Wednesday, August 5, 2009


St. Mary Major
(Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore)
by Jack Curran, 2005



Information about the Basilica of St. Mary Major[1]

Readings for the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica
Of St. Mary Major

Readings and Commentary:[2]

Revelation 21:1-5a

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth.
The former heaven and the former earth had passed away,
and the sea was no more.
I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
"Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race.
He will dwell with them and they will be his people
and God himself will always be with them as their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain,
for the old order has passed away."

The One who sat on the throne said,
"Behold, I make all things new."

Commentary on
Rev 21:1-5a

In this selection from St. John’s Revelation, John has a vision of the “New Heaven” and the New Earth”, after Christ begins his reign at God’s right hand. The New Jerusalem, the image of God’s Church viewed as the bride with Christ the bridegroom. In this New Jerusalem, the Church, God dwells and there he will show his tender mercy (“He will wipe every tear from their eyes”). The old order is washed away; “Behold, I make all things new.” (see also Isaiah 43:18ff, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and Galatians 6:15)

CCC: Rv 21:1-22,5 117; Rv 21:1-2 756; Rv 21:1 1043; Rv 21:2-4 677; Rv 21:2 757, 1045, 2016; Rv 21:3 756, 2676; Rv 21:4 1044, 1186; Rv 21:5 1044

Judith 13:18, 19, 20

R. (15:9) You are the highest honor of our race.Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God,
above all the women on earth;
and blessed be the LORD God,
the creator of heaven and earth.

R. You are the highest honor of our race.Your deed of hope will never be forgotten
by those who tell of the might of God.

R. You are the highest honor of our race.
Commentary on
Jdt 13:18, 19, 20

This short hymn of praise from Judith (who at the time of its writing represented the faithful people) is predictive of the blessed role Mary will play in human salvation. In the story immediately preceding these verses Judith offers to sacrifice herself for salvation and is here found praiseworthy for her willingness to do so.


Luke 11:27-28

While Jesus was speaking,
a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,
"Blessed is the womb that carried you
and the breasts at which you nursed."
He replied, "Rather, blessed are those
who hear the word of God and observe it."


Commentary on Lk 11:27-28

This short saying of Jesus is not a contradiction of the woman who blesses Mother Mary; rather it is an assertion by the Lord that the message is more important, in his eyes, than that biological relationship. Mary is more blessed because she heard “the word of God” (see also Luke 1:28-29 and Luke 1:42-45). This passage is consistent in meaning with Luke 8:19-21.

"In the course of her Son's preaching she [Mary] received the words whereby, in extolling a Kingdom beyond the concerns and ties of flesh and blood, he declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God (cf. Mark 3:35; Luke 11:27-28) as she was faithfully doing (cf. Luke 2:19, 51)" (Lumen gentium, 58) [3]


Why do we celebrate the dedication of a church; even the magnificent and ancient structure like the Basilica of St. Mary Major? We know that the Church is really people and that the buildings, even though consecrated to God, are nothing more than a “gate to heaven”. Why then do we set aside a feast day?

Symbols are important to us as faithful members of God’s family. Symbols used in sacraments, consecrated species such as oils in Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, not only serve as visible signs but they are efficacious, they do what they symbolize. As such they focus our attention on things of God.

In the case of our feast of the Dedication of St. Mary Major, our attention is fixed upon a number of sacred concepts. First, the edifice is dedicated to Mother Mary, a reminder of her role in the life of our Savior and her example of faith and fidelity. This Basilica, dedicated shortly after the Council of Ephesus, reminds us of the important role she plays in our faith. In that gathering at Ephesus, the fathers of the Church named her Theotokis – “Mother of God”; mother of our faith.

Beyond its namesake, the Basilica stands as a holy space, a place where, for more than a thousand years, the people of God have brought their hopes, dreams, sorrows and pleas before God in the faith that he would answer their prayers. For more than a thousand years, the bread of life, the Eucharist, has flowed from this place bringing grace to all who received it in correct disposition. For thousands of years the Word of God has been proclaimed within her walls and echoed into the world.

The Gospel blesses all those who hear the Word of God and in the hallowed halls of the sacred space, the Lord reaches out to us still, inviting us to his peace and grace.


[1] The photograph is St. Mary Major (Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore) by Jack Curran, 2005
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[3] The Navarre Bible, Gospels and Acts, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, pp. 431

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