Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major)

Today's church is Santa Maria Maggiore.

Saint Mary Major is one of the four major basilicas and the oldest church in the West dedicated to the Mother of God. In 353, a noble Roman received a message from our Lady that a church dedicated to her honor should be built on the Esquiline Hill. When he told Pope Liberius (353-366), the Holy Father asked for a sign. The next day, August 5th, it snowed on the spot designated by our Lady (August is unbearably hot in Rome). (To this day, August 5th is celebrated as Our Lady of Snows and white rose pedals are showered upon those who enter the church for prayer.) The building was dedicated by Pope Sixtus III (432-440) shortly after the Council of Ephesus, which declared Mary as the theotokos - the Mother of God (431). The photo is of the Pauline chapel (after Pope Paul V), which was built to house the ancient icon of Mary, which hangs over the altar. (Note the luminous tabernacle!) This day, the Wednesday of the first week of Lent, is the traditional day for scrutiny of the candidates for priesthood.


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