Nov 18 – Memorial for the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul
The Basilica of St. Peter is located within the Vatican City. It occupies a unique position as one of the holiest sites and as the greatest of all churches of Christendom. It is the burial site of St. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, and, according to tradition, was the first Bishop of Antioch and later the first Bishop of Rome, and therefore the first in the line of the papal succession.
Catholic tradition holds that St. Peter’s tomb is below the altar of the basilica, which is why many popes, starting with the first ones, have been buried there. There has been a church on this site since the fourth century. Construction on the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on Apr 18, 1506, and was completed in 1626.
While St. Peter’s is the most famous of Rome’s many churches, it is not the first in rank, an honour held by the Pope’s cathedral church, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Contrary to popular misconception, St. Peter’s is not a cathedral, as it is not the seat of a bishop. It is properly termed a basilica.
The Basilica of St. Paul Outside The Walls is one of four churches considered to be the great ancient basilicas of Rome. This basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I over what was believed to be the burial place of St. Paul where it was said that after the Apostle’s execution, his followers erected a memorial over his grave.
In 386 Emperor Theodosius I began the erection of a much larger and more beautiful basilica with a nave and four aisles with a transept. The work including the mosaics was not completed till the pontificate of Leo I. Under Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), the basilica was again extensively modified. As it lay outside the Aurelian walls, this basilica was damaged during the Saracen invasions in the ninth century. Consequently, Pope John VIII fortified it, the monastery, and the dwellings of the peasantry forming the town of Joannispolis which existed until 1348 when an earthquake totally destroyed it.
On 15 Jul 1823, the negligence of a workman repairing the roof resulted in a fire which almost totally destroyed the basilica. Alone of all the churches in Rome, it had preserved its primitive character for 1435 years. The whole world contributed to its reconstruction. The Viceroy of Egypt sent pillars of alabaster, and the Emperor of Russia sent the precious malachite and lapis lazuli of the tabernacle. The work on the principal façade, looking toward the Tiber, was completed by the Italian government, which declared the church a national monument.
The basilica was reopened in 1840 but was reconsecrated only 15 years later at the presence of Pope Pius IX with 50 cardinals. On 31 May 2005, Pope Benedict XVI ordered the basilica to come under the control of an archpriest. On the same day, he named Archbishop Andrew Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo as its first archpriest.
Apocalypse 10: 8-11
I, John, heard the voice I had heard from heaven speaking to me again. ‘Go,’ it said ‘and take that open scroll out of the hand of the angel standing on sea and land.’ I went to the angel and asked him to give me the small scroll, and he said, ‘Take it and eat it; it will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.’ So I took it out of the angel’s hand, and swallowed it; it was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, ‘You are to prophesy again, this time about many different nations and countries and languages and emperors.’
Jesus went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling. ‘According to scripture,’ he said ‘my house will be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’
He taught in the Temple every day. The chief priests and the scribes, with the support of the leading citizens, tried to do away with him, but they did not see how they could carry this out because the people as a whole hung on his words.
When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling.
The first thing that came to my mind after reading today’s gospel was — maybe it is time to detox the soul.
I’m a person who is very much into healthy eating and taking care of the body. However, I do not believe detoxes actually work, as our bodies come equipped with organs to do all the heavy-duty cleaning.
Our souls and hearts, on the other hand, are a completely different matter. These do not come with self-cleaning mechanisms. Instead, we need to roll up our sleeves, don some rubber gloves and get down on the floor to do some serious scrubbing. It is up to us to purge our souls and hearts, also known as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, from dirt and debris, better known as sins.
Jesus’ fury at seeing the traders selling and blatantly extorting temple visitors is probably what would happen if He saw the corruption that is taking place in our spirits as well. These traders had ‘contaminated’ a house of worship with their corrupt practices by overcharging temple visitors for the sacrificial animals and shekels (Jewish currency) they need to use.
In the gospel, He chases away all the traders demanding that they respect the House of God. “My house is meant for a house of prayer,” says Jesus quoting from Isaiah (56:7) and Jeremiah (7:11) respectively, “but you have turned it into ‘a den of thieves’.” In a similar way, let us pray that He can chase away the sins living in our soul and polluting His home.
But it won’t be easy, brothers and sisters, as we must also allow Him to come into our lives and guide us in this ‘spring cleaning’ effort. And unlike the temple in the gospel, this job requires us to play a part as well and work on purifying ourselves.
Remember, it is a never-ending job to keep dirt away. I mean, have you ever been able to just clean your room once and never have dust settle anywhere?
(Today’s Oxygen by Rebecca Grace)
Prayer: Lord, we pray that you will guide and show us how to purify our souls in order to prepare the best dwelling place for You.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the ability to recognise our sinful ways Lord and the never-ending perseverance you give us to rid ourselves of sin.