ARTAS - On September 11th, Mgr William Shomali, General Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, presided over a Mass and Marian procession in the Hortus Conclusus convent, a beautiful monastery located in the village of Artas (Bethlehem region).
In Artas, one can also find Solomon’s Pools, the very place where, according to tradition, King Solomon composed the Song of Songs – hence the convent’s name, “Hortus Conclusus” ("Enclosed Garden"), which comes from a verse of the famous biblical poem. The name of the village itself, Artas, is derived from the Latin word "Hortus". During the late Second Temple period, Solomon's Pools provided water for two aqueducts; one, named the "Low-level Aqueduct", probably built during the first century BC, carried it to cisterns inside the city of Jerusalem, and was still used until about a hundred years ago. As for the second one, the "High-level Aqueduct", it is unclear where its path ended, although some speculate it brought water also to Jerusalem.
Located a few kilometers from the pools, the Hortus Conclusus convent, built in honor of this tradition around the pools of Solomon and the Song of Songs, was entrusted to the Daughters of Our Lady of the Garden by the founder of the place, Mgr Mariano Soler, Archbishop of Montevideo (Uruguay), at the end of the 19th century. Today, it acts as a sanctuary offering retreats open to all who seek a place of silence and peace, and also has a kindergarten that welcomes young local children from the surrounding area all year long.
Yesterday, on Sunday, September 11th, it hosted the celebration of Our Lady of the Enclosed Garden, which saw the participation of seminarians from Beit Jala, scouts from Bethlehem, and many local Christians, including some not so familiar with the Church. “I don’t know much about Masses, but I came anyway because I like this place. It is beautiful and very peaceful,” said one of the participants after Mgr Shomali granted his final blessing to the assembly. “Today made me want to return; the procession especially was lovely. And now I’m curious to know more about celebrations like this.”
 Song of Songs, 4:12: Hortus conclusus soror mea, sponsa, hortus conclusus, fons signatus ("You are a garden enclosed, my sister, my bride; a garden enclosed, a sealed fountain.")