Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 3
Photos by Lisa Nelson and Ucheoma Longe
Today we moved from Tiberias to Jerusalem. Our day started with a wonderful breakfast, then our visit to the place where people get baptized in the Jordan. It’s not “the” place where Jesus was baptized - that specific location is unknown.
Then we headed to Bethlehem, in the West Bank, where we visited the olive wood factory and had a wonderful lunch of “upside down chicken” after that, it was all about the churches, beginning with The Basilica of the Nativity - the grotto which is the birthplace of Jesus and has been continuously used as a place of worship for 1700 years. The Basilica is also the oldest major church in the Holy Land. The grotto is comprised of two caves. The church, originally dedicated in 339 AD, is home to three different religious communities - Roman Catholic, Armenian, and Greek Orthodox, who operate under a 250 year old agreement termed “The Status Quo”. Each religious section of the structure is unique in style and representation of faith and all are beautiful but the thing that struck me the most was this….Jesus was BORN here in this place….before a church building ever existed, he was born HERE to save us all. A little baby boy who grew up and lived and died as one of us. In this simple small town. What a wonder-filled event that is!
Next we visited the Shepherd’s Field Chapel in the Bet Sahour area. The chapel marks the place where, according to Catholic tradition, angels first announced the birth of Christ.
Onward to the Church of the Visitation - the tradition holds that this is the site of Zachariah and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist. This is where Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth and told her she was with child and Elizabeth told her “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” She went on to say that her baby jumped with gladness at the sound of Mary's voice and she and Mary shared joy and laughter together!
The last church was the Basilica of John the Baptist - it was being renovated but we were still able to see the grotto where tradition says he was born.
All of these places evoked a sense of awe, wonder and strong emotion for many of our group. For me, the highlight was Mary and Elizabeth. Being the mother of two boys, I can relate!
We ended the hot day of touring with that time honored summer treat….ice cream!