From Solomon's Pools we came to Artas. Here, against a lovely hillside and on one bank of the Wadi coming down from Solomon's Pools, we have the beautiful convent and Shrine of Our Lady of the Garden, Our Lady of the Hortus Conclusus. See the Song of Songs 4:12: You are an enclosed garden and a sealed fountain, hortus conclusus et fons signatus.
The fons signatus is identified with a perpetual fountain just outside of the Convent.
Both Hortus Conclusus and Fons Signatus are names for Mary in the tradition. They indicate her virginity and her total consecration to God.
Sr Maria Rosa, superior of the convent, impressed us with her joy and simplicity. She, who had been a teacher of philosophy and theology, came to Artas and learned nursing as well as Arabic, so as to minister to the people of Artas. "We have to open our hearts, we have to make them canals for Jesus to enter - when he wants, as he wants, how he wants. We have to be really servants." What a wonderful description of diakonia, I thought.
The painting of Mary holding the child Jesus is remarkable: Mary holds the child's hands and guides it to bless. Berakhah once again.
And Hortus Conclusus is wonderful, with all the background of the Song of Songs, immortal book, the book of love, the Love which is God, and the love that must flow in our hearts. A wonderful point to begin my ministry, I thought, the ministry of animating formation for the congregation. With Mary, the Hortus Conclusus, the Enclosed Garden that is not Enclosed but absolutely Fruitful. The work of forming hearts. Don Bosco's way, the way of the heart.