The conviction that the whole of the Holy Land is imbued with the presence of Christ and that he can be found, adored and loved in all the Places, had already been expressed in simple, but exhaustive, words by a Custos of the Holy Land in ancient times, Francesco Suriano, between the end of the 15th century and the early 16th century.
“In the Holy Land,” says Suriano, “there does not exist a mountain or a valley, a plain or a field, a spring or a river, a stream or a village, a building or a stone that the Saviour of the world did not touch with his very holy feet when, walking around, he preached: with his knees, when he invoked the Father, with his legs when, tired by his travels or he sat down to eat, and with his hands when, thirsty, he used them to drink water or, with his forehead when he knelt down to pray to his Father, and lastly, with his whole body when the moment came to sleep and he rested his weary body on the bare ground.
Just as when, a newborn, he was put to sleep in the crib or, when he was dead, he was laid in the Sepulchre.
When, on his ascent to heaven, he left the mark of his holy feet on the mountain.”
Jesus radiated all his grace to every corner of the Holy Land, sanctifying them.
He irrigated the soil with his sweat, his tears and his blood, he purified and sanctified the water of the River Jordan and the whole world with the cross and the earth with his tomb. Everything is holy and full of virtue in the Holy Land: the trees, the wood, the plants, the vegetation, the bread, the water and the stones. It is precisely the Sanctity of Christ, which has impregnated all this land, that makes it an attraction for all men of all times .”
Sanctified more than any other place, the Holy Land enjoys the continuous presence of God. The author finds the presence of the Trinity in all the places of the Old and New Testament, especially that of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost.
He sees its sanctity in the continuous presence of the Saints and, concluding, he states that “in the Holy Places, Christ and the Virgin Mary are remembered for their singular importance, in the places which recall them.
The divine maternity of Mary plays a fundamental role in this contest. In this regard we can recall some things that St. Francis said on her role in the Story of the Salvation : “He surrounded the mother of Jesus with an inexpressible love because she had made the omnipotent Lord a man and our brother,” said Tommaso da Celano, whilst Francis, referring to the Virgin Mary in her contemplation on the humanity of the incarnation, wrote: “the glorious Word of the Father, so holy and exalted, whose coming the Father made known by St. Gabriel the Archangel to the glorious and blessed Virgin Mary, in whose womb he took on our weak human nature.”
Mary is therefore at the centre of this mystery of love and humility. It is from her that the Son of God took the same flesh as ours, our weakness and fragility and it is through Mary that he became our Brother.
Francis contemplates him with ecstatic words: “How holy and beloved, how pleasing and lowly, how peaceful, delightful, lovable and desirable above all things it is to have a Brother like this!” Thanks to Mary, then, God loved us “and created through your Son, with the same holy love you loved us , you made Him, true God and true man, be born from the ever glorious and very blessed Virgin Mary” . Lastly, through Mary, he saved us “having, thanks to her, obtained mercy” , and he came to us sinners with the mercy and the tenderness of the Father.
Fr. Artemio Vítores, ofm
Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land