“Welcome to Holy Land, The land of God!” said our Tour Guide the moment we got inside the tour bus after crossing the Jordan-Israel border. I could hardly believe that I am now in the Promised Land – the land where Jesus was born, lived, died and resurrected. It was a nostalgic feeling of happiness beyond words, of fulfillment beyond reward, of penance, of gratitude, of humility, of love and of peace. I am so blessed to have set foot in Israel. And ‘all honor and glory be yours forever’ where the words I have uttered as I made the sign of the cross and started praying in silence.
Our first stop today is the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth where angel Gabriel appeared before Mary. This is the scene of the First Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
What the Bible Say
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
The Basilica of the Annunciation or Church of the Annunciation is one of the most important churches in the Christian faith. Its exact location is believed to be where the house of Mary stood. It has been built 5 times starting from 4th century AD to its present structure which was built in 1955. The destruction of the church is because of Arab invasion and butchering of Catholic priests. In 2000, the Arabs built a mosque infront of the church. Nazareth by the way is predominantly Muslim though there are Arab Catholics living here .
The Church of Annunciation has two levels and the main entrance to the church is on the 2nd level. The second level church is the local parish church. Inside the upper church are various images of Annunciation from different countries of the world.
The lower level church is the house of Mary and the site of Annunciation. Its center piece is the grotto where angel Gabriel appeared before Mary. Masses are conducted here many times in a day. Pilgrim priests can even say mass here prior to coordination with the parish office.
On the main altar of the grotto reads: “Verbum Caro Hic Factum Est” which when translated to English means “Here the word was made flesh.”
The text is from John 1 14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.
Around the walls of the church compounds are also various images of Annunciation as culturally depicted in other countries. The one from the Philippines is in the main gate of the church’s compound.
MY PERSONAL REFLECTION AT THE CHURCH OF ANNUNCIATION
I reflected on the Annunciation of Mary. Mary was called by God and She obeyed the calling without any hesitations. She took it wholeheartedly even when She knew people will talk about Her bearing a child. And so is Joseph who took the responsibility to be Mary’s husband even when he knew that Mary was immaculate. Both Mary and Joseph obeyed God’s calling. And I take it from there. As a Christian, I should always follow the calling of Jesus and live according to His will. That I remain faithful to the promise of my baptism and be a living witness of His discipleship. That my being a Christian does not end in believing in Jesus Christ but by doing His commandments, living His words and doing my mission of discipleship.
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