In the field where the angels appeared to give the good news of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds of Bethlehem and in the square, many people, from all over the world, of different languages and cultures, join the voices of the angels singing “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men of good will “. Our Savior is born.
This is the atmosphere among the pilgrims and local Christians in the holy night in Bethlehem.
Fr. FRANCESCO PATTON, ofm
Custos of the Holy Land
“The message of the angels, the message of their song in the first Christmas night in Bethlehem when Jesus was born: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among those whom he loves.” We must always remember that if we are to have peace on earth, we must recognize who God is, we must recognize that He is in the highest. At the same time we need to feel loved by Him. When we feel loved by Him we are not afraid, we experience peace within, and when we experience the inner peace we are also able to give it to others. Merry Christmas.”
This year, in the courtyard of St. Catherine Church, there is a nativity set with a special story: it is a gift made to the Custody by the Italian region of Trentino that also donated a wooden sculpture depicting Bethlehem to the President of the State of Palestine Abu Mazen.
Councilor – Province of Trento – Italy
“This time, the Italian region of Trentino brought different things: firstly this life-size nativity scene you see back here. We also brought a gift from Pope Francis, another Nativity scene for the Custos. We also chose to give a present to the President Abu Mazen because this Christmas spirit that flourishes in the name of peace must help us to work together for peace among peoples and among the nations.”
Once cleared by strict safety controls, it is time for the solemn Christmas Mass, presided over by the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa.
Among the many religious and civil authorities involved in the celebration, was the President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas.
The homily of Mons. Pizzaballa starts with this biblical quote: The Apostolic Administrator declares: “We are afraid of what is happening in the world, our hopes are wrecked in the midst of corruption, money empire, sectarian violence, fear.” But also: “salvation and peace, reconciliation and harmony are blessings we must pray for, we must ask Him, whom we praise, precisely on this holy night: the Prince of Peace.”
After Mass, the traditional procession in the Grotto of the Nativity took place in St. Catherine Church.
Following a beautiful liturgy, the Baby Jesus is placed on the star that indicates the place of his birth and then in the manger. After this ritual, Masses are celebrated all night and all the next day.
From the homily of Mons. Pizzaballa on this holy night: “Christmas is the announcement of salvation which is waiting to be accepted in order to be achieved. The door is open, our freedom is invited in. God, through the rites and prayers tonight, still comes to meet men and asks: Where are you? Will we cross the threshold? It is an invitation to man and society, to politics and wealth, to the poor and the powerful of this world. The answer is not written in the stars, but in our free and responsible choices.”
Source: CMC Terra Sancta