People dedicate all sorts of things. We dedicate plaques, bricks, car windows, songs, books, performances, etc.
As a Church, too, we dedicate things. Chapels, gardens, vessels, vestments, windows, statues, etc. Today, for instance, we celebrate the Dedication of the Churches of Saints Peter and Paul—two of the most famous, most recognizable basilicas in the world. But what do we celebrate when we celebrate their dedication?
In the Church, every dedication is an invitation. The dedication of a church building is an invitation to God, asking Him to be present in that space. Certainly, God is present in every part of creation. After all, “Where can I go from Your spirit? From Your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, You are there; if I lie down in Sheol, there you are” (Psalm 139:7-8). But God, nevertheless, always appreciates our invitation.
It is a tradition as old as humanity to set aside (that is, to make sacred) certain places. Today’s first reading from the fourth chapter of 1 Maccabees is just one of manifold passages in the Bible in which the dedication of a temple is recounted. Whenever a space is made sacred, God has been invited to dwell there and to manifest Himself. This can be done even in dedicating ourselves—inviting Him to abide in our own “Temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:19).
The most sacred place in the world is the place where man encounters God. May every church building be such a place for us!