Holy Land 2019: A not so silent night in Bethlehem

Photo c/o James Cappabianca

Today, we visited Bethlehem, beginning at Manger Square which stands in front of one of the oldest of Christian churches, the Church of the Nativity. Bending low so as to enter through the Door of Humility, we entered the Church and  descended into the Grotto of the Nativity. Beneath the Altar, a 14 pointed Silver Star marks the exact spot where Jesus was born. Surrounding the spot is the Latin inscription: Hic De Virgine Maria Jesus Christus Natus (Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary). We celebrated Mass in St. Catherine’s Church. Below is a reflection by Lauren Hackman Brooks.

My experience in the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem was far from a “silent night.” 

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Admiring the ongoing restoration of golden mosaics, we wait. And wait. And wait. 

People line up behind us, pressing against us, dripping from the rain, snaking around the construction barriers, talking in various languages, all waiting to visit the site honored as Jesus’ birthplace. We strategically arrange ourselves to keep others from cutting in line or separating us. And, then, finally, arriving at THE place, we are told to hurry along, we are late, and many more people wait behind us. 

We are late for Mass. Some other pilgrims join our congregation. Our prayers are swift. Groups pass through the back of the Church - tour guides clapping for attention, people chattering then shhhhh-ing, cameras flashing. 

This whole scene is enough to make anyone anxious, distracted and annoyed. As these responses arise within me, I sing in my head “Adeste Fideles,” reminding myself that the others here are like me, like us, faithful who have come to adore Him. 

And as I sit in the pew, I am reminded that the Incarnation was not a one-time-thing but is an “always and everywhere, here and now” reality. 

Two thousand years ago, our God entered into this beautiful chaos of our world, here, in Bethlehem. 

And here was our God again, entering into this beautiful chaos of the Basilica of the Nativity in our celebration of the Eucharist. 

And this is why we are here, this is what we are about - to embody God’s loving, liberating presence in the beautiful chaos of our own lives, as individuals, and as Church.

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