Starting with John the Baptist, God makes all things new

Ein Karem is the site where the friars of the Custody gathered twice in two days for the feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist. The first time, in accordance with tradition, was in the solitude of St. Jean of the Desert Monastery, on the side of a hill. A bus brought many friars and a few lay people there for First Vespers.

Fra Artemio Vitores presided over the Office and the procession to the grotto. In his homily (see attachment below), he presented the image of the saint as that of a man who knew how to prepare himself for the mission he had been given by the Lord. Commenting on the saint’s ascetic lifestyle, his baptism, and his meeting with the Lord in prayer, Fra Artemio asked the assembly, “And us? Are we preparing ourselves correctly for evangelization?”

On Monday the 24th of June, it was the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in the heart of the Ein Karem village that the friars gathered with the Custos of the Holy Land for the day’s solemn mass.

The solemn mass was preceded by the parish mass in the grotto where tradition holds the Precursor was born. The Franciscans went in procession to the grotto at the conclusion of the Eucharist.

In his homily (see attachment below), the Custos, Fra Pierbattista Pizzaballa, stressed the novelty of the acts of God around the birth of the Precursor. The unexpected novelty of a birth to sterile old people. The novelty of the words of Zachary who, having been thrust into muteness by doubt, recovered his words as soon as he believed and pronounced the name of his son.

Since John the Baptist God has not again made himself heard on earth in the same way. After John the Baptist the time of the prophets passed away because the Word, the Word was made flesh in Jesus and it is John who teaches us to listen.

During the liturgy, the assembly took the opportunity to pray for peace in Syria and the Franciscan friars were still there when the sad news of the death of Fr. François in one of the Custody’s monasteries was published by the press.

In spite of everything, following the example of our brothers in Syria who continue to bear the hope of salvation, the festivity of the holiday ended with light refreshment in the monastery’s gardens, followed by a communal breakfast.

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