Mary’s perfect act of faith: the feast of the Visitation in Ein Karem

Mary’s perfect act of faith: the feast of the Visitation in Ein Karem

The Custos of the Holy Land presided over the celebration which closes the Marian month

On Friday 31 May, the day that closes the Marian month, the Franciscan community of the Custody of the Holy Land celebrated the feast of the  Visitation, in the shrine dedicated to it in   Ein Karem ,

The Gospel according to Luke (1:39-56) gives a delicate and intimate picture of the meeting between the Virgin Mary and her cousin: Elizabeth, who in her old age was desperate about the possibility of every having children, greeted Mary who had Jesus in her womb with emotion and joy. This is the moment when the Virgin Mary sings the Magnificat: the canticle, in different languages, adorns the entrance to the shrine with numerous reproductions on ceramic tiles.

The village of Ein Karem and the bond with St Elizabeth


Ain Karem  is a village about 8 kilometres from the Old City of Jerusalem, and is  traditionally considered the village of priests in which the family of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist and Elizabeth’s husband, lived, as well as being the place where Mary visited Elizabeth after having learned she was carrying the Son of God.

In the 14th century, the shrine was in the care of Armenian monks who left shortly afterwards. The Franciscans purchased the place in 1679.

Mary’s perfect act of faith

We have come up to the house of Elizabeth as Mary did,” the Custos of the Holy Land fra Francesco Patton, who presided over the liturgy, said in his homily   (you can find the full text here), to be able to sing with her the Magnificat, the song of praise to God for the great works that he did in her, in history and which he wishes to do in us.”

It is a canticle which gives hope,” fra Patton continued, “and that reminds us that if we look at history with Faith and if we are people who really read the present as well in the light of what God has already done and promised, we can be neither pessimistic nor sad or discouraged, but on the contrary we can walk with hope and convey hope.”

Mary has done a perfect act of faith,” fra Patton continued, “an act of faith that is personal, free, voluntary and full, while our acts of faith are so often fragile and uncertain. WE also need to succeed in doing an act of faith like Mary’s, and we are here to ask her to support our faith.”

During the celebration, the icon of the Visitation, the meeting between two pregnant women, both with sons destined to play crucial roles in the history of Salvation, was blessed.

The procession in the crypt of the church

At the end of the Mass, the friars went in procession to the crypt of the church, where according to tradition there was the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the place of the encounter with Mary. Here, in a rock semi-excavated in the rock, there is also the stone behind which John the Baptist is alleged to have hidden to escape the massacre ordered by Herod the Great with the intention of striking Jesus (the episode is narrated in the apocryphal gospel by James).

The passage of the Visitation from the Gospel according to Luke was read in the crypt and the Canticle of the Magnificat once again resounded, bringing the solemn celebration to an end.

“We are also called to conceive the Son”

St Francis had reflected a great deal on Mary’s maternity,” fra Patton stressed at the end of the celebration, “he sees her as a model of the life of every Christian. And in remembering that we are all children of the same Father, he emphasized that we are also called to conceive and generate the son of God every time we allow the Spirit of the Lord to join us to Christ and to ensure that we live a life which becomes a luminous life that is also exemplary for others. It is in this way that we generate Christ today for the people today who are in the greatest need of him.”

Silvia Giuliano