The sun is setting here in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and there’s a great sense of anticipation. There were many people out and about in the street today. Most of the excitement surrounded the arrival of a certain you know who all dressed in red. That’s right, the Patriarch has come to town. His Beatitude Michael arrived just this afternoon in preparation for Midnight Mass tonight. The Patriarch of Jerusalem is the Catholic Archbishop of what is basically the Holy Land. It was really something to behold. There was a big parade with many of the local scout troops playing drums and bagpipes and marching in procession. I enjoyed seeing the scouts from all over. We heard them practicing all week. I almost wanted to put on my uniform and join in.
The Patriarch will be the celebrant tonight at St. Catherine’s (The Church of the Nativity is Greek Orthodox and it’s not Christmas yet for them…long story…tell you later). Unfortunately the Mass at St. Catherine’s, which is at Manger Square, is for ticket-holders only and you basically have to be a major political dignitary to get in. Everyone else just gets to stand in the square. So, instead of standing there without getting to go to Mass we will be having Mass in English with the Papal Nuncio at Bethlehem University. I and some of the other seminarians will be singing in the choir and it should be very lovely. Then, tomorrow morning we will go and have Mass down in the grotto where Jesus was born. It is really quite a priviledge to be in this holy place at this special time of year. This will be a Christmas that I will not soon forget and hopefully one that I will be able to share in many Christmas homilies to come. May the peace of Christmas come to the Holy Land and to you and your famlies this Christmas night.