And There Appeared Before the Eyes of the Roman People an Image of Our Savior.
Lessons from the Common, according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite:
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2:57 PM 11/9/2014 —
The rites observed by the Roman Church in consecrating churches and altars were instituted by the blessed Pope Sylvester. For although from apostolic times churches were dedicated to God, and called by some 'oratories,' by others 'churches;' and in them the Christian people assembled on the first day of the week, and there they would pray, hear the Word of God, and receive the Holy Eucharist; yet hitherto they were never so solemnly consecrated, nor was an altar erected in them, anointed with Chrism, to represent and signify Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our Altar, our Victim, and our Priest.
But when the Emperor Constantine had received health of body and soul by the Sacrament of Baptism, he promulgated a law to the whole world, allowing the Christians to build churches; and he encouraged them in this work by his own example as well as by this edict. Thus, in his Lateran palace he dedicated a Church to Our Savior; and founded the adjoining Baptistery in honor of St. John the Baptist, on the very spot where he himself had been baptized by St. Sylvester and cleansed from the leprosy of infidelity. The Pontiff consecrated it on the fifth of the Ides of November (November 9); and we celebrate the memory thereof on this same day, whereon for the first time a church was publicly dedicated in Rome, and there appeared before the eyes of the Roman people an image of Our Savior depicted on the wall.
Although later on, when consecrating the altar of the Prince of the Apostles, Blessed Sylvester decreed that thenceforward all altars should be built of stone; yet the altar of the Lateran Basilica was of wood. This, however, is not surprising. For from the time of St. Peter down to Pope Sylvester, persecution prevented the Pontiffs from having any fixed abode; so that they offered the Holy Sacrifice either in crypts or cemeteries, or in the houses of the faithful, as necessity compelled them, upon the said wooden altar, which was hollow like a chest. When peace was granted to the Church, Saint Sylvester placed this altar in the first church, the Lateran; and in honor of the Prince of the Apostles, who is said to have offered the Holy Sacrifice upon it, and of the other Pontiffs who had used it up to that time, he decreed that no one should celebrate Mass upon it except the Roman Pontiff. This church, having been injured and half ruined in consequence of fires, hostile invasions, and earthquakes, was several times repaired by the care of the Popes. After a new restoration Pope Benedict XIII, a Dominican, solemnly consecrated it, on the 28th of April in the year 1726, and ordered the commemoration thereof to be celebrated on this present day. The great works undertaken by Pius IX have been happily completed by Leo XIII – that is, the principal apse, which was threatening to fall because of age, has been very much enlarged; the ancient mosaic, already partially restored at different times, has been reconstructed on the old model, and transferred to the new apse, which is beautifully and richly decorated; the roof and woodwork of the transepts have been renewed and ornamented. Moreover, a sacristy and a house for the Canons have been added, as well as portico connecting these buildings with Constantine's Baptistery. The whole work was completed in 1884.