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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jesus, Mary, & Joseph: At Home in the City

©2009, Randall A. Beeler

Today is the Feast of the Holy House of Loreto, celebrating the tradition that the house, in which the Holy Family lived in Nazareth, was angelically translated to the Italian city of Loreto, Italy, where it is now inside a basilica, one of the most visited shrines of the Blessed Virgin since the 13th century (and by means of which comes to us the Litany of Loreto).

Modern skeptics may scoff at the idea of angels driving a vast moving trunk, but the mere physical facts of the House of Loreto are beside the point. The Church writes in terms larger than the literal, more figurative than the facts, more right than the so-called real, more evident than the empirical.

Regardless of whether archaeologists can carbon date the origins of the House of the Holy Family, the House of Loreto proclaims a Truth that is bigger than the basilica that enwombs the home of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Who themselves are the earthly analog of the Holy Trinity.

"Emmanuel" is no mere label—it means "God with us," especially in the domestic details. In washing, sleeping, eating, sharing breaths in the Home of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph mirror the self-giving, self-emptying, life-bearing love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is with us, right down to the dust bunnies in the corner or someone leaving the cap off the toothpaste tube.

The translation of the House of the Holy Family to little Loreto, demonstrates that God is at home with us in every city, every place—a message we desperately need to hear. For our cities are inhabited by "invisible men and women," people who "now and again appear on the front pages or on television screens, and are exploited to the last drop for as long as their news and image attract attention. This is a perverse mechanism which unfortunately we find difficult to resist. The city first hides people them exposes to the public, without pity or with false pity,"when the truth is that "each human story is a sacred story and calls for the greatest respect" (Pope Benedict).

God grants that respect, that dignity, by seeing us where we are, then raising the bet to be, in His turn, visible to us—in the grit of our very details:
"What does Mary say to the city" What does her presence call to mind?" … "She reminds that 'where sin increased, grace abounded all the more' ... She is the Immaculate Mother who tells the men and women of our time: do not be afraid."

"What need we have of this beautiful piece of news! … Every day, through newspapers, television and radio, evil is recounted, repeated, amplified, making us accustomed to the most terrible things, making us insensitive and, in some way, intoxicating us, because the negative is never fully purged and accumulates day after day. The heart becomes harder and thoughts become darker. For this reason, the city needs Mary who ... brings us hope even in the most difficult situations" …

"The city is made up of us all … Each of us contributes to its life and its moral climate, for good or for evil. The confine between good and evil passes through each of our hearts." Yet, "the mass media tend to make us feel as if we are spectators, as if evil only concerned others, and that certain things could never happen to us. Whereas we are all 'actors' and, in evil as in good, our behaviour has an effect on others."

After then asking Mary Immaculate to help us "rediscover and defend the profundity of human beings", the Pope paid homage to all those people who, "in silence ... strive to practice the evangelical law of love, which moves the world."  (Pope Benedict, at the Spanish Steps, laying a floral wreath at the feet of a statue of Mary on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception).
Every metropolis, every city, every town, every hamlet, every lone homestead has a House of Loreto that enwombs us even as it is enwombed by the Trinity Itself. For even the dust of our most humble dwellings and the rawness of our darkest alleys reveal that the light has shone forth into the darkness (cf. Jn 1:5): in the tender compassion of our God, the dawn breaks upon us who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (cf. Lk 1:78-79). Amen.

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