On 31 May, the Custody of the Holy Land celebrated the feast-day of the Visitation in Ain Karem: in this shrine, about 8 kilometres from the Old City of Jerusalem, the visit of the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth is remembered.
The Gospel according to Luke (1:39-56) gives us a delicate and intimate picture of the meeting between the women: Elizabeth who in her old age was despairing about the possibility of having children, greeted Mary, carrying Jesus in her womb, with great emotion and joy. This is the moment when the Virgin Mary intones the song of the Magnificat, which is still recited today in the prayers of Vespers.
The canticle of the Magnificat, in different languages, decorates the entrance of the shrine: the many reproductions on ceramic tiles of the famous praise to the Lord can be seen on the walls of the courtyard.
The solemn mass for the feast of the Visitation was presided by the Custos of the Holy Land, fr. Francesco Patton, with fr. Dobromir Jasztal, Guardian of Ain Karem, and fr. Rafael Sube Jiménez, Superior of the community of the Visitation, at his side. The celebration took place in the presence of many pilgrims and faithful, in the upper church: completed in 1955 by the architect Antonio Barluzzi, it is dedicated to the glorification of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the history of Christianity. The mother of Jesus is portrayed in the apse surrounded by saints in heaven and by faithful on the earth, while the mosaic on the façade represents the Virgin Mary walking towards the “mountainous region” Luke speaks of.
“On this feast-day we are invited in the first place to contemplate Mary’s path,” fr. Francesco Patton said in his homily. Like Mary, we too, if we have received the call that God has addressed to us, are summoned to set off on our paths, to share the grace that has been given to us, to put ourselves at the service of God’s mysterious project, and to put ourselves at the service of our brothers and sisters.”
The Custos also wanted to emphasize the bond between Mary and Elizabeth: “Their maternities belong to the same story of salvation and their sons will be inseparably linked by a single mission: John the Baptist is born to prepare the way for the encounter with Jesus, Jesus will be the Way that leads us to the Father. John the Baptist will propose a baptism for the remission of sins, Jesus will be baptized by John to accomplish divine justice.”
During the liturgy, the Custos also conferred on 25 friars the Ministry of Lector and Acolyte: for over thirty years, the Custody of the Holy Land has associated this celebration with the conferment of the two Ministries. “My dear young people, who today are receiving the ministry of lector and acolyte, never forget that serving at the altar is taking part in the mystery of salvation that God works through his Son Jesus for the power of the Holy Spirit, and this must fill us with astonishment, joy and humility. St Francis reminds us of this with so much clarity and poetry: “Let the whole of mankind tremble, the whole world shake and the heavens exult when Christ, the Son of the living God, is on the altar in the hands of a priest. O admirable heights and sublime lowliness! “ (the Custos’s homily in full is here).
At the end of the mass the friars went in a procession to the crypt of the church, according to tradition the site of the house of Zachariah and Elizabeth, the place of the encounter with Mary. Here, in a semi-excavated rock in the wall, there is also the stone behind which John the Baptist is alleged to have hidden to flee the massacre decreed by Herod the Great with the intention of eliminating Jesus (the episode is narrated in the apocryphal Gospel of James).
In the crypt the passage of the Visitation from the Gospel according to Luke was read out and the Canticle of the Magnificat was sung once again, as the conclusion to the solemn celebration.
Ministry of Lectorate:
Fr. Bal Reddy Gali (India) - Fr. Eduardo Javier Gonzalez (Messico) - Fr. Maikel Anjelo (Siria) - Fr. Abhishek Mariswamy (India) - Fr. Freddy Safari Muhigirwa (Congo) - Fr. German Gonzalez Gonzalez (Messico) - Fr. Zito Baptista Waliza (Mozambico) - Fr. Hassler Pineda Gonzalez (Nicaragua) - Fr. Oscar Daniel Martínez González (Messico) - Fr. Araújo Daniel (Mozambico) - Fr. Luis Roberto Cisneros Reveles (Messico) - Fr. Mario Hernandez Negrete (Messico) - Fr. Luis Alejandro Pizón Vinchery (Colombia) - Fr. Alphonse Ketende Kwete (Congo) - Fr. Mervyn Gladstone (India)
Ministry of Acolyte:
Fr. Rito Mendoza Mejía (Venezuela) - Fr. Flavio Curto Gutierrez (Perù) - Fr. Juan David Rodríguez Barahona (Colombia) - Fr. Joseph Medeou Piyabalo Atakora (Togo) - Fr. Saturnin Sadrac Langba Zounga (Rep. Centro Africa) - Fr. Thomas Ananivi Combey Adamah (Togo) - Fr. Noor Amash (Irak)