After leaving Caesarea Marítima, today we are moving to the City of Bethlehem, where the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to the HumanGod, Jesus Christ; but not before passing through the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, where the pilgrims landed to begin our journey through the Holy Land.
Well, we enter the city of Bethlehem. To our surprise, we had to pass a wall, which encloses the entire city of Bethlehem, Palestine; and the reason is that for the government of Israel, Palestinians living in Bethlehem represent a danger to the Israelites; a conflicting issue that has been going on for thousands of years. However, the pilgrims treated us very well, we stayed at the Bethlehem Hotel for the night of our arrival. The next day, we went to see a wonderful place, the Basilica of the Nativity, where the child God was born.
Entering at this Church is a unique experience in our lives. I personally transported myself to the time when Jesus was born; we were there, and we could see, contemplate and even feel the exact place where Emmanuel, God with us, was born. What a special grace, what a wonderful experience; imagine, we were in the same space where angels and wise men came to worship the child God.
Before entering the small cave where the Messiah was born and which has been guarded by the Franciscan Friars since 1347, we celebrate Holy Mass with Bishop Elías Bolaños, our spiritual guide, in a little chapel next to the basilica. It seemed incredible that we were celebrating the Eucharist in that holy place.
Then, Father Artemio, the guardian of the Grotto and the Basilica, asked bishop to sit in the sanctuary to witness the ceremony that the friars and special guests do to go in procession to the holy place; going down to the cave that covers the space where the nativity scene of Bethlehem was placed on which the child-God was placed.
Between songs and prayers, we begin the procession; and upon arriving at the sacred place, after praying, singing and pouring incense; We were invited to reach into the star of David to touch that sacred ground. That was like making a connection in time, clicking the present and past as if time really ceased to exist and had become an eternal present in that instant; It was something really amazing and indescribable
After we touched the place where the Manger was, we could also touch the place where the wise men were, when they offered him the three gifts: gold, for his condition as King, incense for his condition as God and myrrh, which means all he would suffer as a human being to restore our humanity, scourged by original sin. After having finished our tour, we returned to the temple and were able to contemplate the beauty of art as an expression of faith, as well as the devotion of people coming from all over the planet.
A very interesting facet of the history of this basilica of the Nativity is that it was the only Temple the Muslims did not destroy; and the reason is because when they arrived at the building, they found a painted image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which had a face with features of a Muslim woman; therefore, it is the only temple that remains intact since 647 AD.
Although some historians say that the temple of the Persians was also saved from being destroyed in 614 because they found cultural features of them in the devotion and attire of the wise men. From the year 1347, the Franciscans acquired the custody of the grotto of the birth and the Basilica of the Nativity, until today.
Beyond any historical episode that has suffered, the truth is that being in the exact place where our Savior was born is something that marks our lives. Hopefully, if you have one day the opportunity to make this trip, do not hesitate to do it, it is something that is really worth