Something Big from Bethlehem
December 1, 2021
“But you, Bethlehem- Ephratath, least among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel” – Mi 5:1
We came into a small, humble town not far from Jerusalem, to what is one of the holiest and most significant destinations – the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Here, Jesus was born, the Messiah, the King of Israel. Here, the Incarnation was fully realized, the majesty of God coming to the world. And yet, he came down in difficult circumstances, born among the animals and laid in a manger, deep under the earth. Christ came to be among us in the lowliest, humblest way. His life was marked by humility, listening to and following his Father’s will. This is a virtue we must learn to integrate into our lives. No matter our achievements, the important positions we gain, or the fame we receive, we are little before God. Only what is done for him is valuable in the eyes of God.
In many ways this was reflected by the architectural features of the church itself. You have to enter an underground crypt in order to venerate the site where he was born, marked by a fourteen point star. The door to the church itself is famously low, where one must stoop down to enter – called the Door of Humility. Lowliness is no source of shame in the Christian life, rather, it directs one towards God.
This is apparent within the life of St. Jerome, who came to Bethlehem to study the Scriptures with Jewish Rabbis and to translate them from Hebrew and Greek into Latin- the Vulgate edition of the Bible, which the Church has used for so many centuries. St. Jerome himself had an experience of humility when earlier in life Christ chided him for living life more as a pagan than a Christian. In the cell where St. Jerome lived our pilgrimage group had Mass. As I served as deacon, I looked up towards the mosaic of St. Jerome with a text of Scripture. Here, St. Jerome created the Vulgate translation of the Scripture with pen and paper, in the same place where the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
May we, wherever we are, learn to find greatness in humility.
Deacon Joseph Nguyen
Diocese of San Jose