Day 6. The morning was all about the location where Christ was born. The Church of the Nativity was built by Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, in 339 AD. Two sets of steps besides the main altar lead down into the grotto, where Jesus was born. The spot is marked by a large silver Star emblem embedded in white marble in the ground.
The crowds are massive. As one winds one’s way inside the Church, there are amazing mosaics on the walls, and painted columns.
In the main part of Church
Still in main part of Church
Approaching the grotto (side of Church)
During a Pilgrimage, tests can be appear in different forms and shapes
What would one’s temperament normally be when one has to line up for 2.5 hours for a distance of about 200 meters?
During tests, the goal is to remain spiritually calm and centered. Be courteous despite any pushing or line cutting. Engage in fellowship with your companions in the line. Read scripture on your smartphone. Listen to Christian music. Pray (the rosary)!
One member within our group was an elderly lady who needed a cane to walk and could definitely not wait in a crowd for 2.5 hours. Our tour guide escorted her down the exit steps. Some who were exiting shamed her verbally. Clearly, Compassion was needed, not human judgment. She blessed them in return. Compassion and Grace sweetens our surroundings when exercised.
Figure out what works for you, for this and other future situations. It’s a tool that will come handy in life.
Silver Star marks the location revered as the site Jesus was born
Joon bending down, while Ben is getting to her side.
The Manger site
Here’s a hard question. We celebrate Christ’s birth on Christmas Day. Why the need to visit the spot of His birth? Consider this – People visit the preserved homes of past Statesmen or famous personalities, e.g. George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate or Elvis Presley’s Graceland. Christ never had a home but tradition and history had recorded his birth site. In that regard, visiting this site pays homage to Christ. Furthermore, God is the Master of Time. Isn’t it conceivable that our reverence at this same spot may appear historical from our human condition, BUT is present in His Time?
A thought occurred to me a couple of days after this visit to the Church of Nativity. What would our perceptions and experiences be if there were no crowds and lines? If we had just walked up to it? Is the waiting, part of the homage offering?
My memory-seed for this visit would be gratitude beyond measure.
The next and final visit would be the Shepherd’s Field, where the Angels appeared to the shepherds.
A wall mural depicting the Angels approaching the shepherds.
Inside the domed structure.
How would Men in general react and respond if Angels appear once again in today’s world? What have we lost in the name of human centered progress?
Today’s Mass was in a grotto at Shepherd’s Field.
PostScript: My T-Mobile One service plan had worked seamlessly in Tel Aviv, Nazareth and Bethlehem, until we crossed over to the West Bank. At that point, the plan no longer applied and additional international roaming charges would be incurred. Ouch.