1. Church of the Nativity
The oldest church in the world!!! From the 300s!!!!!! Oh my gooosshhh
a. St. Jerome’s cave
We said a Christmas Midnight Mass in a little grotto next to this tomb. I was able to lector. Farther Daniel spoke in his homily about the humility of God to come in this animal filled cave, and how shocking it is that the Almighty God would choose to save us by coming as a defenseless, useless little baby. I thought about how that is how we ought to be in our communities. Not angry, grumbling for the political defeat of those who disagree with us, depressed about the state of our society — but rather a light of humble love, sweet and gentle. In the eyes of the world such a way seems weak and foolish – how could anything be accomplished this way? But God saved the whole world through the child Jesus. Through faith we can move mountains.
b. Site of Christ’s birth
This was a blessing. We stood in a long line for about 45 minutes before descending down stone steps into an underground cave lined with ornamental tapestries. The church above was quite cold, but down the stairs it was warm. Two at a time we prostated ourselves on the ground : embedded in the stone was a 14-point silver star. Inside and below this star was the stone upon which Jesus was born. I was able to kiss the star and touch my rosary to the stone. Nearby was the place where the manger was. I went through the place like a dream, kneeling, then standing, then kneeling again… I will revisit those moments in my memory many times.
2. Milk Grotto
This grotto is where the holy family stayed after they left the original stable. A drop of Mary’s breastmilk landed on the floor of the cave and turned the rock white. Now many people have reported miracles after drinking some if the powdered rock dissolved in liquid.
3. Lunch with a Palestinian Christian family
No pictures on my phone… I’ll upload one later.
I will write a whole post about this soon! It was a highlight of the trip to eat in this family’s home. They welcomed us and spoke to us about their lives. Raid, a photographer, spoke the best English and said the biggest problem is that it is so hard to leave Bethlehem — an Israeli permit is required and those are hard to get. He also spoke about the scarcity of jobs. Yet he and his large family are happy in Beth Shahour – they are.connected to almost everyone in the town and enjoy strong family ties. I am so glad we were able to spend even just a couple hours focusing on people rather than places – the living stones that mean so much more than any holy site.
4. The Shepherds’ Field
Here were the shepherds when the angel appeared to them and told them of Christ’s birth. There was also a chapel in a cave, where shepherds would keep their flocks overnight. Father Daniel spoke of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and as the Gate. He said that these were much the same thing, for shepherds would lie across the floor of the cave at night to prevent the flock within from escaping. I had never realized thag before.
5. Carmelite convent and Blessed Marie of Jesus Crucified
This woman helped to found this convent here in Bethlehem. It is always inspiring to me to learn about the lives of holy nuns – these are women who truly gave their entire existence to the Lord.
Now we are in Jerusalem! The next three days will be much more intense, both physically and emotionally. I pray I’ll be able to store these treasures up in my heart for later unpacking!!