NAZARETH – If all Marian feasts are celebrated in Nazareth with a special solemnity, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is the most popular, after the Annunciation. The faith who gathered for the celebration were numerous this year, as they also greeted Bishop Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Israel for 23 years, who will soon take up his new mission as Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem.
Traditionally, a Carmelite priest of Haifa, usually the parish priest presides at the Mass concelebrated by other Carmelite Fathers, Franciscans and other religious of Galilee, with pontifical assistance from the Latin Patriarchal Vicar who delivers the homily and imparts the final blessing. This year the presider was Fr. Raed Abusahliah, the next parish priest of Reineh and the patriarchal institutions in Haifa, who for the time being replaced the Carmelite priest of Haifa.
The particularly large crowd – despite the fact that the celebration is on a Tuesday – was made up of faithful from Nazareth and from all over Galilee, some from the Ramallah and Jerusalem. Many pilgrims were happily surprised to be part of this celebration. Some are local Christians who had emigrated abroad and are visiting their parents and families, they are joyfully rediscovering the Christian traditions of their childhood
In his homily, Bishop Marcuzzo, gave the faithful the fundamental reasons for the dogma of the Assumption, thereby recalling the pastoral and spiritual lessons of this feast for our life in the Holy Land. “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a sign and an occasion to renew the reasons for our hope, the foundation of our eternal union with the risen Christ, the motive for our joy and moral strength despite many situations that brings sadness, discouragement and rejection”.
At the end of the ceremony, the Bishop spoke once more and asked all for a special prayer for the new ministry to which he has been called as the new Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and for his successor Father Hanna Kildani who will soon arrive as Patriarchal Vicar for Israel. Visibly moved, he warmly thanked all the faithful, priests, religious for the past 23 years of intense pastoral collaboration and profound ecclesial communion that he lived in Nazareth as Patriarchal Vicar for Israel.
At the end of the Mass, the crowd gathered to participate in the “Sahjeh”, a popular dance that imitates “the struggle against the dragon”, which the Apocalypse speaks of when reading the liturgy. The Latin Catholics were the first to perform it, then the dance leaders passed on to the Melkites and then to the Maronites to repeat this Marian and ecumenical folklore that is typical of Nazareth.
Our correspondent in Nazareth
Photos: W. P.