Feast of the Visitation: "Here we are, in that place" | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Feast of the Visitation: "Here we are, in that place"

In Ein Kerem, at the place where Mary encountered her cousin Elizabeth, the friars of the custody celebrated the feast of the Visitation on Friday, May 31.

Perched on top of the mountain, the sanctuary, property of the friars since 1679, offers an unobstructed view of Ein Kerem and the surrounding green hills.

In the upper church, the Custos of the Holy Land celebrated the Eucharist, together with Fra Artemio Vitores, Custodial Vicar, and Fra Renato Beretta, Visitator General of the Custody.

The latter delivered a passionate homily, inviting the faithful to imitate the Virgin Mary, who throughout her life's voyage always replied "eccomi", here I am. Our own lives should be a succession of "eccomi", a succession of faithful responses to the Lord's will.

This same "eccomi" was solemnly uttered by several of the seminary friars during the celebration, when they were invested with the ministries of Reader and Acolyte, the former receiving the Gospel Lectionary from the hands of the Custos and the latter the chalice, as a sign of the altar service they can now perform.

At the end of the celebration the friars left the church in procession to the grotto where, according to tradition, St. John the Baptist was hidden as an infant when he was hunted by Herod's soldiers. (See sanctuary page.)

After the final benediction, the assembly was invited by the Guardian, Fra Wladyslaw Brzezinski, to take refreshment.

The day was not yet done. In late afternoon, the Franciscans accompanied the patriarch, Monsignor Fouad Twal, for the procession through the roads of the Christian Quarter that closed the Month of Mary.

A large number of the faithful had participated earlier in Mass at Saint Savior Church. This year, in addition to closing the month that is habitually observed with great devotion by the Christians of the Holy Land all over the country, it also marked the end of the pastoral visit of His Beatitude in the Jerusalem parish and its associated places of worship (Saint Savior and Bethphage in Jerusalem, along with Beit Hanina in the northern suburbs of the city, and Beit Safafa to the south.)

In his homily the Patriarch assure the community that he had listened carefully to their hopes and desires. This pastoral visit will bear a great deal of fruit, says the parish priest, Fra Feras Hijazin OFM, who joined his parishioners along the route.

As night fell, the sound of drums and bagpipes continue to express the joy of the day and the city became a little cooler as the sun set.