December 10th marks the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto, a commemoration reinstituted by Pope Francis to celebrate the place that tradition holds to be Mary’s birthplace, childhood home, as well as the location of the Annunciation.
In the 13th century, just after the Crusades had finally ended, Europeans began returning to their homes from the Holy Land. With them, they brought relics, devotional items, and mementos of holy places. Among this inventory was the actual house of Our Lady, something that the Europeans managed to transfer from Nazareth to Loreto, arriving on December 10th, 1294. Its current location is where the use of the Litany of Loreto became widespread, believed to have started in the 16th century.
That holy house that resides in Loreto, Italy holds a tremendous amount of salvation history within its walls. While the house itself is inside the Basilica della Santa Casa (Basilica of the Holy House), it is also protected by a marble “screen” or shell that has been erected and sculpted to denote the holy significance of such a structure.
Tradition tells us that that structure was where Mary’s Immaculate Conception took place, as it was a multi-generational home. St. Anne and St. Joachim lived there as well. Not only did they raise Our Lady to be the perfect mother to Our Lord, but they have provided a shining example of spousal and familial harmony.
When Mary was just a young girl, it was in this house that the angel Gabriel appeared to her as she was deep in prayer. “‘Hail, favored one. The Lord is with you.’” (Luke 1:28) And He told Mary how she was chosen to be the mother of God, an almost unbearable responsibility. But Our Lady, trusting in God’s plan, replied, “’Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’” (Luke 1:38)
As we prepare for the arrival of the baby Jesus, remember that we are all called to be temples, homes of God. Prepare your hearts and souls to receive Jesus this Christmas, just as Our Lady received Him into her body, into her home, and into her life.