Every Saturday, at 8.30 p.m., the night in Nazareth is lit up by hundreds of candles, when from the square in front of the upper Basilica a crowd of pilgrims and faithful set off, reciting the mysteries of the rosary, towards the grotto of the Annunciation.
It is the procession “aux flambeaux” (live here) which embodies one of the culminating moments in the life of the Shrine, which holds the memory of that dialogue between the Archangel Gabriel and Mary, which changed the history of humanity. Here, with her “yes”, the young woman from Nazareth made this unknown village the home of the “Word that became Flesh”, of the Son of God who became man.
For centuries the city of Nazareth, the “flower of Galilee”, has been one of the favourite destinations of pilgrims and travellers who visit the precious remains of the “house of Mary”, the grotto where thanks to Her “the Word became Flesh”(“Verbum Caro Hic Factum Est”), together with other places that are evidence of a long history of a Christian presence.
To allow pilgrims to experience a particular and extraordinary moment, linked to the uniqueness of this place, the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land have led the procession, in addition to the other weekly appointments, for almost twenty years.
The candlelit procession on Saturday evenings
The candlelit procession, which has always been traditionally presided over by the Father Guardian, is definitely the most touching and moving moment.
“The form of the prayer is very simple,” fr. Wojciech Bołoz, Guardian and Rector of the Basilica of the Annunciation of Shrine of the Holy Family of Nazareth, explains. “The pilgrims gather in the upper square; the friars come out of the church, followed by the statue of Our Lady carried by volunteers, and on the steps the invitation to prayer is pronounced with an antiphon. Then the Rosary is recited with the contemplation of the joyful mysteries, while the procession sets off along the whole of the colonnade decorated by icons of Our Lady. With the song Regina Coeli they enter the lower Basilica and the Gospel of the Annunciation is pronounced, right in front of the Grotto where Mary said her “yes”: the intense moment of prayer comes to an end with the reciting of the Angelus and with the Pontifical Blessing granted by the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Guardian of the Nazareth Convent.”
The pilgrims play a prime role because the rosary is prayed in the different languages and according to the nationalities of the groups present, while the Shalom community leads the singing.
St Joseph’s crown and the adoration on Tuesdays
“The candlelit procession is one of the many moments of prayer led by the friars of the Custody,” says fr. Wojciech Bołoz, “as the week is marked by many occasions to join the friars or follow the events of the Shrine in streaming: on Tuesday evenings, the Rosary of St Joseph, on Thursday evenings, the adoration of the Eucharist and then, every day at 12.00 noon, the reciting of the Angelus in the grotto (you can find the booklet here) where those very words were pronounced.”
The many appointments offer groups who stay in Nazareth for a couple of nights on average, the chance to take part in at least one of these events, and to follow a more structured liturgy, led by friars who have been the custodians of the Shrine since 1620.
“With the year of St Joseph in 2021, the evening prayer dedicated to him has been enriched: St Joseph’s crown is recited in St Joseph’s church, which is also called the church “of Nutrition” because Jesus grew up there until adulthood, learning his father’s trade. Here, after the prayer, the Gospel is proclaimed and everyone goes down into the crypt of the Holy Family. And every Wednesday, the Angelus of St Joseph is proclaimed, again in the crypt.
Thanks to the work of the community of Canção Nova and of the Christian Media Center, it is always possible to follow the live streaming of all these different moments of prayer on the Internet.