The Church of the Holy Land enters into Advent
Bethlehem – It is a symbolic event, very colorful, and enthusiastically anticipated every year: the entry into Bethlehem of the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa ofm, marking the beginning of the Advent celebrations.
Along a route established for centuries, the long procession of vehicles had left Jerusalem in the morning, then made a stop at the Orthodox Monastery of Mar Elias, where Christians from Beit Jala were waiting, before driving to the Separation Wall and arriving in Bethlehem.
In the courtyard of the Basilica of the Nativity and in a festive atmosphere, Father Pizzaballa was welcomed by civil authorities: Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun, religious leaders, Franciscan friars, scouts and a cheering crowd of students from Terra Sancta School.
After greeting the Armenian and Orthodox representatives who are also co-custodians of the Basilica of the Nativity, the Custos entered through the Basilica’s door of humility and walked to the Church of Saint Catherine where he was vested and officially welcomed by Father Ricardo Bustos ofm, guardian of the Sanctuary. The singing of the Te Deum followed and a word of welcome from the parish priest, Father Nerwan Nasser Al-Banna ofm.
The first vespers were sung in the afternoon; during the singing of the the Magnificat, Father Pizzaballa incensed the site of the Nativity and the Manger. It is with the light of the crib that the first candle of the Advent Wreath was lit. A flame symbolizing hope and prayerful waiting, the attitudes befitting this liturgical time of preparation for the coming of Christ, “Light of the Nations”.
Photos : Thomas Charriere
The arrival of the Custos:
The entry to St. Catherine Church:
The first vespers: