Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate as the Universal Church, the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, also more commonly known in Italian as Santa Maria Maggiore. This is one of the four great Papal Major Basilicas, and the greatest of all the Marian churches and basilicas dedicated to Mary, the Blessed Mother of God. This great celebration of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major should serve as a moment for us all to recall the role of the Blessed Mother of God, Mary, in the history of our salvation. Through her, we have received the Saviour of the world, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The story of the Basilica began over seventeen centuries ago, at the time when persecutions against the Christian faith were just ended thanks to the Edict of Milan by Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Licinius, marking the end of the era of persecutions and the beginning of era of rapid growth of the Christian faith. It was then that the first great Basilicas of Rome were built, including that of the old St. Peter’s Basilica, the Lateran Basilica which is the Cathedral of the Pope, and then finally this great Basilica of St. Mary Major dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.
This Basilica was built from the miraculous occasion known as the Miracle of the Snows, in which snow fell on the height of summer in early August, on this date which became the time of its dedication all those centuries ago. The history went as follows, because a devout and elderly Christian noble couple wanted to donate and offer their properties to the Church back then and offered them to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, but they did not know what to do and where to offer it, they asked her to help them to find a way to properly make their offerings in her honour.
As the sign of her help, snow fell atop the Esquiline hill on the fifth day of August, at the height of the Roman summer as mentioned earlier. That became the site where this great Basilica dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God was built, and over the subsequent centuries, many people came to this great House of God, seeking the Lord and also asking for the intercession of His Blessed Mother Mary on their behalf. In the Basilica there also exists the very popular icon of Salus Populi Romani, an icon of the Blessed Mother of God as the Protectress of the Roman people and the city of Rome, to which our current Pope Francis always paid a visit before and after each one of his Apostolic Journeys.
Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice and celebrate in memory of the Dedication of this great Marian Basilica, let us all focus on the role of Mary in the story of our salvation. Mary as the Mother of God has always been full of love, nurturing care and attention to her Son Jesus, and in the same way, as each and every one of us have been entrusted by the Lord to His own mother, that she may also be our mother, hence naturally she also shows us the same love and attention, the same caring nature of a mother for her children. For all these years, Mary has always shown her care for us, appearing from time to time to her children, to remind all of us to be faithful to her Son and to turn away from our sins.
Mary has shown us what it means to be a true, genuine and virtuous Christian, and she showed us the most direct way to her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Through her and by following her examples in faith and life, all of us can and will get ever closer to God and His salvation. On this day as we rejoice and celebrate in the memory of the Dedication of a great House of God dedicated to the Mother of God, all of us are called to put ourselves under the protection of our beloved Mother as well, constantly asking for her intercessions and prayers on our behalf, for us sinners who are in need of God’s mercy and healing.
Today, our world and societies need to grow deeper in faith, as many of us Christians had become lapsed and lukewarm in how we live our faith. We no longer commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and we become ignorant and closed against God’s calling in our lives. And even when His Mother Mary called on us, we often closed off our hearts and minds as well. We spent much more time, effort, focus and attention in trying to seek other pleasures and satisfactions in life, our many desires and pursuits rather than to follow the Lord our God faithfully as we should have done.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all remind ourselves and each other that we are all God’s children, and His mother is also our mother. All of us should follow the examples that our Lord Himself and His blessed Mother have shown us, and refrain ourselves from continuing to live in the state of sin and disobedience against God. The Lord and His mother Mary have called us all to leave behind our past wickedness and sins, and come once again into the loving embrace and His saving grace, and through Mary’s help we truly can make this a reality.
May the Lord our God continue to love us and bless us each day, and may through the intercessions of His mother Mary, we may all be strengthened and encouraged to live our lives with ever greater faith from now on. Holy Mary, Holy Mother of God, pray for us your children, we who are sinners and unworthy, now and always. Amen.