Saint of the day:
Mother of John the Baptist
Patron Saint of Pregnant women
Elizabeth: Mother of John the Baptist
The name Elizabeth, which has been borne by several saints, means in Hebrew "worshiper of God." All that we know of Elizabeth, wife of Zachary and mother of John the Baptist, is to be found in the book of Luke. A descendant of the priestly line of Aaron, she was a kinswoman—how close we are not told—of the Virgin Mary. According to the Gospel, Elizabeth had lived a blameless life with her husband in one of the hill-towns of Judea. Having reached an advanced age with her prayers for a son unanswered, she thought that her barrenness was a reproach. One day, while Zachary was serving in the temple, the Angel Gabriel appeared at the right of the altar, and announced that a son would be born to Elizabeth. It was in the sixth month of her pregnancy that the Virgin Mary came to visit her—a touching and beautiful scene pictured by many great artists. The Angel Gabriel, having lately announced to Mary the destiny that awaited her, also told her that her kinswoman Elizabeth was with child. The Virgin Mary, eager to share in Elizabeth's happiness and to confide that she too would bear a child, traveled down the dusty road from Nazareth. On Mary's arrival, she was amazed when Elizabeth, having foreseen knowledge, greeted her as "mother of my Lord." Elizabeth's salutation was in these words: "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, the moment that the sound of thy greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who has believed, because the things promised her by the Lord shall be accomplished." The Gospel story tells us further that at Elizabeth's delivery her friends and neighbors rejoiced with her, and when the child was brought to be circumcised, they were going to call him after his father Zachary, but his mother said, "His name shall be John."
Saint Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist. Scriptural Saint. Celebration of Feast Day is November 5.
The Monastery of Saint John in the Desert
The site is located in the heart of the Judean hills, about 3 km from Ein Karem, Saint John’s birthplace, which is itself just 7-8 km west of Jerusalem. Below the Monastery are two caves: the first, full of water, was used for ritual bathing and baptisms. The other is remembered as the place where Elizabeth found refuge for her child when they fled from Herod’s massacre of the innocents – at the time when Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with Jesus. In the back of the cave, there is a small altar and a beautiful fresco representing young John in hiding with his mother. From the Monastery, a short hike up the hill leads to a convent that claims to be the burial place of John’s mother Saint Elizabeth.
Ein Karem: The Judean Hills from the Church of the Visitation
The Church of the Visitation is the place were Mary, Mother of Jesus, met her relative Elizabeth after the angel Gabriel revealed himself to Mary and told her she was pregnant with the son of God, and that also Elizabeth is expecting a baby -- later known as John the Baptist.
Excited by the news of the two pregnancies, Mary hastened to her relative Elizabeth in Ein Kerem, which is located south west to Jerusalem and is also known as the city of Judah in the New Testament.
According to Christian tradition, the site of the Church of the Visitation was a summer home where Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias resided so that Elizabeth could conceal her pregnancy with John. And not their house where John was born where today stands the Church of St. John the Baptist.
The entrance to the Church: Here are small bronze statues representing Zacharias and Elizabeth at the entrance to their home. Some say these statues also represent Abraham and Sara who had a son at a very old age, also after being visited by angles.
Right after the entrance is a sculpture depicting the slim figures of Elizabeth and Mary. During that meeting Elizabeth felt that john bowed to Jesus while they are both in their mother's womb, and called Mary mother of my lord. In response Mary responded with a prayer of thanksgiving that became a part of Christian Liturgy. The Words of this prayer the Magnificat written on these walls in 58 languages... [הפסקה קצרה בקריינות]....... and here the prayer title embedded in the floor of the gate.
The façade of the Church is adorned with an impressive mosaic, portraying Mary on her way from Nazareth to Ein Kerem as it is described by Luke And Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste into a city of Judah.
The church has two chapels on different levels. The lower level:
The lower level of ancient churches is often used as a burial place, but here the cave is designed under the tradition that this site was Zachariaa and Elizabeth's summer home.
Over the altar of the chapel are impressive frescoes featuring realistic scenes from the lives of Elizabeth and Zacharias.
Here is a portrayal of Elizabeth's meeting with Mary. To the left, Zecharias the priest is seen preparing incense in the Temple and the fresco to the right depicts roman soldiers about to kill babies by the order of King Herod after he was told about the sign in the skies over Bethlehem marking the birth of a new king.
At the left of this fresco we see an angel directing Elizabeth to hide John in a narrow crack that miraculously opened up in the mountainside. Here beneath the painting is the Rock of Hiding, said to be the rock that covered the crack where Elizabeth hid John.
Now let's go to the upper church.
This church is dedicated to women in general and to Mary in particular. At the rear of the church above the organ there is a wall painting of Mary and her son and the upper part of the apse is adorned with paintings whose central character is Mary. Above here, beneath the dove representing the Holy Spirit, angles sing to her and prepare to crown her with a wreath. Mary is pictured in a desert setting, dressed in red representing the earthly world and with a blue cloak representing the spiritual world -- together symbolizing Mary's resurrection after slipping into eternal slumber.
If we look in front of the aps we can see the remains of byzantine and Crusader churches, on which this church was built
The walls opposite the windows are decorated with five huge frescos depicting Mary's titles:
• Mother of God
• Mary Refuge of Sinner
• Advocate for the People of God - where Mary convinced her son to turn water into wine during the wedding at Cana
• Here is the title Help of Christians after a sea battle where the Christian alliance defeated the Turks after praying to Mary.
• And the fifth title is Mary free of the Original Sin as a consequence of the Immaculate Conception.