Category Archives: Israel

Multiple Marian cultures

The international feel of Israel was not a surprise. Experiencing the Mediterranean climate and food, the Europe-like culture, and even some American-like strip malls or falafel fast food joints and the mixture of people brought this message home to me.

Attending a Mass said in Arabic by a Brazilian priest, a solitary soul amidst a teen pilgrim group, in a quiet, hidden chapel  in this most famous church of all

P1020800a few meters away from the place of Crucifixion was just one quietly spectacular instance of this.P1020806

But perhaps the most interesting of all was my visit to “the largest Christian sanctuary in the Middle East” in  Nazareth, where a Basilica of the Annunciation sprang up centuries ago on a site where the Virgin Mary was believed to have lived.

The church itself is an interesting modern structure, a monumental block of concrete and cement P1020687

dwarfing the original, stone cave or grotto supposedly from a few years BC


But for me the most fascinating was walking around outside

P1020678 seeing the Latin Ave Maria cut into the church stone


and finally hiding in the shade of the courtyard awning to go on a global pilgrimage through believers’ minds by observing their representations of Jesus’ mother.


First the homage paid by Her native city

P1020661then an example of Portuguese piety expressed in azulejos


A more fiery interpretation by Croatia

Spain has a strangely non-Castilian language… could it be the fierce regional identity shining through in Catalan?


Apparently, regionalism is key:


Of course the US must burst upon the scene in the full silver glory and technicolor of a Disney-like heroine, sweeping all else off the scene to the opening credits


Japan stands her ground calmly, undeterred:


Sri Lanka continues the message of beauty in calmness


But what now? There is even a Madonna from a non-existent country, proof of the strength of a belief in the power of one universal language – or rather proof of the universal hope in hope?


‘Tis perhaps a hope not to be hoped for,  a sad Greece recognizes


but Poland begs to differ –


For as long as there are people of good will, and gratitude, perhaps all is not lost.