said that if the temple were destroyed he could build it up again in three days.  They did not realise that he was talking about his own body.  The disciples remembered what he had said after he had risen from the dead.


The theme of this week's Liturgy of the Word is holy places.  In the First Reading the temple is the place where goodness comes from; water flows from the sanctuary.  The angel describes how everything surrounding the water is full of life.  This draws on imagery central to Christianity; Christ often speaks of the water giving eternal life and we use water at Baptism to bring new life and purify.

The psalmist regards the place where God is as a place of safety; to be with God is to be in a strong building.  "God is for us a refuge and strength".  

St Paul looks upon himself as an architect, helping God to build a temple in each of us.  The temple is the place where God dwells so he dwells in us.

In the Gospel, we see Jesus getting angry at those who fail to treat the temple with respect.  He then refers to himself as the temple, the place where God dwells.  All these scripture passages acknowledge a special sacred place where God dwells.  For us, this can be a church where people gather to worship, the Eucharist and other sacraments or our inner selves.  We can also witness God in other people and our surroundings and in may other ways.  

Jesus then refers to the Resurrection when he will rise after three days and conquer death.  However, the disciples do not understand this until they are able to look back on things.  

Activity during Mass

Look around your church and see how many of the things on the list below you can identify.  They are all things that help to make the church a holy place.  Tick them off and answer the questions if you can.  You could also draw some of them if you have time.

1)holy water

2)people genuflecting

How many are there?  
Where are they?  
When are they used?

When is it used?
Why is it used?

5)the sanctuary
How it is set apart?

6)the tabernacle and the sanctuary light

7)holy pictures and or holy statues

8)the vestments and altar cloths
What colour are they today?

There are also some things that are less obvious that tell us that the church is a special place to be close to God.  See what you can discover about the following things in your church:

A) the direction in which the church faces

B) holy relics set into the altar - try to find out which saint they belong to in your church

C)12 crosses on the wall where the walls were anointed at the dedication of the church

D) the special name for the church - what is your church called?

Notice that just before the consecration a bell is rung and everybody kneels down.  This is to show respect for what is about to happen.  Although God is always with us, we believe that he comes to us in an extraordinary way in Holy Communion (the Eucharist).  Think about the atmosphere in the church during Holy Communion.  Everybody is joined together and focussed on one activity.  We are all recognising that we are in God's house and that we, ourselves become temples for God.

Sometimes we celebrate Mass in places that are not dedicated churches.  Think about how we make these places holy.  

Other activities and useful resources

In medieval times, criminals could seek "sanctuary" in a consecrated church.  Once they were inside the laws of the country had no power. Today, we speak of the sanctuary in a church being the special, holy place where the altar is.  We also use the term to refer to a place of safety.  Look again at today's psalm.  Find it in the Bible and read it all.  The psalm speaks of God being a refuge in violent times.  In what sort of situations might we need to look for refuge?

As I mentioned in the introduction, there is a special process for the dedication of a church.  Follow the link below to find out more:

rubrics for dedication of a church

The basilica of St John Lateran in Rome is built on the site of one of the oldest churches in the world.  It is also very beautiful.  Consider why its dedication is honoured with a special feast.  Look at the information given in the link below:

tourist website for Lateran Basilica

Look at the link below and learn the names of the different parts of a cathedral.  Find out why large churches have the name cathedral.  

information about and floor plan of English cathedrals

You might like to visit a cathedral near where you live and find out more about it.  

Last week's question

What language did Jesus and his apostles speak?


It is likely that Jesus' main language was Aramaic and that this is the language he would have spoken with the apostles and his family.  He would also have known Hebrew to study scriptures and pray.  Obviously, we do not know exactly which languages he used when.  Greek and Latin were used by the Roman officials and for government business.  It has been suggested that Jesus understood some Greek but little Latin.  (The opposite of Shakespeare!)  St Paul would have been able to speak Greek.  

Article about languages of Jesus' time

When the scriptures were written down, Hebrew was used for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament.  Much later these were translated into Latin and we have been able to read the Bible in English since the sixteenth century.

click here for more info

This week's question:

How do you become a saint?

I hope you enjoy this week's activities!


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