INTROITUS: Dedication of St. John Lateran

Deus in loco sancto suo: Deus, qui inhabitare facit unanimes in domo: ipse dabit virtutem et fortitudinem plebi suae.

“God in his sacred place: God, who makes live harmoniously together in the house: He will give power and strength to his people.” (Ps 68(67):6.7.36)

Click here to listen to an audio of the chant.
Sung by Br. Jacob Berns, OSB, of St. John’s Abbey.

We had this introit on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, so I can start by referring to my reflections from July.

Back then I focused on the church as the “place where God lives,” so the question raises why we ritually dedicate church buildings anyway. There are lots of Christian denominations that do not need such a ritual, but in the Roman Catholic and in Eastern traditions the dedication of a church has always been a quite complex and detailed ceremony with lots of biblical quotes and theological references.

I think there are two aspects that belong together: On one hand, God does not need dedicated places to be among us, so in that sense the dedication of a church is not necessary. On the other hand, we as humans need special places and objects to remind us that there is more than we can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. We need art, and that is what a church building is: A place that we can experience with our senses and that transcends our sensual experiences at the same time. That is where the “power” and the “strength” come from that the introit refers to.

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