|Interior of St. Lawrence by Francesco Diofebi|
Each rite and usage has its own peculiar and particular feasts which characterize the diocese of that rite's origin, be it Greek, Latin, or Assyrian. The Greeks have their feasts, like "Mid-Pentecost" and the "Protection of the Theotokos." We Latins have a number, too, many of which are coming up next month.
The month begins with St. Peter in Chains, recalling the chains that held St. Peter while he was imprisoned under Herod and Nero, the Jewish and Gentile persecutors of the Church, as well as the cardinatial church that holds two links of those chains. Pope Julius II's tomb, bearing Michelangelo's Moses, resides in this church. The Greeks have a feast commemorating the chains in January, but Rome possesses the actual church with these relics. Rome held a unique place among the churches of Christendom in that it could claim the two foremost Apostles of Christ as its fathers in faith, prompting the city to do its best to multiply their presence throughout the seven hills for stational liturgies.
Next is the feast of the Dedication of Our Lady of the Snows—the "Liberian basilica" of St. Mary Major. The Constantinian basilicas of Rome were dedicated to Our Lord (Lateran cathedral) and Ss. Peter & Paul, but the Virgin had no church dedicated to her. Snow began to fall over one rectangular space in the city, which St. Liberius took as a sign. The saintly pope began construction on the basilica, which is the Roman stational church for the Nativity of Christ and Pascha.
Lastly, Rome enjoys a vigil and an octave for St. Lawrence, the deacon of Rome who teased his torturers and entered eternal life with true Christian joy (I imagine that were he a martyr, St. Philip Neri would have died in a similar manner). His octave and vigil remind us that prior to Pius XII, the local church occupied a place of liturgical prominence: a Double of the First Class with an octave was observed for both the dedication of a parish and its patron saint. St. Lawrence enjoyed a similar place as a foundational saint for the spirit of the Roman church. When the popes wore the maniple on their left arms, it always bore gold and red thread. Gold for the joy of the Byzantine Church, red for the martyrs of the Roman Church.
In the Apostle Peter, the Roman Church recalls the place given to her by the Prince of the Apostles. In the miracle of Our Lady, she recalls that Our Lady laid the cornerstone of her own enduring presence in the Eternal City. In St. Lawrence, she recalls her happy witness to Christ. These feasts do not celebrate Biblical events nor do they teach theological lessons. These feasts are acts of worshipping God for God's own sake, for thanking Him for counting the saints as the closest intimates of the city of Rome, for showing gratitude for His continuing presence in the Roman Church. August, as much as June 29, is an appropriate time to sing O felix Roma.