The feast-day of St John celebrated in Ein Karem

The feast-day of St John celebrated in Ein Karem

On 23 and 24 June, the celebrations in the places where the Saint lived

The solemnity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist began at the shrine of St. John in the Desert with the First Vespers on 23 June, celebrated every year in the places of the saint’s life, a few kilometres from Jerusalem.

The third of the shrines of Ain Karem, after that of the   Visitation  and of the  birth of  St John the Baptist, in the hermitage of  St. John in the Desert  commemorates the place of the Baptist’s childhood and the years when he was preparing for public ministry, as the passage from the Gospel according to St Luke recalls, “the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1, 80).

The figure of John the Baptist is closely associated with the desert, an ascetic place of life and, in the light of the history of Israel, a place of encounter with the grace of God. The Arabic name of this holy monastery is Dir el-Habis, which means “monastery of the hermit.” The church and the convent, designed by the architect Antonio Barluzzi, were inaugurated in 1922. 

Here the friars of the Custody, together with religious and some local faithful, prayed the first Vespers presided over by the Vicar of the Custody, Fr. Ibrahim Faltas, and then went in a procession to the grotto where, according to tradition, St John lived.

The Solemn Mass in the shrine of St John in the Mountain

The following day, the Holy Mass was celebrated in the shrine of St John in the Mountain in Ain Karem, the place where the birth of St John the Baptist is remembered. The church dates back to the 12th century and stands in an area where there are remains from Byzantine times and a chapel with a mosaic floor which bear witness to a long tradition of worship.

The celebration was presided over by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fra Francesco Patton.

Celebrating the feast-day of the birth of St John the Baptist,” the Father Custos, Fr. Francesco Patton, said in his homily, - means celebrating what God does in our story, arousing the collaboration of concrete people, who with their skills and limits put themselves at the service of God’s project of salvation on humanity.”

God keeps his promise of mercy

The Custos wanted to offer a deep reflection on the three figures of Zecharieh, Elizabeth and John, who “teach us to always remember how God keeps his promises of mercy.” “In the silence of Zechariah,” fra Patton stressed, “there is his ability to trust God and recognize what he is doing through him, while Elizabeth teaches us the value of concealment which is the exact opposite of the social climate in which we are living. With his birth, John reminds us that life is a gift received and to be returned, that the vocation is a gift received and to be made to bear fruit, and that we are a gift insofar as we give ourselves.”

At the end of the celebration, there was the traditional procession towards the grotto where the birth of John the Baptist is remembered and it was here that the Gospel according to Luke was read. The liturgy came to an end with the solemn blessing.

Silvia Giuliano