Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Monday, November 9, 2020
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 46, a song of confidence, celebration, and joy.
The waters of the river gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High!
A city gladdened! We know what it looks like. Just this week, we’ve seen it right here in my city, beloved Philadelphia – people dancing in the streets with those who are no longer strangers.
Perhaps people danced in the Roman plaza in 324 AD when Pope Sylvester dedicated the church. Not sure. But it is the power of a civic act, to give people a “place” wherein to claim renewed identity. ( The word “civic” comes from a Latin phrase describing an award given for a noble public deed.)
The dedication of St. John Lateran was such an act. The glorious building shouted out in its massive stones, “God lives among us, the Foundation of our lives.”
Or, as our psalmist puts it:
God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore, we fear not, though the earth be shaken
and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.
Our faith, and the morality it sustains, live deep under the surface of our lives, like the unseen roots of a magnificent tree. The power of those hidden roots is attested to by generations of leaves and branches unfurling in the cycle of life.
Those acts of faith, be they in the construction of sacred buildings or the washing of a beggar’s feet, shout out our conviction that, “God lives among us, the Foundation of our lives.”
There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
God will help it at the break of dawn.
I began thinking about this reflection last night after President-Elect Biden’s acceptance speech. To me, the world felt lighter than it had in four years. It had begun to breathe again. Hope was returning to its perch in our hearts. This after the terrible fear that it might have died or gotten lost in a long migration into darkness.
I think it is the greatest of sins to kill hope,
especially for those who have only hope to cling to.
Because, indeed, as Joe Biden assured us last night,
when we share hope, we can do anything
in the God who strengthens us.
Hope is its own great “basilica”, built from the stones of mutual charity, reverence, and trust which God fires in our hearts:
The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Come! behold the deeds of the LORD,
the astounding things God has wrought on earth.
As we pray Psalm 42 today, let us ask for the continuing grace to exercise hope for and with one another.
Poetry: Hope Restored by Craig A. Roberts, a New Zealand poet. I thought this was a beautiful poem-prayer. His book of poetry can be found here.
Discouraging events, entangling thoughts, melancholic tsunamis form in quick time, devastating my soul, destroying the joyful breath of life. Surges of futility, rejection and self pity breach the dykes. I churn and tumble in dark sucking swells. I call to Him who loves me in abundance. Swiftly He comes, plucks me out of dark waters. He is here now. He whispers of promises never broken, reminds me of my calling, my inward journey, my vocation. He reassures my heart, He restores my poise. He sends me to wander by the waters edge, immersed in His creative wonder Christ breathes afresh into my created being. O what joy. Bathed in His steadfast love I trust all to Christ, false illusions destroyed, hope restored, possibilities unfold, His kingdom comes.
Music: On Eagle’s Wings – sung by Josh Groban