“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

Orthodox Christmas in the Holy Land

This was the first year I did not see Arafat at the Orthodox Christmas service. He usually attends the service with His Beatitude Michel Sabah, the Latin Patriarch and thirteen days later the service with the Greek patriarch. It is very significant that Arafat selects to attend these services because it indicates the cooperation and unity among Muslims and Christians in a Palestinian State. If we are to maintain a Christian presence in the Holy Land it helps when the government validates our existence although we are falling below 2% of the three million Palestinian population. However, we need the Israelis to stop their campaign of ethnic cleansing. Deprive people long enough of their human rights and naturally they will be forced to immigrate to any other country to allow for a pure Jewish state. Sharon killed the idea of co-existence and sharing the land by his constant bombings and shootings.

This was the first year I did not see Arafat at the Orthodox Christmas service. He usually attends the service with His Beatitude Michel Sabah, the Latin Patriarch and thirteen days later the service with the Greek patriarch. It is very significant that Arafat selects to attend these services because it indicates the cooperation and unity among Muslims and Christians in a Palestinian State. If we are to maintain a Christian presence in the Holy Land it helps when the government validates our existence although we are falling below 2% of the three million Palestinian population. However, we need the Israelis to stop their campaign of ethnic cleansing. Deprive people long enough of their human rights and naturally they will be forced to immigrate to any other country to allow for a pure Jewish state. Sharon killed the idea of co-existence and sharing the land by his constant bombings and shootings.

As I entered Bethlehem, the magic of the 2000 millenium celebrations was missing from the air because it looked like a ghost town compared to the crowds, the music, the lights and the movement two years ago. Maybe some of you know that “Bethlehem” means “house of bread” indicating the large wheat fields that were in the area in the time of Christ. It is also symbolic that our Savior, the “Bread of Life” selected this city as His birthplace. And probably you already know that the Israelis wrecked and trashed this holy city during the October Israeli military invasion killing over twenty innocent people. The residents of Bethlehem were terrorized and under virtual house arrest for over ten days. Please make your government officials aware of their blind support to Israel because all the American money and weapons are not being used for security. They are being used for “military occupation” which is terrorism of the worst type.

As I entered the Church of Nativity, originally built in 324 by St. Helen and remodeled by the Emperor Justinian in the mid-6th century, I felt it was not a regular Christmas. Usually, the long lines and the pushing and shoving go all the way to Manger Square and people sometimes forget they are at a holy site when they give each other dirty looks to enter first. This year the church was empty although the Greeks, Syrians, Coptic and Ethiopians were praying at the same time. Three different liturgies take place simultaneously but my favorite liturgy is the one down stairs of the main Church building in the Cave of the Nativity of our Savior. It is usually held in Greek, Arabic and Russian. This is the very spot that gives glory to Christ’s birth marked by a marble slab around a large silver star and ringed by numerous oil lamps. The silver star with the words engraved in Latin, “Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary,” was printed by the Latins in 1717. Also down in this small area in the cave is a designated spot for the “Place of the Manger” which is actually an altar.

It was a blessing to light candles in this very special spot and it was worth the bitter cold and freezing weather to reach this holy site. I felt deep in my heart the words the Pope said during his historic visit to Bethlehem (2000 millennium celebrations) that in the hearts of Christians it is Christmas everyday. It is with this spirit and truth in knowing Christ is born for our salvation that we should live. It is this truth that allows us to see God in each and every human being. It is this truth that allows us to do good works on earth that give Glory to God. May all of you feel the Christmas spirit revealed in this small cave in Bethlehem during this white Christmas in the Holy Land. Christ is Born!

2016-10-24T07:35:26+00:00 January 16th, 2002|Categories: News|