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4th Sunday of Advent (C)

Find You ‘Ein Karim’

LUKE 1:39–45

by Abbot John Pereira OSB

“Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah” (Lk 1:39)

The name of the place to which Mary ran to meet her cousin Elizabeth is called Ein Karim and is the birthplace of John the Baptist. It is at the top of a mountain and the road is steep. It is 150 kilometres from Nazareth to Ein Karim along stony tracks. It is a difficult journey.

The name of the village means “spring of the vineyard” and its spring waters are considered holy by some Catholic and Orthodox Christian pilgrims who visit the site and fill bottles with its waters.

Water is a symbol of life and there are many places in the Bible where springs indicate the presence of new life.

After Abraham had rejected the mother of his child, Hagar, and sent her off into the wilderness, God did not abandon her. We are told that God opened the eyes of Hagar in the wilderness and showed her a well of water (Gen 21:19). She filled the skin with the water and gave the boy, Ishmael, to drink. Abraham may have rejected the mother of his son, but God did not reject Hagar.

God always shows us a spring in the wilderness. There is always an Ein Karim where there is life, and where there is hope.

The physical presence of a water spring in the place where Mary and Elizabeth met is an indication of a type of life that is even more gracious when two persons come together to celebrate life and joy.

In the life of each one of us, there is a “spring of the vineyard”, a place where life is shared and given, an Ein Karim.

This happens when persons receive each other in love and friendship, just as Elizabeth and Mary reached out to each other in love. There is an Ein Karim that each of us needs to discover in our own lives. It is the place of encounter, where we stop thinking primarily of ourselves and we start thinking of the other first.

Whenever we reach out to someone in need, we are like Mary reaching out to her cousin Elizabeth and we have encountered our own Ein Karim.

During this Advent season, we are reminded that there is always an Ein Karim, a place of encounter, a place of life and of hope.

It is for us to discover our own Ein Karim as we seek to welcome the Christ Child in our midst. And that place of encounter can only be arrived at if we forgot our own little concerns and go out like Mary along that difficult and stony path to meet the other in need, and to share the Christ in us with all whom we meet. This is how we can prepare for Christmas.


Heavenly Father, I trust in You. When Mary had heard that her cousin Elizabeth was also with child and needed help, she immediately set out with great haste. Mary had just conceived at the Annunciation and had her own concerns to deal with. But she ran to meet her cousin and to bring Jesus to her.

Help me to be like Mary. Help me to run with haste when I am made aware of the need of another. Please help me to find my own Ein Karim, my own place of encounter, where I can experience life, hope, and LOVE. Amen.

The gospel reflections for December are by Abbot John Pereira OSB of the Abbey of Our Lady of Exile, Mount St Benedict.