The Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth


The entrance of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth
The entrance of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

 

Still on the first day of our Holy Land pilgrimage, we went to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.  The Basilica is in the center of the City of Nazareth along Casa Nova Street.  What biblically transpired on this spot has significant meaning to the Catholic faith.  This is the start of what would be the foundation of our Christian faith – the Immaculate Conception. The Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception of the Child Jesus was announced to her by an Angel. This announcement is better known to Christians as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Basilica enshrines the house of Mary.  It is here where the Angel Gabriel visited her and told her that she is pregnant with the Son of God and that she conceived Him thru the powers of the Holy Spirit.

The Biblical Text of the Annunciation

The bible tells the story of how the immaculate conception was announced to Mary and then to Joseph.  Here, the gospels according to Luke and John, respectively, tell us the story of the Annunciation.

The Angel Appears to Mary

First, there was the appearance of Archangel Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:26-38 :

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[a]29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 

34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”[b] 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

The Annunciation mosaic from the Philippines
The Annunciation mosaic from the Philippines

The Angel Then Appears to Joseph

Next, there was the conversation that Angel Gabriel had with Joseph in Matthew 1:18-22 :

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

(All bible passages were taken from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition NRSVCE)

The Annunciation Church

The existing church was built from 1960 – 1969 from the designs by Architect Giovanni Muzio.  The two-storey basilica is one of the biggest and grandest of churches in the Middle East today.

Before we entered the first storey of the Basilica of the Annunciation,  we went around the church’s patio to look at the numerous mosaics displayed.  The mosaics were presented and donated by countries with significantly huge Marian devotions.  One of the more memorable mosaics for me was the one from the Philippines.  This mosaic touched my heart and made me proud of my birth country.

The mosaic from the Vatican
The mosaic from the Vatican

 

 

My favorite - the mosaic from Indonesia
My favorite – the mosaic from Indonesia

 

More icons from other countries depicting the Virgin Mary by herself and with the Child Jesus
More icons from other countries depicting the Virgin Mary by herself and with the Child Jesus

(If you want to see all the mosaics installed at the Basilica, you can visit this site.)

We then went to study the facade of the church where the statue of Jesus stands on top.  Under the statue are wall carvings pertaining to the Annunciation.  The first one  is of the Angel Gabriel handing the Virgin Mary a lily, the flower symbolizing her purity.  The bible quote “The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.” appears underneath.

Following the Angel and St. Mary figures are the forms of the 4 evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The quote “Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis”  (“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” – John 1:14) is written above the front doors.

We also went to the south side of the church.  The statue of the 14-year-old Mary can be seen over the door.  He also explained to us the reliefs that could be seen on the door.  They were scenes from the life of Jesus and Mary together.

The statue of the 14-year-old Virgin Mary
The statue of the 14-year-old Virgin Mary

 

Our guide, Semi, showing us the relief and explaining the different scenes depicted
Our guide, Semi, showing us the relief and explaining the different scenes depicted

 

The beautiful relief on the south door of the Basilica of the Annunciation
The beautiful relief on the south door of the Basilica of the Annunciation

Architect Muzio wanted the church to reflect the spirituality of the Annunciation.  But he also knew that many people would want to visit the site.  So he designed the church to have two floors.  The first floor contains the house of Mary.  A portion of Mary’s house, where the Angel appeared to her, was made into an altar.  Since there was no Mass when we came, we were able to go have a close look at the altar and take pictures.  There is a circular seating area in front of the altar where you can sit and reflect or pray.

As we enter the first floor of the basilica. On the left side if the grotto of the Annunciation
As we enter the first floor of the basilica. On the left side is the grotto of the Annunciation

 

We lined up to view the grotto. The whole structure on the left is the Virgin's house.
We lined up to view the grotto. The whole structure on the left is the Virgin’s house.

 

The house of Mary. The altar is where the Angel appeared to her.
The house of Mary. The altar is where the Angel appeared to her.

 

The cave and altar, upclose.
The cave and altar, upclose.

 

The first floor of the Basilica of the Annunciation. You can see the brightly-lit second floor above.
The first floor of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. You can see the brightly-lit second floor above.

Bigger masses are held on the second floor of the church.  The dome on the second floor is the church’s source of daytime light.  It is said to resemble a white lily.

The second floor church where they hold their big masses
The second floor church where they hold their big masses

 

The beautiful 2nd floor of the Basilica
The beautiful 2nd floor of the Basilica

 

The mosaic from the USA
The mosaic from the USA

 

The dome alluding to the Virgin's flower - the lily
The dome alluding to the Virgin’s symbolic flower – the lily

St. Joseph’s Church

Once outside, we walked a few steps to another church.  We were told that this was the Church of St. Joseph.  According to our guide, the church was built on top of an archaelogical digging.  They believe that the archaeological site is that of the carpentry workshop of St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary’s husband.  (Altho there are many who say that St. Joseph worked in the Roman City of Sepphoris – a 50-minute walk from Nazareth.)

The statue of St. Joseph greets the visitors on the way to the St. Joseph Church
The statue of St. Joseph greets the visitors on the way to the St. Joseph Church

 

The inscription by the door of the St. Joseph Church inside the Basilica premises
The inscription by the door of the St. Joseph Church inside the Basilica premises

 

A glimpse of the St. Joseph Church altar
A glimpse of the St. Joseph Church altar

 

A painting of the Holy Family during Jesus' earlier days
A painting of the Holy Family during Jesus’ earlier days

 

A side altar that has a stained glass of an older St. Joseph being cared for by the Virgin Mary and Jesus
A side altar that has a stained glass of an older St. Joseph being cared for by the Virgin Mary and Jesus.  It isn’t often that I see a depiction of this scene anywhere. 

Upon entering we went down a stairway which led us to a crypt.  Thru the grills on the floor, you would see caverns and a pit.  Our guide said that this might be a Christian baptistry from the 1st century.

A cave dug by archaelogists showing how nazareth was during Jesus' time. The paper are letters from pilgrims praying for intercessions
A cave dug by archaelogists showing how Nazareth was during Jesus’ time. The papers are letters from pilgrims praying for intercessions

 

A cistern which is said to be a 1st century baptistry
A cistern which is said to be a 1st century baptistry

The caverns underneath give you an idea of what ancient Nazareth might have looked like during Jesus’ time .

A meaningful cloud formation of what looked like a rosary as we headed out. I think Mama Mary is smiling at us.
As we leave the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, a meaningful cloud formation of what looked like a rosary was in the skies. I think Mama Mary is smiling at us.

 

Indeed she is kinda smiling.
Indeed, she looks like she is smiling.

And this is how our first day of our pilgrimage to the Hold Land ended.  We went back to our hotels to have dinner and rest.  The next day would be as historical and knowledge-filled.

The intricate carvings on the floor of the side of the Basilica of the Annunciation
The intricate carvings on the floor of the side of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. It was a tiring day but it was filled with spirituality and knowledge.

Till next time, my lovies…

Our Holy Land pilgrimage was made smooth and possible by L.P. Pilgrimage.  To know more of their upcoming and ongoing pilgrimages, please click on the link of their website, their facebook page, thru the following contact information:
USA
410-897-2538 (Cell)
USA – Georgia Office
Latin Patriarchate Pilgrimages
P.O. Box 2015
Lawrenceville, GA. 30046
Rome
Via Nemorense, 8600199 Roma
Vatican Office and Info Point Terminal Gianicolo 5th Floor
Cell: +39 342 8701187
Nazareth
Paulus 6th Street 82
P.O.Box 50009
Nazareth 1616001
Tel: +972 4 3740055
Fax: +972 4 6019185
Whatsapp / Viber
+972 544439501

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.