Editor’s note: The following homily by Pope Francis’ highest ranking ambassador to the United States Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano was given in Anchorage on Dec. 12 during the elevation of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church to the status of co-cathedral for the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.
“See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord.”
My dear brothers and sisters, these words of Zechariah foretell the great birth that we are preparing to celebrate during the season of Advent.
These words also express the meaning of our joyful celebration today in this Archdiocese of Anchorage.
As you know, a church is a place where God and man meet. Today, this church is elevated to the status of co-cathedral. This means that, together, with Holy Family Cathedral, this church now becomes an extension of the central spiritual home of the archbishop, who represents Christ, the head and shepherd, in the midst of the flock. In the person of your archbishop — who teaches, governs, and sanctifies — God dwells among you.
Of course, God also dwells among you in his spoken word at Mass, in the assembly of the faithful gathered for worship, and in the sacrament of his Body and Blood. These many “dwellings” of God among us point to his first dwelling on earth, and to the “place” of that first dwelling: the Virgin Mary. For she was the temple that housed the Son of God.
A few days ago, I had the privilege to “meet Mary” through sacred art, when I attended a new museum exhibit in Washington, D.C., where I live. The exhibit was the first until now to be dedicated to Mary. Through paintings and images depicting the Virgin Mary, we are called to “meet Mary, up close and personal.” Indeed, in gazing upon these sacred images, I felt a true encounter with our Holy Mother.
As you know, every meeting with Mary is a meeting with Christ. She always gazes with us upon her son, who became incarnate in her immaculate womb.
In addition to contemplating Jesus with us, the Blessed Mother also leads us to go beyond ourselves in the proclamation of her son to others. She is the “Star of Evangelism,” spreading everywhere the Good News that Jesus has come to save us, and that God has visited his people. In her Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth after conceiving the Christ-child, Mary became the first “missionary disciple” of her son. She sang, in her Magnificat, the story of what God had done for her: how His greatness had enriched her poverty and given power to her weakness. From the day of that first Visitation, Mary never ceased to be the great missionary of the Gospel to every land and age.
In the sixteenth century, she visited God’s people in Mexico to announce yet again the Good News that Jesus is Lord. From the day of that visitation to the Mexican people, a land overshadowed by the darkness of paganism was enlightened by Christ through Mary. So powerful was Mary’s proclamation to the New World that we now call Our Lady of Guadalupe “the Patroness of the Americas.” The Good News that she proclaims has reached as far as this great and beautiful land of Alaska!
Today, this church of Our Lady of Guadalupe becomes a co-cathedral. This is needed in order to provide for the increasing number of people who, united with their archbishop, gather to worship God in communion with the whole Catholic Church. The wider proclamation of the Gospel, under the guiding hand of Mary, has led to this increase, and has made this day necessary. This, my brothers and sisters, is a witness to the missionary power of the Good News of our salvation.
What a great missionary, our Mother Mary! Her proclamation of the Light of Christ radiates throughout the world, giving hope and joy to the hearts of all who believe in the Gospel. How joyful we are, today, as this church dedicated to the honor of the Virgin of Tepeyac and the Queen of Heaven should become even more exalted, as the co-cathedral of this great missionary archdiocese. My dear friends, Zechariah’s words are fulfilled for you today: God has come to dwell among you!
It gives me pleasure to bring you the blessing of our Holy Father, who is always in spiritual communion with you. As you well know, Pope Francis, like his predecessors, is zealous for the proclamation of the Gospel to all people. He also deeply loves Mary. On the Solemnity of All Saints, which we celebrated last month, the pope said: “In the great assembly of saints, God has wanted to reserve the first place for the Mother of Jesus.” Mary, he said, is the center of the communion of saints, as the singular guardian of the bond of the universal Church with Christ” (Angelus Address, 1 Nov 2014).
Since Mary has “first place” among the saints, may she always have the first place in our hearts, where she will keep us united with Christ and his church.
My prayer for all of you is that this co-cathedral will be a place for you to meet Christ, with and through Mary. Meet him in the Eucharist. Meet him in his holy Word. Meet him in your brothers and sisters — and in your spiritual father, our archbishop. As we prepare for our Savior’s Birth, may our daily meeting of Jesus, with Mary, bring him to birth again in our hearts. And may we, like Mary, the Star of Evangelization, be missionary disciples of the Good News, so that others might hear and know that God desires to be with them.