The birth of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated in Ein Karem

June 24, the day when the Church celebrates the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, "the last of the prophets and the first of those who witnessed Christ the Savior" is a day of celebration in the Holy Land.

One of the most prominent villages in the history of St John the Baptist is Ein Karem. Here, in the Church dedicated to him, Br Francesco Patton celebrated the solemn Holy Mass.

The place’s past refers to the Roman and Byzantine period. For many centuries it has been revered and is decorated with paintings from the 1600s that help us to imagine how he whom the Bible describes as a man wearing a camelhair tunic, a leather belt and eating locusts and wild honey lived.

During the homily the Father Custos explained how the events lived by John the Baptist become topical in our lives. We are born, like him, by God's will and, like him, we have a call and a service: "Whatever our vocation" - he continued - "we must encourage the meeting of people with Jesus".

Friar Francis also invited the young Franciscans who are preparing for the priesthood - and who in this celebration received the ministry of the Lectorate and Accolitate - to follow the example of the Precursor of Jesus.

Convent of St Saviour
"It is a blessing to receive the grace of being able to preach the Word of God (...). Each of us must testify not only with our words, but also with life. The Word must be incarnate in us to allow us to witness in an authentic way! ".

At the end of Mass those present went in procession towards the cave that preserves the memory of the birthplace of this Desert Preacher. This event ended with the Benedictus canticle, sang for the first time by Zecharia two thousand years ago!

Church of St John the Baptist
"I have been here in the Holy Land for a short time and it is an incomparable grace that I will certainly carry with me, not only now, not only today on this day of Saint John, but for all of my Christian life . Today's celebration has led me to reflect on the fact that I too, along with all of us Christians, am called to be a precursor of Jesus Christ ".

Also in Ein Karem, another place linked to the life of the 'last among the prophets and first among those who witnessed Christ the Savior' 'is the hermitage of St John in the Desert.

Superior of the Hermitage of St John the Baptist in the Desert
"St John, we know from the Gospel, lived in a deserted, isolated place which corresponds to the place where the convent is located, today under the custody of the Franciscans. As we know, St John the Baptist is considered the greatest among those born of women, sanctified from the womb. He retired to the desert to devote himself to prayer and penance and then announce the coming of Jesus, the Messiah ".

Here is a cave revered since the Middle Ages.

Superior of the Hermitage of St John the Baptist in the Desert
"Every time we wish to understand Saint John, his way of living, of thinking, of serving others, we must understand that for him everything originated in this: to love God above all things".

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