Holy Land Pilgrimage

Merry (still) Christmas! And Happy New Year!

January 1, 2023

Happy New Year to everyone back home! Today not only begins a new year, but is the final day of the Christmas-Octave in the Latin Church’s liturgical calendar. As such, we reminisce on what a blessed year and Christmas this has been. For us, the Christmas festivities began eight days ago  with an excursion to the city of our Savior’s birth.  In Bethlehem, things are done in no small fashion to re-welcome Jesus into their town:


Festivities begin at noon on Christmas Eve with a massive parade; dozens of youth marching bands, dancers, and baton-twirlers flow down the crowded streets lined with locals, tourists, and vendors alike. The very last entry in the parade is the Latin Patriarch himself (equivalent to the Archbishop) who concludes the parade at around 3 pm at the Church of the Nativity.

The celebration at the Church of the Nativity resumes at 10 pm with music and prayer in a multitude of languages. This prayerful prelude lasts for nearly two hours, when bells suddenly resound into the night sky. This sudden blast of joy marks the beginning of Midnight Mass – Christmas has officially arrived! The Mass was celebrated in Arabic, Latin, and English. What the lowly shepherds ran to see back then, thousands of pilgrims from every corner of the world now re-live. The convergence of all time, space, and history on the event of Jesus’ birth is tangibly experienced in this sacred place. As the priest distributed Communion, it was as if Mary and Joseph were there handing us their newborn Son. At the conclusion of Mass, the Patriarch carried a ceramic baby Jesus downstairs to the crypt chapel to what is believed to be the very manger (a stone animal feeding trough) where the newborn Jesus was once placed.

Once the Vigil Mass concluded, around 2:30 am, we continued our celebrations with appetizers and champagne at the local seminary in the town of Beit Jala, on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Despite this being one of their busiest weekends of the year, the faculty and seminarians of the Latin Patriarchate were more than happy to welcome us into their home from ½ way around the world. Good for us, there was in fact room at their inn for us that night!

Celebrating Christmas at the exact location of the Lord Jesus’ birth was an experience that none of us will forget, and it was made possible by the immense generosity and faithfulness of the people of Bethlehem. As we celebrate this Christmas season, may our own faith drive us to generosity as we witness what the Incarnate Son of God has done for us.


By: Kyle Rink

Archdiocese of Seattle






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