Saint Stephen is celebrated in Jerusalem

On Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m., mass was celebrated in intimacy of the infirmary at the Franciscan Monastery of St. Savior. The ceremony was presided over by the Custos of the Holy Land, Br. Pierbattista Pizzaballa. Many friars were present.

On this feast day of St. Stephen and the martyrs, in his homily, the Custos recalled today’s martyrs, especially those in Syria. He also emphasized that if some Western mindsets see people as “useless” to society—such as [perhaps] the friars who spend their old age at the infirmary could well be perceived—“God’s love has no limits. We must have open eyes toward heaven and see God’s glory manifested at hospitals, infirmaries.”

The friars sang several Christmas carols and the Custos concluded the mass by thanking the friars, the nuns, the community and the hospital staff. He also took this as an opportunity to wish a happy birthday to the guardian of St. Savior’s Monastery, Br. Stéphane Milovitch.

The latter presided over vespers in the crypt of St. Stephen’s Greek Orthodox church. The crowd of pilgrims and religious was welcomed by Fr. Epiphanios with a smile, as a sign of ecumenism. The church, which was constructed in 1968, usually hosts mainly Greek and Russian Orthodox faithful. “But it is open to all, and it is a pleasure to welcome the Franciscans each year,” he said. The Orthodox celebrate St. Stephen’s feast on January 9.

In the darkness of the grotto, the congregation prayed, candles in hand. The Adeste Fidelis song marked the beginning of vespers and reminded everyone of the recent feast of Christmas. Christ came to save us, and we must be ready to be witnesses of our faith in Him, sometimes to the death, as was the case with Stephen. Br. Stéphane briefly reminded everyone that the first Christian community of Mount Zion, frightened by the martyrdom of one of its important figures, later withdrew from Jerusalem. This is how the Church spread to the ends of the Earth. In the end, this dramatic event was beneficial to the nascent Christian community.

The friars from Gethsemane then invited the congregation to enjoy some panettone and their famous hot chocolate in the courtyard of the convent. “[It was] the best part of the day!” exclaimed a brother lightheartedly.

HM and TD

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