Holy Land Pilgrimage

Learning Practical Humility

January 22, 2020

The door into the Church of the Nativity, as you might know, is quite small. This narrow and short opening was originally constructed to prevent soldiers from riding their horses into the sacred space. However, this practical decision, out of reverence for the birthplace of Jesus, has wider implications. The tiny entrance forced us to lower ourselves before encountering the place of the Christ’s birth. This physical action of bending as we entered reminded us who we would be be encountering inside. Before we could meet Jesus in this holy place, we had to throw off pride and selfishness and put on the virtue of humility. Appropriately, the entry into the Church of the Nativity is called the “Door of Humility.” Through this action, we say in our hearts, “Jesus, you are the savior of the world. I am weak and sinful and I need you, Jesus!”

We waited in line to reverence the place where Mary gave birth to Jesus, the spot where she laid Jesus in the manger, and the location where the Magi visited the Holy Family. Before I entered, I noticed an image of the crucified Christ hanging above the steps that descended into the space of the Nativity. I was powerfully reminded that Jesus loves us so much that he came and died for us! I descended the steps with holy fear and, when I bow down to kiss the spot of Jesus’ birth, I was filled with love. All I could think was, “And the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us.” (Jn 1:14)

Turning around and moving a few feet from the spot of Jesus’ spot was the to place of the manger. I thought of what the angel said to the shepherds on that holy night, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” (Lk 2:12) What a strange but beautiful sign of God’s wondrous love for us! So vulnerable, so humble – just like Jesus exposed and hanging on the cross. That experience of holy fear came over me again; I experienced God’s love for me and the whole world in a special way at this holy site (thank you, Jesus!).

However, I do not know if I would have had this profound experience unless I had first lowered myself through the “Door of Humility.” I had to first remind myself of who I was coming to see. Jesus, you are the savior of the world, not me. I am weak and sinful and I need you, Jesus! Perhaps this tiny entrance is more practical today than we think… The most practical thing we can do to truly love God and one another is to first stop the horses of our pride and selfishness from entering our hearts and put on the virtue of humility.

Martin Coolidge
Archdiocese of Dubuque

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