Sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent – December 10, 2017 by Msgr. Patrick Perez
This morning the point of the sermon is mainly, not deeply theological (everything to do with God is deeply theological), but it isn’t one of those heady sermons. It is maybe just a little thing to raise our appreciation for God’s power and His Providence, for the ministry of angels, for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and it has to do with today, December 10, in particular which is why I wanted to talk about it. One of the popes said it’s a good thing to talk about today (not one of the recent popes!). It was one of the real old-fashioned popes from the good old days.
When I was in Italy last, I visited the house where the Blessed Virgin Mary was born and where she lived. Christ was born in Bethlehem so He wasn’t born in the house, but He lived there for 30 years with the Blessed Virgin Mary and with his stepfather St. Joseph, until his passing. After that the apostles would visit the Blessed Virgin Mary here. She inherited the house from her parents so they lived there afterwards.
In this house St. Gabriel announced to her that she would be the Mother of the Savior. Our Lord lived in it until He was 30 and left for His public ministry. But you think rightly, Our Lady was born in Nazareth - how could it be that you visited her house in Italy? Well, I’m going to tell you.
The House was in Nazareth until the Muslims took over. The Muslims were doing what they always do, destroying and pillaging and murdering after the fall of the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem, called the Crusades. The Moslems were held off for a while but without reinforcements the Moslems took them down. First stop was Bethlehem to destroy the church built where Our Lord was born. They arrived there with their huge army and implements to raze the church to the ground. Everything Christian they really have a hatred for. But when arrived they couldn’t determine what it was. Now the interesting thing at the time was the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem had a mosaic on the outside, and the mosaic was of the three kings - looking for all the world like three Muslim chieftains with their turbans and this kind of thing. So they looked at it and said, Well, this must be a mosque dedicated to these Muslim kings, so they moved on. They never did find it. So they did their second best. They went to the place called the Holy House in Nazareth to destroy that.
Now that was exactly late in the day of May 9 in the year 1291. They went at full gallop towards Nazareth, so probably an hour or two by horseback. They got to the place where Our Lady was born and where the Annunciation happened and the Immaculate Conception and it wasn’t to be found! Part of the foundation was there but it (the house) wasn’t; and that’s what I want to talk about today.
Some facts: the Holy House was there, verified on May 9, 1291; verified on the day of the 10th of May, 1291, it wasn’t there anymore, not a trace of it except a kind of broken off foundation. But it did reappear; it reappeared actually that same day, May 10, 1291, 2,000 miles away in a part of what we used to call
Yugoslavia, Dalmatia, which is now a part of Croatia.
It landed on the property of this feudal lord – that part of Yugoslavia was kind of under the control of the Italian people at the time. The feudal lord, Nicolò Frangipane, sent a delegation to Nazareth (because he had been to the Holy Land in the crusades and knew what the Holy House looked like) to determine if this house, suddenly appearing on his property and looking suspiciously like the one he saw in the Holy Land during the crusades, had any relationship.
It took several months, taking measurements, they did all these kinds of things and they came back and said, Yeah, it’s not there, but the foundation remains. He knew then that he had the Holy House. Now after it landed, there was a priest who advised caution to make sure it was from God and not from the devil. He prayed about that and the Blessed Virgin in fact appeared to him and said, Yes, this is the house where I was born, and the Archangel Gabriel announced to me that I would be the Mother of the Savior, etc. She said a few more details, which I found interesting because inside the Holy House to this day there is a little altar (where I was able to say Mass). The Blessed Virgin in her appearance said to him, “And the altar inside was consecrated by St. Peter and used to say Mass by him and the other apostles”. She said, “So the people will know that it is really from heaven I am curing your illness”. He had some long-going illness; it didn’t say exactly what it was but you could see it, it was like a big goiter or something like that that really stuck out. So if he was cured overnight they would really know it. He was cured instantly from that and then word went out.
The Holy House stayed there for a while. On the night of December 10, 1294, it disappeared from Tersatto and it landed they say, in various other places. For nine months it stayed on a hillside overlooking the port of Ancona which thus came to be called Posatora” from the Latin “posat et ora” (to set down something and to pray). It was afterwards called that. There are two monuments in Ancona telling of the House there and they built churches afterwards on the places where it had landed.
What happened there? Well, it was popular with pilgrims and robbers as well, knowing pilgrims were going there with gold pieces in their pocket to pay for their pilgrimage. They started robbing everybody and finally it got to be that nobody would go on a pilgrimage there; it was just too dangerous. It would be like driving a Rolls Royce to South Central and getting out with diamonds on your fingers and furs and other assorted bling, and wandering around by yourself at midnight. You’re kind of asking for it.
As no one went there anymore, it disappeared again. Now how is it disappearing? It’s interesting because what is so wonderful about it in one way is that God could just make it disappear and appear somewhere else if He so wanted, but He didn’t choose to do that exactly. He chose to have the angels transport it. And what’s neat is the angels were seen flying through the air with the house, and I have this image in my mind of like the original Superman because St. Michael was seen leading the whole thing in a red cape. So where did Marvel get the idea? Unh-uh, not original, I think we should sue. (Monsignor laughing) They saw St. Michael in a red cape flying through the air, the other angels behind him carrying the Holy House. And this was seen various times by various people and collaborated later.
Anyway, after Posatora, it landed on the property of two brothers between 1295 and 1296. The two were like brothers but maybe a little bit worse, banging heads, and things like that, and they argued about who owned the house. It was almost coming to blows when the angels moved the house again. But afterwards the two brothers got along famously apparently, from the grace of just having the house around.
In 1296, after four months at the farm of the two brothers, the house departed and landed in a place in Italy. Now the farm where it landed was owned by a lady whose name was Loreta and the area became known as Loreto. So we know it as the Holy House of Loreto to this day.
A lot of people, like modernists and rationalists say, Well, this is medieval superstition, this is medieval superstition! Someone just built this house there, and said that the angels transported it from the Holy Land (just like modernists always do with that kind of thing). Well, they recently had a scientific conference on the whole thing and a very respected scientist gave the presentation with pretty much overwhelming evidence that it is what it says it is. Now just to show you how these stupid modernists think, they go, Oh, well, we think the people who cared for the house in the Holy Land, their family name was Angeli, okay? And they took apart the house when they saw that the Muslims were coming – so you just take it apart like putting your mobile home on a tractor and getting it out of there – and then they moved it in pieces over to Italy and then glued it back together.
So there were a number of problems with this but obviously it is simply ridiculous. Why is it ridiculous? A few things I wanted to tell you about the scientific evidence – now we have evidence of the faith. All these popes wrote about the translation of the Holy House from Nazareth to Loreto. Amongst them, Paul II, Julius II, Leo X, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius XI, all documented with papal documents the translation of the Holy House miraculously from Nazareth to Loreto.
But the scientific evidence – just a couple of things. This was the 13th century, well over 700 years ago. They did some studies of the Holy House in Loreto. It is roughly thirteen something feet by thirty-three feet the other way. The top part is made of these sort of thin, brick-like things and then there is a foundation of stone underneath. Now stone foundations in those days was where you made a form and poured cement into it adding rocks and then the house was built on top of that. So what did they find? Well, they measured what was left of the foundation in the Holy Land and it fit precisely within a millimeter of the same measurements. But, not just the same measurements; there are some jagged rocks split in half, half of them are in Nazareth and half of them are in Italy, still part of the foundation. They analyzed the mortar in the foundation. Not only is it not found anywhere near Italy, but the chemical composition is precisely what was used in the Holy Land, AND, special mortar that is found only in Nazareth. They can tell by whatever some certain rock and limestone that they made this thing out of.
All these things; even now we couldn’t dissect the Holy House, move it and reassemble without seams and with no sign of it being taken apart. We simply couldn’t do that even today. Yet, at the Holy House in Loreto, there are no seams, no fractures, no signs of having been taken apart, not one little thing. Simply impossible now, let alone in the 13th century. And then incongruities: say you do take it apart in the Holy Land and figure out how to glue it together. How do you get it to Italy? You know, this is a brick and stone house weighing tons and tons and tons, and all they had was manpower and logs and things like that; we get back to the days of the pyramids – no, they just couldn’t do it. If you got it to the ocean how do you put it on a ship and how do you get it from the ship.
There are other things – like where it landed on good old Loreta’s property there; it landed in the middle of a public road. Actually, there was a law prohibiting building on public roads, the City of Loreto made an ordinance as it were. So how did it go unnoticed that they were building this house on a thoroughfare? Then, if they did build it there, why didn’t they put the rest of the foundation underneath it? It had half a foundation stuck to the house and no foundation underneath. It rests on dirt. In Holy House they have a glass you can look through; picture the dirt roads in the old days much like today, there’s the part you drive on and then there’s the banks. Well, the house just went plop between the banks and the middle of the road. So the part that was on the bank before is just sticking out into the air, it’s not even resting on the ground. If you’re going to build a house you are not going to build it sticking out into the air like that with half a foundation. There’s just too much that doesn’t make sense. Such was inevitable conclusion of the scientist who proved this is indeed the Holy House of Nazareth, one of the most holy shrines in all of Christendom where the Immaculate Conception happened, where the Incarnation was announced, the Annunciation, where Our Lord lived, where St. Peter and the others said Mass in the early days.
So I just wanted to leave that with you because – because why? Because Urban VIII in 1624 definitively established December 10th as the feast of the translation of the Holy House of Mary, Mother of God. That happens to be today, fifteen days before Christmas. This morning I searched the Missal (it should be in your hand Missal as well and would be worth reading - if you turn to the back called the Masses for certain places under December 10th) lo and behold, there’s the feast of the Translation of the Holy House of Our Lady. So we have a feast in the Missal – the only reason I can’t do it today is because it fell on a Sunday. If you come next year on Monday, we’ll celebrate that Mass; but today is the actual feast established by Pope Urban VIII to venerate and to commemorate this wonderful event in the history of Christianity. I thought you should know about it; like I said it’s not theologically deep and spiritual, but when you think that Our Lord, looking after Our Lady’s house and His house, to the point of having angels move it thousands of miles, it just has to fill you with wonder and appreciation and thanksgiving for God’s Providence.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.