We spent the day in Bethlehem, second in line at the Church of the Nativity (behind a group of mostly young Russian widows whose husbands were killed in a mining accident – pray for them as they continue their Holy Land pilgrimage). Some groups wait up to three hours in line just to spend a few minutes at the grotto where Jesus was born and where he was laid in the manger. The birthplace itself is inside a small cave. Pilgrims kneel down and kiss the spot where God in His Fullness first touched the earth. (Click here for today’s photos.)
We were able to celebrate Christmas Mass in the active parish nextdoor to the Nativity, St. Catherine. For some reason, I was chosen to process in before Father and our deacons, holding a life-sized figure of the Christ child. Before the final blessing, I held the figurine in front of the altar so that our group was able to venerate (kiss, touch, etc.) it as a sweet sign of love for the Christ Child.
It’s interesting how all pilgrims – even you who are reading this and spiritually journeying with us – are chosen by God to experience certain special pilgrimage moments. For me, holding the Christ Child figure was one of these. My name being Angela Marie (essentially “Angel of Mary”), it was like God had ‘chosen’ this role for me. As I stood there in front of the altar and saw my fellow pilgrims show their affection for the Baby Jesus, I was reminded that I am called to do this every day; to offer the “Good News” (as the angels put it) that this Messiah is “for all people.”
The day was so full, and I only have four minutes left on my Internet card here in our Jerusalem hotel. But let this be a reminder for you: does your life reflect your baptismal call to offer the Messiah to all peoples?
Merry Christmas, friends. Goodnight from Jerusalem.