Visitation of Mary
Ein Karen is a beautiful little town tucked away in the hills South of Jerusalem, a popular spot with the coffee crowd, and my friend and I joined them. It’s home to the Church of the Visitation, built above the country house of Zacharias where, according to tradition, Elizabeth had taken refuge during her pregnancy. This is considered the site to which Mary hastened—”to the Hill Country and a town of Judah.
In the courtyard stands a simple, striking statue of two women, both visibly with child, capturing the moment Elizabeth said “Blessed are you among women; blessed is the fruit of your womb. At the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy!” The first epiphany of the Lord! “Shout for Joy!” How else would these two women greet such a moment? Some observers playfully call this encounter the moment John and Jesus became “womb mates.” And why not?
Elizabeth’s words and the Magnificat on Mary’s lips have launched an eternal echo in the hills and valleys around the world: ”My soul glorifies the Lord. He has lifted up the Lowly. All generations shall call me blessed, and blessed his name.”
Mary and Elizabeth stayed in Zacharia’s country home for three months, then each went home, Mary to Nazareth and Elizabeth to the other home of Zacharias, where John the Baptist was born and the church of John the Baptist now stands.
We basked in the atmosphere of this town. We tarried too long, missed the last bus, and it was The Sabbath! Hungrily, we searched in vain for an evening meal in the shuttered shops of this ancient town, until “Three Porticoes” popped up—a YWCA café and an earthly meal.
Why not? Shout for joy!
David Peter Folkes is a former Passionist Priest who resigned and married with 2 children and 2 grandchildren living in Chicago. He is mostly involved with refugee resettlement and racial equity issues.