St. Martha in Bethany, “I am the resurrection and the life”

July 29, the feast of St. Martha, is still an opportunity for the Custody to make a pilgrimage to the sanctuary in Bethany. In Arabic, it is called Al-Azariyeh – “Lazarus’ place,” and it includes the grave of the man that Jesus brought back to life; it also houses a Franciscan monastery.

At daybreak, some religious nuns came to attend the mass that was celebrated at the same grave. Fr. Stéphane Milovitch then celebrated a second mass for parishioners and pilgrims at the monastery’s church. “In this house of friendship, where Christ visited the siblings that he loved, we celebrate Lazarus, Martha and Mary. They remind us of the friendship that we all should have with Jesus, especially we religious during this Year for the Consecrated Life,” emphasized the Franciscan. And the guardian of the monastery, Br. Michael Sarquah, added: “Saint Martha reminds us of the importance of the Word of God. We must not just act, but also contemplate.”

The monastery now is home to three friars; they manage the sanctuary and welcome parishioners. “There are about 50 Christian families here, and they depend on the parish of Jerusalem,” said Br. Michael Sarquah. “We also welcome the pilgrims, mainly in Spring and Fall, as there are fewer who come in the summer.”

Faithful to Mary and Martha’s hospitality, the brothers treated the assembly to a big and friendly breakfast. The pilgrimage continued with a stop at Lazarus’ tomb, and as per tradition, two other stops were made on the Mount of Olives, both at the Ascension and at the Pater Noster.

Hélène Morlet

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