“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” – Luke 1:39-40
Ein Karem, or The Spring of Generosity, is a charming town nestled in the Judean hills. Located just seven kilometres west of central Jerusalem, it is now a neighbourhood of that city. It is here that the priest, Zechariah, and his wife, Elizabeth (Mary’s relative) made their home.1
Priests of that time tended to be very prosperous, and Zechariah and Elizabeth had two dwellings in Ein Karem. Their home in the valley was where they lived during most of the year. It was here that their son, John, was born. The 17th century Church of St. John the Baptist was built over the grotto of John’s birthplace, replacing earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches.
Zechariah also had a home high up on the hillside – a place where he and Elizabeth could escape the heat and humidity of the hot summer months. According to tradition, it was at this house that Mary and Elizabeth met at the time of Mary’s Visitation.
But before she got there, Mary had to endure a hot and dusty journey over barren, rocky countryside. She lived in Nazareth, and the distance between her hometown and Ein Karem is over 100 kilometres. According to tradition, Mary rested at the bottom of the hill for a drink of water – at Mary’s Spring – before making the final climb to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s summer home.
The Church of the Visitation commemorates Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. It also contains the grotto where Elizabeth hid with the infant John to escape the Massacre of the Innocents.2
Around its courtyard, the Magnificat – the words that Mary spoke when she met Elizabeth – is found in many languages. As we paused here to pray the Rosary together, we offered up a prayer of gratitude to God. We thanked Him for choosing John the Baptist to prepare the way for His coming and for the gift of Mary, His Blessed Mother.
– Sharon van der Sloot
“Elizabeth says: Blessed are you because you have believed. You also are blessed because you have heard and believed. A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God and acknowledges his works. Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith.”3 – St. Ambrose
1 See Luke 1:5-25.
2 “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men.” (Matthew 2:16)
3 Saint Ambrose, “From a commentary on Luke,” Lib 2, 19.22-23, 26-27: CCL 14, 39-42.