Vigils Reading – Lateran Basilica

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Vigils Reading – Lateran Basilica

November 9, 2022



A reading about the origins of the Basilica of Saint John the Baptist,

commonly known as the Lateran. 1



The blessed Pope Sylvester I instituted the rites which the Roman Church observes in consecrating churches and altars. For although from the ages of the apostles places had been dedicated to God where assemblies were held every Sabbath, yet those places had not been consecrated by a solemn rite before this. Up to the time of Sylvester an altar was not erected under title, which, anointed with chrism, symbolizes our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Altar, our Victim, our Priest.


But when the Emperor Constantine obtained health and salvation through the sacrament of Baptism, then for the first time, by an edict published by him, the Christians throughout the world were permitted to build churches; he himself encouraged this holy building by his own example, as well as by this edict. For in his own Lateran palace he dedicated a church to the Savior and founded adjacent to it a Basilica, under the tile of St. John the Baptist, on the very spot where he had been baptized by St. Sylvester and cleansed from the leprosy of unbelief. This basilica the same Pope consecrated on November 9, and the memory of this consecration is celebrated today, when, for the first time, a church was publicly consecrated at Rome, and there appeared to the Roman people an image of the Savior depicted on the wall.


Although later on St. Sylvester decreed that from that time forward all altars should be built of stone, yet the altar of the Lateran Basilica was built of wood. This is not surprising. For since, from St. Peter down to Sylvester, because of persecutions, the Pontiffs could not dwell in any fixed abode, they offered the Holy Sacrifice [of the Mass] wherever necessity compelled them, whether in crypts or in cemeteries, or in the homes of the faithful, upon a wooden altar which was hollow like a chest.


When this altar had been placed in the first church, the Lateran, St. Sylvester decreed that from that time on, no one except the Roman Pontiff should celebrate Mass upon it, in honor of the Prince of the Apostles and of the rest of the Popes who had been accustomed to use it. This same church, having been destroyed by fires, pillaging, and earthquakes, and repaired by the laborious effort of the Supreme Pontiffs, was afterwards rebuilt anew. Pope Benedict XIII, a Dominican, consecrated it on April 28, 1726, by a solemn rite.


adapted from The Lessons of the Temporal Cycle and the Principal feasts of the Sanctoral Cycle According to the Monastic Breviary, compiled and adapted for the Office of the Brothers of St. Meinrad=s Abbey, St. Meinrad, IN, 1943, pp. 508-509.


November 9, 2022
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