Monday, July 2, 2012

Holy Land Travel: Ain Karim

May 18, morning, we went to the quaint village of Ain Kerim on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  We got to see a rural & idyllic part of the hills of Judah.  This village has been identified by ancient Christian devotees as the birthplace of John the Baptist.

Ain Kerim is also the place of the "Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth," John's mother, after Mary was informed by the angel Gabriel that, like her, Elizabeth would bear a son through God's power, even though Mary was a virgin while Elizabeth was old & barren.  We went to two churches that commemorate these stories, and our guides, Sr Helen Graham & Glenn Witmer shared their reflections and helped us meditate on these stories.

The Visitation Church had copies of Mary's Magnificat, which she sang after Elizabeth called her "blessed among women" for her faith in heeding God's word.  They were in several languages on a wall outside the church, a Filipino translation included.
We met a Franciscan from Austria whose community is responsible for the church &, recognizing us as Filipinos, told us that he loved the tune of the Magnificat in Filipino.  He also mentioned Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD, who led a group who sang the Magnificat when they visited.  We sang a few lines to him too.  I have seen beautiful geraniums, & many roses have a scent like that of rosaries from Rome made from rose petals.

Late afternoon we went to a Reformed Jewish synagogue where a young rabbi led the prayer service. He opened the locked doors and initially we all thought he was just an assistant.  The service was interesting: all prayers & songs.  The readings and the "homily" will be for Saturday morning service but we won't go.
The Friday evening prayers & songs are for "welcoming the Sabbath," which is personified like a bride.  At a certain point, you turn to the open main door to welcome her.  They all sang acapella.  Orthodox congregations do not allow the use of instruments.  Reformed ones allow but there happened to be none here.  I had to wear a kipper or skull cap like all the men, and all my companions said it fit me.  They had prayers books with the English words but the whole service was in Hebrew.
Many people would sway & move their bodies as they sang, like a Pentecostal prayer meeting.  This congregation was also very inclusive.  They had a portion where they had a line from an Islamic prayer in Arabic and they used the Arabic word Salaam (peace) in one of their songs.  (The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom.)

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