Next we climbed the stairs to the beautiful Church of the Visitation where Mary “hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:39. Here too, Mary responded praising God in her Magnificat, which is displayed in 65 languages on the garden wall. ... See MoreSee Less
Our first stop today was to visit the birthplace of John the Baptist below the Church of St. John the Baptist, Ein Karem. As we read the scripture together before entering the Church, (currently under renovation) displayed in tile in many languages on the courtyard wall, we were moved with a deep gratitude for the 'loving kindness of the heart of our God'. We each were able to kneel down and venerate this holy place (see the circle under the lower altar in the first photo) ... See MoreSee Less
Kathisma – A place of rest on the way to Bethlehem
Kathisma in Greek means “seat” or “place of rest.” According to the Proto-Gospel of James, the Holy Couple, while on their way from Nazareth, stopped to rest when already approaching Bethlehem, the place where Jesus was born.
A tradition says that the Virgin Mary sat there at the stone of khatisma for a little while and then suddenly some water sprang out of a rock to quench her thirst. Until the 17th century, pilgrims saw a large date palm which, according to the legend, had lowered down its branches to provide shade & fruit for the Mother of God.
The existence of this unique Kathisma church was known from Byzantine literature, but its location was a mystery. Its ruins were completely buried in the grounds of an olive grove until discovered during roadwork in 1992. The second photo is of the mosaics found there. ... See MoreSee Less
After mass we gathered in St. Catherine’s. We had the privilege of joining the Franciscans in vespers & a procession to the Church of the Nativity and down into the cave and manger area where Jesus was born. Each of us returned to kneel at the star and touch the stone top of the cave at the stars center, marking the place of Christ’s birth. ... See MoreSee Less
And then we passed into Bethlehem, this 'House of Bread". We entered the Church of the Nativity and St. Catherine's which is adjacent to it, and made our way below to the Cave of St. Jerome and a small underground chapel on our first day for our first celebration of Mass in the Holy Land.
Here in the caves below, St. Jerome had lived and translated the scriptures into the Latin Vulgate. St. Jerome was so moved by his experience in the Holy Land that he famously said: Five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in books, and the fifth you will find in the land they call holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you. St. Jerome (347-420A D) ... See MoreSee Less
First stop today was Shepherds Field Chapel and Cave. In the cave, which being a cave, has no door, we were reminded that Jesus, born in a place open to all, calls us to also be welcoming and hospitable, open to all persons. By opening the door of our hearts and lives, may we become Sentinels tending to the open door of gods mercy… ... See MoreSee Less