When I took part in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land three years ago, an exceptionally beautiful day excursion was to the town of Ein Karem outside of Jerusalem, home to the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist and the Church of the Visitation. To read in depth about the homes of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Baptist, and the visitation to Mary while visiting Elizabeth, go to this link. Ein Karem was so green and lush and so very different from everywhere else we visited in the Holy Land.
This particular photo is from inside The Church of the Visitation.
The Virgin Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, depicted in mosaic on the façade of this two-tiered church, is commemorated on a slope of the hill south of Ein Karem. Completed in 1955 to a design by Antonio Barluzzi, the artistically decorated Church of the Visitation is considered one of the most beautiful of all the Gospel sites in the Holy Land.
This is believed to be the site of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s summer house, where Mary came to visit her cousin. On the wall opposite the church, ceramic plaques reproduce Mary’s canticle of praise, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) in some 50 languages.
In the lower chapel, a vaulted passage leads to an old well. An ancient tradition asserts that a spring joyfully burst out of the rock here when Mary greeted Elizabeth.
A huge stone set in a niche is known as the Stone of Hiding. According to an ancient tradition, the stone opened to provide a hiding place for the baby John during Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents, an event depicted in a painting on the wall.
In a valley on the south of the village is a fresh-water spring known as Mary’s Spring or the Fountain of the Virgin. Tradition has it that Mary quenched her thirst from this spring before ascending the hill to meet Elizabeth. The spring gives the village its name from the Arabic “ein” (spring) and kerem (vineyard or olive grove). Built over the spring is a small abandoned mosque, another reminder that this was once an Arab village. Southwest of Ein Karem, a Greek Melkit monastery and a Franciscan convent mark the Desert of St. John, a site where John the Baptist is believed to have lived in seclusion.
These sites were on hills and with my decreased lung capacity, it was a real struggle for me personally to reach these sites, but I’m so glad I did. I carry each of them in my heart.
To see more entries of other participants on this tenth day of the Twelve Days of Mary leading up to the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, go to Rebecca’s Recuerda mi Corazon.