“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” – John 1:46
When it comes to getting close to the source, you can’t get much closer than the Holy Land. We see so much of life from a distance – as casual observers of the world. On a pilgrimage, you have a chance to be right there, to see the precise locations where many mysteries of our faith took place. Everywhere you look, there are signs marked HIC, Latin for “this,” which indicate a specific place where something important happened. Indeed, there are very few places in the world where this word holds such significance.
The first time we encountered this sign was in Galilee, in a house in Nazareth with a beautiful stone grotto forming its roof. This was the place where, through the voice of an angel, God proposed and Mary accepted! Her “yes” unraveled the knot of sin that had gripped the world for so long.1 “The moment when the mystery of the Incarnation was accomplished, human history entered the ‘fullness of time’…”2 In a very real sense, Nazareth was where the world was made anew, endowed and refashioned with grace.
We can see, then, that a great deal of good did come out of Nazareth! Once no more than a quiet, backwater town, Nazareth figured prominently in the life of Jesus. It was His hometown, the place where He spent His childhood. In those days, the village probably consisted of no more than 50 or so extended families, living together with their animals in a group of caves. And while we don’t know much about those hidden years, archaeological evidence tells us that from the earliest centuries pilgrims visited this place, marking it with the words Ave Maria.
Today, amidst the city’s winding, cobbled streets lined with shops, churches, convents, and schools, stands a modern, formidable stone structure that serves as the local Catholic parish. The Basilica of the Annunciation is the spiritual home for many Arab Israeli Christians, their families having lived in this area for centuries. Built over the ruins of four earlier churches, it stands sentinel over Mary’s Grotto – still visible in the lower crypt – and ensures that a Christian presence remains alive and active in this part of the world.
Being in this place, the mystery of Christ’s love for us is somehow revealed…uncovered and laid bare. We come to understand that though God exists outside of time and space, He chose to reveal His glory in the person of His Son at a particular point in history and in a specific part of the world. The time was right for the Word to become flesh. We weren’t there to witness that miracle, but we are invited to share in one that is just as spectacular. Each week, right before our very eyes, the Word becomes flesh in the celebration of the Holy Mass. The bells of Consecration reveal the specific point in time when our Lord chooses to reveal Himself to us. We say, “Yes, Lord, I believe.” And, in that moment, we are made new.
– Kelley Holy
1 Cf. Saint Irenaeus, who states that “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith” (Adversus Haereses, III, 22, 4).
2 Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, #49.