Today is the day many churches celebrate the Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I thought it would be a good idea to focus on Nazareth and the life of Mary.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Israel for the first time. We visited the sites around the Sea of Galilee for the first few day of the pilgrimage. As we made our way to the Old City, Jerusalem, we had the opportunity to visit Nazareth.
As Christians, we associate Nazareth with the childhood of Jesus and where he grew up. Luke’s writes, “When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.” But, before Jesus birth, Nazareth was just a small town midway between the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee.
It is believed that Mary grew up in Bethlehem and that she visited a particular well every day, to get water. This site can still be visited today and is appropriately recognized as “Mary’s Well.” Today, it is located inside a small church (see below).
One of the other most visited pilgrimage sites in the city is the Basilica of the Annunciation. It has long been considered the site of Mary’s home and where the Angel Gabriel visited her and announced that she would conceive and bear the Son of God. (I have included a few photos I took of both the inside and outside of the Basilica.)
No matter which place is the actual site of the event, having the chance to walk in Nazareth and visit the places where multitudes of pilgrims have come to pray, is so much more important than the actual biblical location. Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived, worked, and worshiped here and we can too. If you have the chance to visit Nazareth, you may even want to say this ancient prayer, dating from the 4th century and attributed to St. Athanasius:
Today is the beginning of our salvation,
And the revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
“Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”