Ancient tradition assigns the birthplace of Mary to Jerusalem, and if you visit the city today you can pray at the ancient church of St Anne–one of the most beautiful churches in the Old City. The present church was built by Crusaders in the twelfth century on the site which tradition held was the house of Joachim and Anna and therefore the birthplace of Mary and the location of the Immaculate Conception.
The site is close to the Lion Gate just North of the boundary of the Temple Mount. Therefore the conception and birth of the Blessed Virgin took place at the temple in Jerusalem. Why is this significant?
Because it fulfills a prophecy and promise in the Old Testament In 2 Samuel 7, King David asks the LORD to build a temple in Jerusalem, but God says he shouldn’t because God himself will build a temple and establish a dynasty for David.
When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
At the Immaculate Conception God did build a temple–not a material building, but the young woman who would become the dwelling place of God’s Son. Mary becomes the pure temple–built by God himself–the fulfill the Davidic covenant, and this is made explicit in Luke’s gospel when the angel Gabriel says to the Virgin,
31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,[k] and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
The significance of places in the gospel narrative is important for a fuller understanding of the story of our redemption, Bethlehem is important because it is the city of David–the Shepherd King–and therefore the birthplace of Jesus Christ, Son of David and heir to the Shepherd King’s reign.
Jerusalem–the focus of worship and the temple which held the Holy of Holies is the location for the creation of God’s temple–the Virgin Mary–whose pure womb is the Holy of Holies in which the Son of God will dwell.
What then is the significance of Nazareth? I believe Nazareth is in the territory of what was the Northern Kingdom after the division of the Kingdom in King Rehoboam’s time. Jesus’ ministry is in Galilee therefore because he has “come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Galilee was also more dominated by the Roman authorities and culture and was a transportation and communication hub–therefore a sign that Jesus’ life and teaching is for the Gentile world as well as the Jews.
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