Today the pilgrims traveled to Bethlehem where they visited the the birthplace of our Lord in the Church of the Nativity. Outside on a large paved courtyard the pilgrims waited for their turn to enter the church by stooping through the tiny 6th-century door which was made smaller by the Crusaders for reasons of defense...
... and Fr. Todd Schnieder befriended a Palestinian guard.
Once inside, the pilgrims learn just how old parts of this church really are as they are able to view aspects of early Christian basilican construction and see remnants of the mosaic floor from the original church built in the 4th Century.
Along with the awesome opportunity to go downstairs to the Grotto of the Nativity, where a gleaming star on the floor commemorates the place where Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, the pilgrims were able to celebrate Mass in the Church of St. Catherine. This is the church from where the Christmas Eve Mass is broadcast live from Bethlehem each year worldwide.
Chad Crow leads the pilgrims in the Third Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: The Birth of Jesus.
Outside of St. Catherine's Church in the courtyard by a statue of St. Jerome, the pilgrims take a moment to let everything they have just seen absorb before they head out for more.
From there it was a few minutes walk down Milk Grotto Street to the Milk Grotto Church, a holy site that commemorates where Mary fed Jesus. It is believed that the milk of the Blessed Virgin fell to the floor here and permanently whitened the stone.
For many years pilgrims have come here to pray concerning infertility and issues related to being a mother. The pilgrims were very moved in this beautiful place and today some of them lit candles for family members.
Before leaving Bethlehem, the Pilgrims enjoyed a little shopping at a fabulous Christian owned store.
From there the pilgrims went to Yad Vashem, the memorial to the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust from 1933-1945. Here the pilgrims learned from JoAnn that Yad Vashem stands not only as a memorial, but also as a symbol of hope. "It attests not only to the past and potential richness of Jewish community life, but also the will of the Jewish people for survival and reconstruction." (JoAnn Magnuson)
"I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off" (Isaiah 56:5).