Monday, April 8, 2013

The Annunciation and the HIC Town of Nazareth

Inscription on the Altar of the Annunciation.

We know from the scriptures that Nazareth was a hick town (i.e. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”), but when I was there in the fall of 2006, I found it to be a hic town, as in the Latin for “here.” On the altar in the Basilica of the Annunciation, the inscription reads, “Verbum caro hic factum est”: “The Word was made flesh here.”


Bethlehem is overshadowed by the tableau of the wise men and the heavenly host; the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem radiates the drama of the salvation; but the holy sites of Nazareth have a homely hic that may convey the reality of the incarnation more than those greater sites. It was here that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. It was here that he spent most of his life, here that his family lived.

Ritual bath in the crypt of the Church of St. Joseph.

The grotto of the Annunciation in the Latin Basilica is built on the traditional site of Mary’s house. The Church of St. Joseph is built over the traditional site of the house where the Holy Family lived and in the crypt you can look down a shaft to see the tiled floor of its ritual bath. The Greek Cathedral stands over the site of the well where Mary drew water. Every place seems to cry out hic! There is none of the grandeur of Rome’s great churches and the shrines here lack the anthill bustle of the Holy Sepulcher. Instead, there are an infinity of little hiccups, from places associated with the Lord’s childhood to the precipice where the adult Jesus was rejected by his fellow townsmen.

The Church of Mary's Well.

It becomes just a bit harder to remake God in our own image in the face of these commonplace remembrances. In Nazareth, the Word defers to the reality of the flesh. Here God took on humanity, and Mary treasured up all of these things in her heart.

The Precipice.