November 9, 2000
volume 11, no. 226
LITURGY for Thursday and Friday, November 9-10, 2000
Thursday, November 9, 2000
First Reading: Ezekiel 47: 1-2, 8-9, 12
Psalms: Psalm 84:
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3: 9-11, 16-17
Gospel Reading: John 2: 13-22
Feast of the Dedication of Saint John Lateran Basilica in Rome
Known as "Christianity's first cathedral" and the "mother of all churches", the Lateran Basilica was the first church built by the Emperor Constantine after the Edict of Milan in 313. In 314 Constantine gave Pope Saint Miltiades the old palace on Monte Celio which had formerly been land owned by the patrician Laterani family. Constantine also decreed that the popes should live in the Lateran palace which was called the Patriarchate. It would remain the pontifical residence until the 15th Century, but the basilica itself would be in peril throughout the centuries. The successor to Pope Miltiades was Pope Saint Sylvester I who officially consecrated the basilica in 324 and dedicated it to Christ the Savior with Constantine's blessings. Eighty some years later the barbarian Alaric sacked the basilica; likewise the pagan Genseric in 455. It was the great Pope Saint Leo the Great who rebuilt it in 460. Three centuries later a devastating fire swept through the basilica and it was left to Pope Hadrian I in 785. A little over a century later an earthquake rocked Rome and practically destroyed the entire basilica. In 909 Pope Sergius III rebuilt the basilica and dedicated it to Saint John the Baptist. It was also dedicated to the other St. John - Saint John the Evangelist by Pope Lucius II in 1144. During the papacy of Pope Clement V the basilica was again heavily damaged by fire in 1308. No sooner was it rebuilt then another fire swept through in 1360 while Pope Innocent VI, the 199th in the line of Peter, was pontiff. It was so devastating that when Pope Gregory XI returned from exile in Avignon in the 1370's, he moved both the residential palace and the head of the See from the Caelian Hill to Vatican Hill which the Roman Senate had donated to the Pope. While the Lateran Basilica laid in ruins Gregory gave special prominence to Saint Mary Major Basilica for gaining a jubilee indulgence since people could not go on pilgrimage to the Lateran Basilica at that time. It was left to Pope Sixtus V to have the ruins of the Lateran torn down and in its place replaced them with late-Renaissance structures which he commissioned architect Domenico Fontana to construct. The only structure not torn down was the Pope's private chapel which was saved. Sixtus was known as the builder of churches and urban renewal projects. He also had the Holy Stairs (Scala Santa), which had been brought to Rome from Jerusalem by Saint Helena in the 4th Century, moved from the old palace residence to the entrance of the Sancta Sanctorum (Pope's private, holy chapel). This staircase was believed to be the one Jesus ascended in the palace of Pontius Pilate. In 1645 Pope Innocent X commissioned one of the leading Baroque architects Francesco Borromini to complete the interior of St. John Lateran's by the Jubilee Year of 1650. Nearly eighty years later later Pope Clement XII held a competition among architects to submit the best design for a new facade of the Lateran Basilica. Italian master Alessandro Galilei completed the work in 1735. The exterior of the Basilica today is a tribute to his work which aptly depicts a huge statue of Jesus holding the Cross of Redemption, the cross which Helena found and which her son saw miraculously in the sky on the eve before his victory and ultimate conversion. Flanking Our Lord at the top of the columned flat roof are a 15 gigantic statues of Saints and Doctors of the Church. The main bronze door into the church was the original one that closed the senate house and was built by the Emperor Julius Caesar in 44 BC. The magnificent massive statues of the apostles, chiseled by Italian master Gian Lorenzo Bernini, consume most of the columned side walls of the interior of the Basilica.
There have been five Ecumenical Councils held over the centuries at the Lateran Basilica and numerous diocesan synods. The Lateran Pacts signed by Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini on February 11, 1929 which defined the territory and status of the State of Vatican City was signed at the Basilica. Sadly, the devastation of this magnificent structure was not limited to the middle centuries, for on July 27, 1992 a bomb, planted by the Italian Mafia in retaliation of Pope John Paul II's stand against the crime organization, exploded at the Roman Vicariate of the Basilica, causing great damage. It was restored in January a few years ago and it was of special significance when our present Holy Father celebrated Holy Thursday liturgy there during the following Lent, symbollically washing the feet of priests who had been chosen from all over the world in the Pope's display of what Jesus asks: to be the servant of the servants. The November 9th date for celebrating the feast of the Dedication of this great Basilica evolves from early in the 1100's when almost all the churches dedicated to Jesus chose this date to celebrate a miraculous event that happened in Beirut, Lebanon prior to the Nicene Council there in 787. The phenomenon occurred when a crazed man struck a statue of Our Lord with a sword and the statue, though made of stone, bled profusely as blood poured out in torrents. It was not until 1565, that Pope Pius IV decreed it be celebrated throughout the Church. Since this was the first church of Christianity, it is considered the "mother of churches throughout the world" and served as the seat of Christianity for a thousand years.
Friday, November 10, 2000
First Reading: Philippians 3: 17- 4: 1
Psalms: Psalm 122: 1-5
Gospel Reading: Luke 16: 1-8
Feast of the Dedication of Pope Saint Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church
Pope Saint Leo the Great who became the 45th in the line of Peter when he was chosen to succeed Sixtus III on September 29, 440. Born in Tuscany, Italy near the very end of the 4th Century, Leo came up through the ranks of the Deaconate and was in France attempting to reconcile the warring factions there when he was elected Pope. Though, like most pontiffs, he did not feel worthy, he nevertheless accepted the privileged and august duties of leading God's people through the middle of a most turbulent century. Naturally the people looked to him for leadership and to save them from the plights that would afflict them, yet Leo, as a humble but effective deacon knew he couldn't do it by and of himself. He placed everything in God's hands and constantly sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thus, in the hands of God, Leo became a powerful instrument to protect and honor the Church during the decay of the Roman Empire, the assaults of Arians, and the invasions of heathens. Three years into his papacy Leo convened an assembly to rebuke and endorse Pope Innocent I's condemnation of Manicheanism as well as exposing Nestorianism, Priscillianism, and Arianism. In 451 he called the Fourth General or Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon where he staunchly defended the Incarnation, defining the revealed teaching of faith that in Christ there are two distinct natures, the divine and the human, hypostatically united in one person. He also condemned the heresy of Eutyches. But the Byzantine Court did not convey his words to the people and the heresy grew stronger among the Eastern monks and bishops. This made it necessary for Leo to convene the Fifth Ecumenical Council, this time at Constantinople where he condemned in no uncertain terms the Three Chapters or heresies running rampant. He garnered the signatures of all the Bishops, proclaiming "Peter has spoken by Leo." He admonished his bishops to know their faith and to assure that their priests in each diocese were knowledgable in Dogma and Doctrine so that the people would not fall into the heresies that had assaulted the Church during the Third, Fourth and Fifth Centuries. Leo not only assured unity within ecclesiastical ranks, but re-established harmony among the faithful. He is called "great" because of his energetic work in maintaining unity, his involvement in the liturgy, politics, preaching and writings, which have been cherished and passed on through the ages. But to historians his greatest accomplishment came in 451.
The year before a barbaric horde known as the Huns had overrun the Empire, pillaging and plundering Gaul and moving rapidly from the north through Italy to the gates of Rome. Fearing no man, Leo chose to meet Attila face to face at the gates. Many felt it was suicide and that Rome's fall was a fait accomplis, but Leo knew God would protect him and so he bravely confronted the pagan king at the gates of Rome, pursuading Attila to abandon his plans to sack the city. To everyone's astonishment Attila rounded up his horde and turned away from Rome. It was another in the many encounters down through the centuries where, through the grace of God, a superior force is turned away, evidence David slaying Goliath, the victory at Lepanto, Saint Clare holding aloft the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance to protect the city, and many more such cases where the power of God was manifested. Leo took very seriously his charge handed down from St. Peter to rule Christ's Church as Christ instructed. Leo knew it was not him who convinced Attila to forego his attempts on Rome, but the miraculous vision God allowed Attila to behold of Saints Peter and Paul standing behind Leo. The "Scourge of God" knew that any power this great was not to be messed with or he would be scourged by God, and so, totally overcome mentally by the vision he had seen, he retreated. It was the end of the threat so feared throughout Europe as the Hun king died two years later while Leo ruled another ten years, 21 in all, receiving his Heavenly reward on September 10, 461. In 1754 St. Leo was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIV, honoring this great Pope for his great writings and wisdom at a pivotal time in Church and world history. He had shown great courage and his skills at governing the Church and emphasizing spirituality while juggling the political footballs of his time. His actions strengthened the Vatican's position in the world while bringing the people to a closer understanding of what Jesus meant in His words to Peter in Matthew 16: 18-19, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven."
November 9, 2000
volume 11, no. 226
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