Day 9, May 9, 2017
Some of us arose and headed to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at 5:30 so we could beat the crowds. We entered by the anointing table, stopped to pray, and have many items blessed (Pic 1). I placed my wedding ring on the table to have it blessed. From there we went to the place where Jesus was buried (Pic 2).
A Mass was being celebrated inside the tomb area (kind of like the vestibule area). This area was barricaded off for a small private party. I managed to slip through and discreetly join the group. It was a Roman Catholic Mass so I fit right in and joined in the responses. It was exhilarating to celebrate Mass and receive communion in the area just outside the tomb (Pic 3) and then to bend down and climb into the tomb (Pic 4). I prayed there in the place where Jesus was buried and ultimately rose again (Pic 5) for our movement to bring new life to our church and to open the minds and hearts of those resistant to change. I prayed for family and friends and for all who are struggling with conflicts throughout the world. As we’ve had the opportunity to explore various first-century underground caves/homes, we learned that when we hear about the stone of Jesus’ tomb being rolled back, it wasn’t large. Two people could easily roll it back. This is exemplified by a stone we saw under the covenant back in Nazareth (Pic 6).
After breakfast, our first stop of the day in Bethlehem was Shepherds’ field, the place where the angel appeared to the shepherds and guided them to follow the star to the place where the newborn king lay (Pic 7). With no crowds around, our guide directed us down to some underground caves (Pic 8) to help us understand what the “manger” and the “stable” were really like. In first-century homes, the people lived in part of the cave-like house and the animals in another part of the house. The animal portion was the stable. There wasn’t an “inn” as we visualize it. Joseph, who had first lived in Bethlehem, before going to Nazareth most likely to find work, had some familiarity with the town. He found Mary the most suitable place available to give birth to Jesus. The crib was most likely a watering trough for feeding the animals much like we saw back under the convent in Nazareth (Pic 9). We all gathered in the cave where Julius was asked to say a prayer. As the light shown down on him, it felt like a Pentecostal moment.
On the way to the Church of the Nativity, built over the actual place (or close to it) where Jesus was born, we stopped at the separation wall (Pic 11). This is the wall that Israelis have built to protect themselves from Palestinians (Pic 12). One place on the wall says: “built by the U.S.” I wonder if we’d be giving all this money if we could see the “fruit” of our contribution.
The wall is about 3 to 4 stories tall with barbed wire on top and completely imprisons Palestinians inside the wall (Pic 13). In order to go about their daily lives, Palestinians have to go through checkpoints just to live in their own country. I can’t imagine living this way. The media has not given us a real picture of the situation that exists in this country. A one-state solution, a two-state solution? Personally, I don’t see any solution in light of what I see happening here. But in spite of this, we read from Ephesians 2: 11 – 22. “For Christ is our peace, he who has made the two peoples one, destroying in his own flesh the wall – the hatred – which separated us.”