Fifty years ago, on 4 October 1962, Good Pope John travelled to Loreto to dedicate the Second Vatican Council, then mere weeks from opening, to the protection and intercession of the Blessed Virgin. Today, his fourth successor, Pope Benedict XVI, followed in his footsteps to do the same for the Year of Faith and the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

After some time spent in silent prayer and Adoration for the Blessed Sacrament in, the Holy Father offered Mass in front of the Basilica of the Holy House, location of the house where the Blessed Virgin grew up and lived, as tradition would have it. In his homily, the pope spoke of the Blessed Virgin, whose will, coinciding with the will of the Son, represents the “union of heaven and earth, which is the purpose of the Incarnation and Redemption”, as Blessed John XXII said half a century before. It is the impact of that Incarnation and Redemption that the Second Vatican Council set out to spread in every part of life.

Building on the topic of ‘home’, the Holy Father went on [emphases mine]:

“The idea of the Son of God dwelling in the “living house”, the temple which is Mary, leads us to another thought: we must recognize that where God dwells, all are “at home”; wherever Christ dwells, his brothers and sisters are no longer strangers. Mary, who is the Mother of Christ, is also our mother, and she open to us the door to her home, she helps us enter into the will of her Son.  So it is faith which gives us a home in this world, which brings us together in one family and which makes all of us brothers and sisters.”

But homes, and houses are usually on streets. The Holy House of Loreto is on a  street.

“At first this might seem strange: after all, a house and a street appear mutually exclusive.  In reality, it is precisely here that an unusual message about this House has been preserved.  It is not a private house, nor does it belong to a single person or a single family, rather it is an abode open to everyone placed, as it were, on our street.  So here in Loreto we find a house which lets us stay, or dwell, and which at the same time lets us continue, or journey, and reminds us that we are pilgrims, that we must always be on the way to another dwelling, towards our final home, the Eternal City, the dwelling place of God and the people he has redeemed (cf. Rev 21:3).”

Benedict wrapped up his discourse with a final very important topic. Mankind’s ‘yes’ to God.

“God asks for mankind’s “yes”; he has created a free partner in dialogue, from whom he requests a reply in complete liberty.  In one of his most celebrated sermons, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux “recreates”, as it were, the scene where God and humanity wait for Mary to say “yes”.  Turning to her he begs: “The angel awaits your response, as he must now return to the One who sent him… O Lady, give that reply which the earth, the underworld and the very heavens await.  Just as the King and Lord of all wished to behold your beauty, in the same way he earnestly desires your word of consent… Arise, run, open up!  Arise with faith, run with your devotion, open up with your consent!” (In laudibus Virginis Matris, Hom. IV,8: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 4, 1966, p.53f).  God asks for Mary’s free consent that he may become man.  To be sure, the “yes” of the Virgin is the fruit of divine grace.  But grace does not eliminate freedom; on the contrary it creates and sustains it. Faith removes nothing from the human creature, rather it permits his full and final realization.”

The Year of Faith begins on 11 October, one week from now. But in a way, the ball started rolling in the undulating hills of Loreto today.

Photo credit: ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/GettyImages

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