The Grotto Of The Annunciation
The Grotto of the Annunciation is the traditional place where the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary in Nazareth. This is another of the sanctuaries that are in the Christian Memorials of the Holy Land. The Grotto of Nazareth bears record to be the exact location in which the events in the Gospel account of the Annunciation took place. It was here that Mary heard the words of the Angel Gabriel. It also was here that she responded out of her heart. This is one of the most important sites for Christian pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. It is a magnificent shrine. The divine encounter and history of this grotto is summed up in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke:
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
On entering the Grotto of the Annunciation, you will see the remains of the natural rock walls that formed the original room. It is amazing how much remains. Because of the humidity, much of the original rock has crumbled over the years. It was replaced with sections of white stonework. The ceiling also underwent a few cosmetic changes in the past. Earlier religious groups wanted to make the Grotto seem like a chapel, so they made it slightly rounded. Recently, several holes were made to ensure good ventilation coming into the grotto. Because of the high humidity inside, it has significant deterioration.
The main altar (shown in the picture above) bears an inscription in Latin: "Verbum caro hic factum est." The translation in English is: "Here" the Word became flesh. Until the latter part of the last century, there were five other altars in the Grotto. There is a small grotto to the north, further inside the Grotto. It is shaped in a half circle and has had an ancient altar within. It was dedicated to Saint Joseph centuries ago. Currently there is a column that holds the tabernacle.
Also visible down in the lower level are the partial remains of the Byzantine and Crusader churches that preceded the Basilica of the Annunciation. These ruins are surprisingly in good shape, considering their age. The original architecture is intriguing! Behind the altar of the Annunciation is a separate grotto. This grotto is thought to be Mary's kitchen. Can you visualize dinner being served? You can get to the grotto by a stairway that is built into the wall off to the side of the main grotto.
Currently, the Basilica of the Annunciation is the parish church for 7,000 Catholics who live in the town of Nazareth. The basilica and the Grotto are two major Holy Sites for Catholic and Protestant pilgrims. It is of interest to all who value the History of the Holy Land. If you haven't made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land or embarked on an Israel Adventure, this would be a great time to book your Holy Land experience. Dust off your bag and locate your passport. See you in the Holy Land.