Bethlehem Holy Land Tour: Church of Nativity
So our Bethlehem Holy Land Tour will commence at the very beginning. In other words the Nativity of Jesus. Now the Nativity of Jesus is described in the Biblical Gospels of Luke and Matthew. Both gospels place the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in Judea, his mother Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph; who was descended from King David and was not his biological father; and his birth was caused by divine intervention. Furthermore, the Gospel of Luke states that Mary gave birth to Jesus and placed him in the manger “because there was no place for them in the inn”.
Bethlehem Holy Land Tour: A Little About Bethlehem
Now till the third century, C.E Bethlehem was a small village and quite unimportant. Indeed there was a grotto in the hamlet that was sacred to the first Christians as the birthplace of Jesus. But it was also used according to St. Jerome as a pagan place of worship.
The Grotto in the Church of the Nativity is the oldest site continuously used as a place of worship in Christianity. And the Basilica is the oldest major church in the Holy Land. The Church was originally commissioned by Constantine the Great a short time after his mother Helena’s visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem in 324-326; on the site that was traditionally considered to be the birthplace of Jesus. On our private tour of the Church of Nativity, we would explore the Church extensively including The different Grottos (Like the nearby Milk Grotto); Church of St. Catherine.
Bethlehem Holy Land Tour: Chapel of Shepherd’s Field
The Annunciation to the shepherds is an episode in the Nativity of Jesus described in the Bible in Luke 2, in which Angels tell a group of shepherds about the birth of Jesus. The Biblical account narrates that shepherds were tending their flocks out in the countryside near Bethlehem when they were terrified by the appearance of an angel. The angel explains that he has a message of good news for all people; namely that:
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger.”(Luke, Chapter 2)
After this, a great many more angels appear, praising God with the words:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven; and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”(Luke, Chapter 2)
Deciding to do as the angel has said; the shepherds travel to Bethlehem and find Mary and Joseph and the infant Jesus lying in the manger, just as they had been told. The adoration of the shepherds follows.
In fact, the New Testament does not specify the exact location where the Angel appeared to the shepherds. In other words, in the 1950s a chapel was built by Antonio Barluzzi that shows only the traditional location. Now in the excavations that were conducted on the site; the remains of two ancient monasteries were found and pottery dated to the 2nd Temple Period demonstrates that the site was populated in those days.
Bethlehem Holy Land Tour: The Holy Lavra of St. Sabbas
Finally, our last stop in our guided private tour of Bethlehem would the Monastery Mar Saba overlooking the Kidron Valley; at a point halfway between the Old City of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. Interestingly, the monastery was founded by Sabbas the Sanctified in the year 483 CE. Today, the complex houses around twenty monks. Also, it is considered to be one of the oldest inhabited monasteries in the world, and still maintains many of its ancient traditions.
The monastery holds the relics of St. Sabbas. The relics were seized by the Latin Crusaders in the 12th century. And remained in Italy until Pope Paul VI returned them to the monastery in 1965 as a gesture of repentance and goodwill towards Orthodox Christians.