Friday, 26 December 2008

Images from Bethlehem, Christmas 2008

Here are some passages from the homily of His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem during Midnight Mass in Bethlehem. There are also some pictures of the celebrations and the Bambino in the real manger. Biretta tip to the Custodia of the Holy Land for the images.
...On this night, the silence of the grotto will be even louder than the voice of the canons and submachine guns. The silence of the grotto gives life to those whose voice has been suffocated by tears and who have sought refuge in silence and impotence...Peace is a right for all men. It is also the solution for all conflicts and differences. War does not produce peace, prisons do not guarantee stability. The highest of walls do not assure security. Neither the aggressor nor the aggressed enjoy peace. Peace is a gift of God and only God can give that peace: "My peace I give to you" Jesus says. "I do not give to you as the world gives" (Jn 14:27).
Oh Child of Bethlehem, our wait has been long and we are worn out by our situation, we are tired of ourselves too. We seek after everything except You, we cling to everything except You, we listen to everything except to You… We are taken in by beautiful speeches and promises. The cry of the widows and the children is mixed with the noise of canons and submachine guns, we tear the heart and shatter the silence of the grotto and of the crèche. We have a great need for calm, for silence! We have a great need for peace! Of that we are sure! However, more than anything else, we need childhood and innocence. You, the poor one, despite Your smallness, Your weakness and Your poverty, You alone are able to give us what we lack. O Child of Bethlehem, come so that the feast might be more a feast!
Welcome to You, who teaches us that love is a continuing martyrdom, and that the martyr for love, for peace and for justice never dies.
Welcome to You, who reminds us that richness is in giving and in reconciliation, that greatness resides in humility and gentleness.
Welcome to You who reminds us by your birth and by your death that only love constructs, and that its power is mightier than all because it becomes food for the hungry, clothing for the naked and an extended hand to all men, healing and reconciling, beyond all divisions, barriers and hatred.
On this blessed night, we launch an appeal for pardon to all nations, all individuals and families. May God who forgives us our sins, give us the courage, the power and the love to pardon those who have trespassed against us.
Peace to Bethlehem and all the inhabitants of the Holy Land.
Peace to all pilgrims and visitors.
Peace to all who seek peace.
The Patriarch arrives in Bethlehem around 3pm of Christmas Eve
The Patriarch enters the Basilica of St Catherine next to the Holy Manger
His Beatitude visits the Holy Manger before I Vespers
I Vespers of Christmas in Bethlehem
Bethlehem before Midnight Mass
The Patriarch places the Bambino on the place where Christ was really born

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