Feast of Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified
BETHLEHEM – on August 26 each year, the Church of the Holy Land celebrates the feast of Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified (Mariam Baouardi) a Palestinian and a Carmelite from the Carmel of Bethlehem who died in 1875. On her feast day at the Carmel of Bethlehem, the Melkite Archbishop of Jerusalem, Msgr. Yousef Zerey presided over the Eucharistic celebration surrounded by a large number of Latin and Melkite priests, in the presence of a crowd of faithful who gathered to celebrate their beloved countrywoman.
Since her beatification by the recently canonized saint, John Paul II, on Nov. 13, 1983, the “Little Arab” is celebrated annually by Christians of the Holy Land on August 26, the day of her birth in heaven.
According to a tradition that began after her beatification, the feast was celebrated one year according to the Latin rite and another in the Byzantine rite, given that Mariam, a Carmelite nun, belonged to a Roman Catholic Order. However, she was born, baptized and raised in the Melkite Church in Abellin, a small village of Galilee.
This year, after lapsing from the tradition for a few years, the Blessed Mariam was celebrated in the Byzantine rite. The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Zerey surrounded by several Melkite priests of the dioceses of Galilee and Jerusalem, and some priests of the Latin Patriarchate, as well as religious from the Carmelites of Haifa. Two choirs provided the sacred liturgical music: choirs from the Melkite and the Latin parishes of Bethlehem.
Many religious from different congregations, apostolic and contemplative, came for the occasion to share the joy of the Carmelite nuns who strive to live the spirituality of Carmel and Christian mysticism, enriched by the experience of the Christian East and West. The seminarians of the Latin Patriarchate of Beit Jala, who had just finished their summer vacation with their families, were also present.
In his homily, the Melkite bishop mentioned a few episodes from the life of Mariam, referring especially to her stay in the mysterious cave in Alexandria, where the Blessed Virgin nursed her for a month after her martyrdom at the hands of a Muslim who drew his sword and slashed her throat; later the wound was stitched by the Blessed Virgin. It happened when she drew back from the advances of a Muslim “friend” who attempted to convert her to Islam. She answered without hesitation: “Muslim! No, never! I am the daughter of the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church, which is the only true one, and I hope, with the grace of God, to persevere in my religion until death.” Christians of the Middle East today, especially those persecuted in Iraq, are without doubt an example of faithfulness to their Faith unto death and unto the Hope of eternal life. A Martyr… why not, if need be? Christ has already told us: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10: 28). For what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul, because he denied Christ? ISIS could possibly kill the body but over the soul they have no power.
The bishop then asked the question: “Why did Mariam enter Carmel? Why was she happy?” And he answered, “Because she loved Jesus with all her heart! It is to this love that every Christian is called. (…) Mariam is blessed because she was humble, very humble. She was always saying, “I am the little nothing.” The world tells us that we must be something. But it is the lack of humility that puts us in conflict with ourselves all the time.” These words remind us of words recent spoken by a Benedictine abbot, of the Abbey of Tournay, who said, “The virtue that is most lacking in our world is humility.”
After the Holy Mass, all were then invited to share refreshments and a time of joyful fellowship at the monastery.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the entire Patriarchate wish the Carmelite Sisters of Bethlehem a blessed and joyful celebration of the foundress of their monastery, praying for her upcoming canonization.