“The feast of Saint John the Baptist reminds us that our baptism is not a thing of the past.”

For the good-sized group of Franciscans and worshippers present in Ein Karem to celebrate the birth of Saint John the Baptist, the homily takes on a particular significance. The fifty of them have taken a bus from Jerusalem to refresh themselves in this haven associated with the life of John the Baptist with two liturgical celebrations at two different sites.

Following tradition, the first celebration took place on Monday evening at the Saint John in the Desert retreat site, a monastery on the side of the hill where the saint withdrew and lived as a hermit. After Vespers and the procession to the grotto under a beautiful sunset, Father Franciszek Wiater, one of the two Franciscan friars there, emphasized the role of the Precursor in the coming of Christ: “Saint John the Baptist was close to the Lord. Celebrating his feast is to prepare oneself to follow the path of the Messiah and announce to everyone that the Lord is coming.”

For the sisters from Emmaus who had come for the occasion, the feast of Saint John the Baptist is an echo of their vocation: “Praying in this place of silence and prayer once each year is a true source of joy for living our life in Christ.” The newly arrived volunteers from Latin America talked about the popular fervor of Saint John bonfires in their countries, while the Benedictine monk Bernard Maria, an iconographer who is a guest at the monastery, evoked the role of silence “for experiencing the desert like John the Baptist.” In this way, the time of sharing was an opportunity for each person to meet Christ by celebrating one of his most beautiful messengers.

On the morning of Monday the 24th of June, the friars of the Custody assembled at the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist “in the Mountain” to celebrate the day’s solemn mass. The church filled and the ceremony honored by the presence of the Vice Consul of Spain and his wife, the homily emphasized the role of John the Baptist in announcing the Good News. John the Baptist is more than a prophet because he met Christ in the humility of baptism. The time of the prophets ended with him because the Word was made flesh in Jesus. During the celebration the congregation prayed for peace in the region and for the Franciscan friars of the Holy Land.

After the Eucharist, friars and worshippers processed to the grotto in which tradition holds Saint John the Baptist was born. The day’s festivities ended with refreshments in the monastery gardens and a communal lunch.


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