Why do we celebrate the dedication of a church in Rome?
August 5th - Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
November 9th - Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran
November 18th - Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Answer: (from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parish)
While each diocese and parish keeps its own dedication anniversary, the Church universal commemorates the consecration of the four great Roman basilicas, the mother churches, we call them, of Christendom, viz., St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major. By means of these feast the Church seeks to link all Christians with the Holy See.
The Feast of St. Mary Major commemorates the miracle of the snowfall that occurred during the night of August 4-5 in the year 358 on the site where the basilica now stands. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared in a dream to two faithful Roman Christians, the patrician John and his wife, as well as to Pop Liberius (362-366), asking that a church be built in her honor on the site where the snow would fall on the night of August 4-5. Pope Liberius traced the outlines of the church in the snow and the first basilica was built on that site. It was completed about a century later by Pope Sixtus III (432-440), after the Council of Ephesus in 431 during which Mary was declared to be the Mother of God.
St. Mary Major is important to Christendom for three reasons:
1. It stand as a venerable monument to the Council of Ephesus (431), at which the dogma of Mary’s divine Motherhood was solemnly defined.
2. The basilica is Rome’s “Church of the Crib,” a kind of Bethlehem within the Eternal City, as it is home to a few remnants of the humble crib in which Christ was laid at His birth. These pieces of the manger were carried to Rome by Christians fleeing the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land in the 7th century. They are preserved in a silver reliquary resembling an ordinary manger, upon which lies an image of the Infant Jesus. The Holy Crib is the object of particular devotion and veneration during the liturgical ceremonies of Christmas Eve and Midnight Mass. On Christmas morning there is a procession in honor of the Holy Crib of the Infant Jesus, which culminates in the exposition of the sacred relic on the high altar.
3. It is the first Marian shrine for pilgrims. It set a precedent for the countless shrines where pilgrims gather to honor our Blessed Mother throughout the world. Here was introduced an authentic expression of popular piety that has been the source of untold blessings and graces for Christianity in the past as in the present.