The Baptism of Jesus: the pilgrimage to the banks of the River Jordan

The River Jordan is the destination that every year welcomes the Franciscan pilgrimage with the participation of pilgrims and Christians who come here from every corner of the Holy Land. Remembering the Baptism of Jesus and renewing the baptismal promises: this is what the site of  Qasr Al-Yahudrepresents for the faithful; this way, over the centuries this place has become passage, liberation, regeneration, and lavacrum, with this feast-day bringing the Christmas period to an end.

The Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, with the friars and pilgrims from Jerusalem, started the pilgrimage by going to the Convent of the Good Shepherd in Jericho, where he was welcomed with an official brief greeting by the local authorities, introduced by the parish priest of Jericho, Fr. Mario Maria Hadchiti. Escorted by a representation of Israeli officials, the Custos then arrived at the site of  Qasr Al-Yahud, the place of the baptism, welcomed by a long procession of friars and faithful. It was here that in 1950 the ruins of a 9th-century chapel were discovered.

The first liturgical moment was held on the banks of the River Jordan, where Jesus received Baptism from John the Baptist:  the passage in the Gospel of the Baptism was read in Arabic. During the solemn celebration of the Eucharist, the Father Custos baptized four children from different parishes of the Holy Land. Humility was the central element of the homily by  Fr. Mario, parish priest of Jericho, during the Mass. “John the Baptist and Mary are two important figures,” Fr. Mario recalled; the former declared that he was not worthy of untying the laces of the Lord’s sandals and Jesus himself bent down to him and his humility in his baptism; the latter is an example of humility with her bending to the will of God and wise service, obedience and courage. "And we, believers today, how do we renew our baptism today?" he concluded.

The Mass was followed by another moment of pilgrimage, towards Mount Quarantine – so called to indicate the days of fasting and temptation by Jesus, as related in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke–and the Greek-Orthodox monastery perched on the mountain. In front of the main door of the monastery, the account of the Temptations according to the Gospel of Luke was read, followed by a visit to the Monastery.

Numerous Christian faithful came from  Nazareth, Cana, Ramleh, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahou, as well as the visiting pilgrims. “This occasion gives great courage to the local Christians, who are a minority in the area of Jericho, which has a Muslim majority,” said Fr. Mario Maria Hadchiti. "The feast-day of the Baptism is a strong opportunity for us to declare that we are Christians and members of the Church.”

Giovanni Malaspina