THE FEAST OF HORTUS CONCLUSUS
“A garden enclosed is my sister, my bride, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed..” This passage from the Song of Songs is linked with the Hortus Conclusus, a traditional plot where monks, in the Middle Ages, cultivated trees and plants for food and medicines.And it is this kind of image that presents itself as one approaches the Hortus sanctuary, south of Bethlehem. In an area inhabited mostly by Moslems, history places the gardens of King Solomon, and here, last Sunday, the four hundredth anniversary of the appearance of Mary, Queen of the Garden, was celebrated. Many local Christians visited the sanctuary facing the garden, which eventually became a place almost identified with characterize Mary.Sister MARIA ROSA DE TOROHortus Conclusus Sanctuary – Horts (Bethlehem)“You are an enclosed garden; a sealed fountain.” This is the reason for our presence here in the Holy Land, because this is the valley of Hortas where, according to tradition, King Solomon kept a garden, and where the Song of Songs was inspired. We venerate Mary as a “an Enclosed Garden and sealed fountain”, for just as the Garden of Eden was an “open garden” into which the devil and sin came, Mary is an “Enclosed Garden” – closed to sin and to everything that is not included in God’s plan.Bishop William Shomali presided over the celebration for the Giannelline Sisters, who live at the convent and maintain this isolated sanctuary and garden. Following the Mass, a statue of Our Lady of the Garden was carried in procession over a bridge across the cultivated area, and for all on this day, the Virgin Mary, a veritable Garden Closed to Sin, was suitably venerated.WILLIAM SHOMALIAuxiliary Bishop of JerusalemWhat is most important to us is that Mary is a Mother and a Disciple … and a Mediatrix between us and Christ. Mary is indeed a Mother, as she was named so at the foot of the Cross.In 1901 the sisters assumed responsibility for the Hortus Conclusion, and later for the adjacent orphanage. Since then many children have been cared for by the sisters. Today more than a hundred are looked after here, among them, Eveline, a Jordanian, who never misses the annual feast.Former orphan.If I ask something of Our Lady of the Garden, she gives it to me immediately. I love the Blessed Virgin so much. I spent many years praying to be able to come back here. Eventually a priest – my spiritual guide – enabled me to come here for two or three days, at a time when I told my husband that I wanted to be here every year for the feast, to pray and to give thanks. For the last five years this has indeed been possible.