Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
Theological debate over Christ's dual nature as God and man turned into dissent in Constantinople in the early 5th century with Bishop Nestorius and his chaplain, Athanasius preaching against the title Theotokos, i.e., "Mother of God", insisting that Mary was merely the mother of the human Jesus. The Council of Ephesus in 431, however, reaffirmed Mary's title as Mother of God, in commemoration; Pope Sixtus III (432-440) rebuilt the Liberian Basilica in Rome and dedicated it to Santa Maria Maggiore, i.e., St. Mary Major.
Built atop the Esquiline, one of the seven hills of Rome, St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman Basilicas known as Patriarchal Cathedrals in memory of the first centres of the Church, St. John Lateran representing Rome, the See of Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls, the See of Alexandria, and St. Peter's the See of Constantinopel being the other three. St Mary Major, representing the See of Antioch is the largest Church in Christendom honouring God through Mary. Legend has it that this magnificent Basilica, originally built by Pope Liuberias (352-356), was the result of a dream of a dream of a wealthy Roman couple, who being childless, wanted to pledge their entire fortune to the Mother of God. Her approval of their vow was indicated by a sudden midsummer snowfall on the night of 4 August 355 and in an apparition instructing them to build a church at the spot, an identical dream of the Pope corroborating the same.
It was during the pontificate of Pope Pius V (r.1566-72) who lies buried in the Basilica that this feast was extended to the Universal Church.
Reflection :"I encourage you, be men and women of deep and abiding faith, Be heralds of hope. Be messengers of joy. Be true workers for justice. Let the Good News of Christ radiate from your hearts, and the peace he alone gives remain forever in your souls" (Pope John Paull II).