Day 3


This morning, at 6:30 a.m., we had Mass at the Holy Sepulchre. Schedules are tight for visiting the Holy Places here because Jerusalem is full of pilgrims. The Holy Sepulchre is the tomb from which Jesus rose from the dead. A big shrine encloses the entire area of Calvary and the tomb, and the tomb itself is enclosed by a small chapel. We had a beautiful and reverent Mass there with some Franciscan friars chanting and emceeing the liturgy. The tomb area itself is very small, and there is only room for a handful of priests to offer Mass at a small altar above the spot where the body of Jesus was laid. The Mass offered for the group started outside of this small chapel enclosing the tomb. Then, for the offertory, the main celebrant went inside to the altar to say the offertory prayers and the other priests joined him for the Eucharistic Prayer. Despite the differences in ages, background and life experiences, all four of us – standing shoulder to shoulder – keenly felt the fraternity of the priesthood. The priesthood is a brotherhood. I have experienced this with my brother priests in many different ways; for example, in the apostolate, at times of relaxation and fun, at Mass, going to confession to one another, and just simply being in the vestry together before and after Mass. There is a beautiful unity in Christ among any group of people serving the Lord. And with the priesthood, I believe there is a special bond because of our work together, but also because of who we are. We are made priests by the Rite of Ordination, configured sacramentally to Our Lord. Catholic priests know that they hand on the “holy things of God” to the people of God. The sacraments and the Gospel do not come from them; they belong to Christ. Jesus is the one High Priest and we are His ministers. The priests are sacramentally configured to Him, to act in His name. We are to be ministers (servants) of the Word, both in the sacraments and in preaching. This unites us because it is not about us as individuals or our own message, for we labor together in the vineyard in His name. The theology of the Catholic priesthood is based upon the fact that all power and authority comes from Him. For us to be together in that room where the Resurrection took place, reminds me that it is His resurrection that gives life. He did the work of our salvation. It is His life that we preach. It is His life that is dispensed in the sacraments. The Resurrection is like an explosion of power that comes to us through the sacraments, which priests offer and receive themselves. The Resurrection is about supernatural life; Divine Life; life that is beyond what this world has to offer. It is a life that evil cannot defeat, that death cannot contain, and that satan cannot kill. It is Divine Life that continues to thrive despite human weakness and brokenness. Neither a fallen world nor the malice of men can stop the power of His Resurrection. What happened in that tiny little tomb is the turning point of all history. New life is poured into our souls and all creation yearns for its coming renewal at the end of time with the Second Coming of Christ. It is a pledge of our future resurrection from the dead, and it gives us a hope that the world cannot imagine.

Day 3 - Part 2

We went to Bethlehem today. This trip is core to any visit to the Holy Land, and there are long lines to get into the Church of the Nativity to prove it. We probably waited around two hours to see the spot where Our Blessed Lord was born. There is a silver star on a marble slab which marks the spot, and the center of the star is cut out and people usually touch the spot with their hand or some sacramental in veneration. As one person in our group commented on how moved she was to see how worn the marble was in that spot. The Church of the Nativity is not a beautiful church. It is badly in need of repair, but people come and wait for hours to touch the place where Jesus was born. Here the Eternal Word came to us by joining our human nature to His Divine Nature. This is the greatest mystery of our faith after the Trinity. It occurred at the annunciation but was fully manifested at the Nativity. God became a child for us. A poor child at that, wrapped in swaddling clothes, born in a manager. He doesn't come as a king in a worldly throne room where I must have some societal status to enter and see Him. He doesn't come like a military commander to be feared. He comes as an infant to be adored. He comes helpless and vulnerable, and the world rages against Him and all children beginning with Herrod and continuing to this day. We are held bound by our fear that God will take something from us, even if it is just being in control of life. The message of Bethlehem is to come and adore Him. Take Him into your life as you would take and welcome a child. God gives Himself to us, and this gift is much greater than anything we can lose in this world. God has made a gift of Himself to us, come let us receive and adore Him!

Day 3 - Photos

The entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the tomb of Jesus)
St. Catherine's Church administered by the franciscans next to the Church of the Nativity
St. Catherine's Church administered by the franciscans next to the Church of the Nativity
Br. Pio at an altar in St. Jerome's cave in Bethlehem.
Br. Pio at an altar in St. Jerome's cave in Bethlehem.
Entrance to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Icon of Our Lady besides the spot of the Nativity of Our Lord

Icon of Our Lady besides the spot of the Nativity of Our Lord

The actual location of the birth of Our Lord.

St. Catherine's of Alexandria located next to the Church of the Nativity, run by Franciscans.

 

Br. Pio looking into a "well" in the courtyard of St. Catherine of Alexandria's Church.

 

Statue of St. Jerome in the courtyard at St. Catherine of Alexandria.

 

"Steve Ray and Fr. Mark swap hats."

 

A cave at Shepherd's field in Bethlehem.