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26 December 2011

Naim

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The place of the resurrection of the Widow’s son

The village of Naim on the northern slope of Jebel Dahi owes its fame to the Gospel: it is remembered only because it is where Jesus resuscitated the widow’s son. The monuments that have been built in the village and visits by pilgrims and scholars have always been due to this resurrection.

In charge of the sanctuary:
- Convent of the Holy Land
- Basilica of the Holy Annunciation
- P.O.B. 23
- 16100 Nazareth Israel

- Tel.: 04-657.25.01
- Fax: 04-646.02.03

The Christian tradition

“The city of Naim, where the Lord resuscitated the widow’s son, appears until today at the twelfth (actually the fifth) mile of Mount Tabor, near Endor”. With these words, Eusebius of Caesarea, attests that the sacred memory remained in the 4th century. An anonymous account (which can be attributed to the 5th-6th centuries) informs us of the later events, collected by the Benedictine monk Peter the Deacon (12th century): “In the house of the widow whose son was resuscitated, there is now a church, and the grave where they wanted to lay him still exists today.” A “beautiful” church still existed in Naim in the 14th century (Fra Nicolò da Pobbibonsi) but from the 16th century onwards, only ruins are mentioned. The simple and modest present-day church was built in 1881 on the remains of the old one. It has two fine paintings from the end of the 19th century.

The old cemetery must have stretched west of the village, on the slopes of the mountain, where various tombs dug out of the rock can be seen. A Roman stone sarcophagus stands against the façade of the church.

The Franciscans of the Holy Land, not without many difficulties brilliantly described by M. Sodar de Vaulx (translation by Father E. Crivalli, Milan 1891, pp. 473-475). were able to buy the ruins and build a church in Naim. Fra Lievin de Hamme, at that time very active, in the 4th edition of his Guide-Indicateur (3, Jerusalem 1897, p. 87), gives the information succinctly: “Of the old chapel only four pieces of wall remain. The Franciscan fathers quickly built a fine chapel where the former oratory had stood.” A report written at that time and published in the Osservatore Romano, and then in La Terra Santa of Florence (1st May 1882, pp. 94-95), also tells us of the men who successfully built the church: Filippo da Montaltoveglio, guardian of Nazareth, Fr. Giuseppe Baldi, procurator of the Holy Land in Galilee and Pacifico Saleh, dragoman of the Holy Land who took on the majority of the disputes with those who wanted to hinder this work. The narrator also recalls the “head of the village, a very honest Muslim with an excellent heart” who “allowed water to be taken from the only spring nearby and stones to be taken from its bed; all the water and stones necessary for a factory; moreover, they are very scarce there.”

The Place

Topographical map from 1483

Fragment of a map together with the journey by Von Breidenbach:

Plan of the present-day church of Naim consecrated on 31st March 1881.

Biblical readings

Resurrection of the widow’s son

Soon afterward he journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her.

When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, "Do not weep." He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, "Young man, I tell you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, "A great prophet has arisen in our midst," and "God has visited his people." This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.

(Gospel according to Luke 7, 11-17)

Jesus felt pity for a widow, the defenceless and pitiful being par excellence, who was about to bury her only son and her last hope.

His “Do not weep” is not a usual expression of participation in her grief, but the assurance that the reason for her weeping will soon no longer exist. And, having stopped the bier, he gives back to the mother the young man whose life he has just returned with an imperious order.

Here, Jesus is presented by Luke as the eschatological prophet. Like the new Elijah, in fact. It was at the gate of the city that Elijah met the widow of Sarepta and that Jesus encountered the funeral procession of the widow’s son. The boy from Sarepta and the young man from Nain are both their mothers’ only children. As soon as he returned to life, Sarepta’s son “gave out a cry” and the young man from Nain “began to speak”. Lastly, the reaction of faith by the widow of Sarepta and the crowd in Nain is identical.

Elias in Sarepta, a city in Sion

Some time later the son of the mistress of the house fell sick, and his sickness grew more severe until he stopped breathing. So she said to Elijah, "Why have you done this to me, O man of God? Have you come to me to call attention to my guilt and to kill my son?" "Give me your son," Elijah said to her. Taking him from her lap, he carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. He called out to the Lord: "O Lord, my God, will you afflict even the widow with whom I am staying by killing her son?" Then he stretched himself out upon the child three times and called out to the Lord: "O Lord, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child." The Lord heard the prayer of Elijah; the life breath returned to the child’s body and he revived. Taking the child, Elijah brought him down into the house from the upper room and gave him to his mother. "See!" Elijah said to her, "your son is alive." "Now indeed I know that you are a man of God," the woman replied to Elijah. "The word of the Lord comes truly from your mouth."

(I Kings 17, 17-24)

Destined to glory

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

(Letter to the Romans, 8.26b-29)

Celebration of the mystery

Psalm 30 (29): I praise you Lord for you raised me up; Psalm 16 (15): Keep me safe, O God, in you I take refuge.

Prayers

Young man, I tell you, arise (Luke 7, 11-17); See, your son is alive (1 Kings 17, 17-24); all things work for good for those who love God (Romans 8, 26b-29).

Prayers and oration

May God help and protect the people he has chosen and call them to the beatitude of his kingdom. Remembering his benefices, we say: We trust in you, Lord.

We pray to you, Lord, for our Pope N. and for our Patriarch N.,
- guide them and protect them with your Spirit.

Allow our brothers who are ill to feel part of the passion of your Son,
- and share the grace and consolation.

Look on families without a roof with goodness,
- allow them to have a home and a safe place in society.

Give and keep the fruits of the earth and of work,
- so that no man may be deprived of his daily bread.

Let us pray: Great and merciful God. who wanted Jesus, your Son, moved by pity, to restore life to the widow’s son. remove every obstacle from our path towards you, so that, in the serenity of body and spirit, we can devote ourselves freely to your service. For Christ our Lord. Amen.