The 23rd and 24th June 2019 were days dedicated to St John the Baptist in Jerusalem as well, with celebrations in the places where his presence is still a memory in the area of EinKarem, about eight kilometers west of the Old City.
The first day of the celebrations took place at the shrine of St John of the Desert, with the First Vespers presided by the Custodial Vicar, Fr. DobromirJasztal. The figure of John the Baptist is closely associated with the desert, a place of the ascetic life and, in the light of the history of Israel, the place where the grace of God is encountered. It was, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, precisely from the desert that the precursor of the Messiah was to have come.
The shrine of St John of the Desert commemorates the place where the Precursor spent his childhood and the years preparing for public ministry, as recalled by the passage in Luke "the child grew and became strong in spirit and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel" (Luke 1, 80). The church and the convent, designed by the architect Antonio Barluzzi, were inaugurated in 1922.
"Show in works your conversion, this is the imperative which comes from the announcement of John the Baptist," said the Vicar, concluding his comment on the Gospel "John’s message does not belong to the past; it is necessary for everyone who wants to reach Jesus. Change and conversion are necessary at all times, more than ever in our times too."
The following day, in the afternoon, Holy Mass was celebrated in the chapel standing next to the Church which commemorates the birthplace of St John, currently closed for restoration, at the convent of St John in the Mountains. The Eucharistic celebration, presided by the Custos of the Holy Land Fr. Francesco Patton, came to an end with the procession to the grotto believed to be the place where the Saint was born and the reading of the Gospel according to Luke in which the birth of John the Baptist and the imposition of his name is told. "As soon as Zechariah confirmed that the child was to be called John, his tongue was freed and he began to bless God because “God has visited and brought redemption to his people,” recalled Fr. Patton in the Sermon. "We have to identify ourselves with John’s vocation and his mission," the Custos concluded. "We ask for the grace to be today the voice that announces the coming of the Word, the finger that points to the presence of the Lamb of God, that can decrease to the point of disappearing so that Jesus can grow in the life of his brothers."