— Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Our Lady of Loreto Square, Loreto, Italy (October 4, 2012)
An ancient tradition tells us that the Holy House of Mary and Joseph was transported to Italy where it has been a center of pilgrimage and devotion. Indeed, I once recall that Our Lady of Loreto was the Patroness of airmen because of this particular transportation feat. Pope Benedict XVI went to Loreto on the fourth day in October because Blessed John XXIII had done so at the beginning of Vatican II, which opened on October 11, 1962.
Benedict took the occasion to remind us that Jesus Christ did have a home, a home in which the “greatest event of history took place.” This greatest event is the union of the Word and human flesh in one person, in a child at that. No other event of history actually bridges the gap between the divine and the human in such a concrete manner. And yet there is a whole tradition of mankind that refuses to acknowledge what took place here because of its implications about what man and God are.
"The Shrine [of Loreto], built around her earthly home, preserves the memory of the moment when the angel of the Lord came to Mary with the great announcement of the Incarnation, and she gave her reply.” But Mary, of course, “offered her very body; she placed her entire being at the disposal of God’s will, becoming the ‘place’ of his presence, a place of dwelling for the Son of God.” The real heart of any home is, we might say, in the womb of the mother.
“The will of Mary coincides with the will of the Son in the Father’s unique project of love and, in her, heaven and earth are united. God the Creator is united to his creature. God becomes man, and Mary becomes a ‘living house’ for the Lord, a Temple where the Most High dwells.” The Father’s unique project is precisely to associate other beings—beings who are not gods—with Himself, if they will.
The purpose of the Incarnation and Redemption was to unite in a real fashion heaven and earth. That unity could only take place if there were in the universe beings who were free, who could know and act. We sometimes think of heaven and earth as antagonistic to each other. We know they can be. In the Gospel of John the world is sometimes pictured as what is opposed to God. But this antagonism is caused by the free will of the creatures.