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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

How lovely is your dwelling place (Dedication of Lateran Basilica)

You know, don't you, that the readings for this weekend in the Lector Workbook, and the liturgy prep websites like, and even (a cursory reading of) the Ordo are just suggestions, right? For some, they may fit the bill of your parish perfectly, but I think it's more likely they'll be more appreciated in a seminary or a theological university. For this Sunday's celebration of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the pope's cathedral, your parish can use any of the readings from the Common of the Dedication of a Church. And believe me, there are many more accessible texts than the somewhat opaque ones in those books, which seem to me to appeal by theology-from-above. In the hands of a good exegete (or eisegete, for that matter) these texts could be made radiant for an assembly; the task would be immeasurably easier by choosing other readings from the commons, which is what I did for St. Anne, where we are using:

Rev. 21: 1-5a "The dwelling of God is with the human race."
Psalm 84 "How lovely is your dwelling place"
Eph 2:19-22 "In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."
Lk 19:1-10 "He has gone to eat in the house of a sinner." (link to post on this gospel)

Basilica of St. John, on the Lateran hill in Rome
Whether we use the readings from the workbook or do a little digging for other wonderful texts, there is some built-in irony between the feast-day, which celebrates the dedication of a building, a house for the church, and the sense of virtually all the scriptures, both Jewish and Christian, which describe a movement in consciousness away from associating God's presence with a place and coming to associate it with a people. Clearly, the church building is a sacrament of presence, but it is both a sacrament of God's presence and a sacrament of the people of God, which is another way of saying it is a sacrament of Christ, who makes that image of God-with-us even possible. By his coming among us, and sending the Holy Spirit among us by his death and resurrection to give us the messianic (Christ-ic) mission of the Father, Jesus makes the church, the healing, compassionate, heart-summoning communion of believers in every age, the agent and locus of God's presence in every age.

The bridge into the final chorus of my song, "You Have Built Your House," pulls together (I hope) all of this with the great theme of Matthew's gospel, "God-with-us", with this short couplet:

How awesome is this temple, the people where you dwell,
Where earth unites with heaven: Emmanuel!

I apologize for the brevity of this post, because this feast merits more time and thought, but I have so much to do to prepare for the conference in Hawaii for which we are leaving tomorrow that this is the best I can do! Wish us well! I shall try to give reports from there, if not here, then on Facebook.

What we're singing at St. Anne's this weekend:

Entrance song: Gather Us In (Haugen) It was an unpleasant surprise to find that, because of the unimaginative grousing of a few orthodoxy police, the last verse ("Not in the dark of buildings confining...") of Marty's great song was excised from the current incarnation of Gather, though it endures in OCP's Music Issue and other songbooks as well. Unpleasant, because it's the very thing that the scripture confronts us with today: it is a people, not a geographical or architectural site, that is the site of God's presence par excellence in the world.
Responsorial: Psalm 84 "How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place" (Joncas) from the strong 1979 collection "On Eagle's Wings", Michael's setting of this psalm is evokes wonder at the presence of God and longing for its fullness, as though the psalmist were separated by exile from the temple, and is trying to sing it into reality from another place and time. Which may, indeed, be the case.
Preparation Rite: We Come to Your Feast (Joncas) Using this song after the Zacchaeus gospel will, I hope, reinforce the joyful truth that the Lord, even today, comes to "eat in the house of a sinner," and we are the ones doing the inviting.
Communion: You Have Built Your House (Cooney, WLP) (The link goes to the SongStories post about the song) See the reference above to the text of the bridge, but the rest of the song goes to the heart of the scriptures about the church, explicit in Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, Revelation 21 and 1 Peter, among others, that God's house is in the heart of a people.
Recessional: All Are Welcome (Haugen) Marty's song takes a little heat because of the hermeneutic of suspicion, the reality gap between the church we have which, officially, anyway, is less than welcoming of some people, and the church we want, which is for everyone equally. My feeling is, we sing the church we want into being. Worship shapes our behavior, it should, anyway, if we do it right. One way we do it right is by singing and preaching the gospel as it is, and not as we make it out to be with our rubrics and other fences.

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