Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12; 1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17; John 2:13-22
In the enclosed garden of Eden, a river branched out to the four corners of the earth, enlivening and nourishing all creatures (Genesis 2:10-14).
The universe (from Latin uni + versum = turned towards unity) was a fountain sealed in oneness, void of rupture, opening or closing. The virgin universe and Adam in whom God dwelt as in a temple mirrored one another as a fountain sealed in oneness.
When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, the floodgate of the mind burst open and the knowledge of good and evil was conceived. Oneness of spirit, soul and body disintegrated and the inner light darkened to the cravings of the five senses and logic run amok.
The gate of Eden burst open and shut, expelling Adam to grope his way in the dis-universe torn asunder (Genesis 3:24). The cherubim and a fiery revolving sword guarded the way to the tree of life east of the garden. Adam and Eve became wanderers in the arid desert of death.
The prophet Ezekiel found himself outside the locked gate of Eden in a divine vision:
Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary facing east, but it was closed. The Lord said to me: This gate must remain closed; it must not be opened, and no one should come through it. Because the Lord, the God of Israel, came through it, it must remain closed. Only the prince may sit in it to eat a meal in the presence of the Lord; he must enter through the vestibule of the gate and leave the same way (Ezekiel 44:1-3).
The new cosmic temple, new Adam and new Eve are prophesied in Ezekiel’s vision. Mary ever-Virgin is the new Eden facing east, the new temple of the Holy Spirit, and the new earth.
The Fathers of the Church saw the Incarnate Son of God in the prince who entered the sanctuary through the locked gates of the Virgin and exited without breaking the seal. Mary’s perpetual virginity is a truth of the faith held by the Church East and West for two millennia.
Ezekiel also beheld the rivers of Eden:
The angel brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the façade of the temple was toward the east… As I was returning, I saw along the bank of the river a great many trees on each side. He said to me, “This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh. Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine” (Ezekiel 47:1, 7-9, 12).
Mary ever-Virgin, Mother and Bride is the enclosed garden of Eden without rupture or opening, an icon of the Virgin Father in whom the Son is eternally begotten and from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds.
“The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Mary ever-Virgin is the city of God, the new Jerusalem:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband… Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will look upon his face,and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 21:1-2, 22:1-5).
Centuries before the virgin birth of Christ, the psalmist rejoiced over the fountain of life-giving water in the city of God:
There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
God will help it at the break of dawn (Psalm 46:5-6).
The temple of the first Adam and the old Jerusalem mirrored one another by their death and destruction, but the temple of the second Adam and the new Jerusalem rose to immortality:
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his Body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken (John 2:19-22).
The temple of Christ’s Body, born of the Virgin Mary, is organic and growing virgin persons born of the Father’s Womb:
Brothers and sisters: You are God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy (1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17).
Every celebration of the Church is also a celebration of Mary, the new heavens and new earth, and the garden of paradise, our eternal home:
A garden enclosed, my sister, my bride,
a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed! (Song of Songs 4:12)