2013
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Feast of the Epiphany – We have come from the East to worship the King of kings (cf. Mt 2:2)

Bethlehem January 5-6, 2013

We have come from the East to worship the King of kings (cf. Mt 2:2)

Epiphany, the first manifestation of Christ to humanity, is celebrated each year during the Christmas season.
On January 5-6, Bethlehem is festively decorated in commemoration of the visit of the Magi to the manger.
The festivities began on Saturday morning, with the solemn Entrance into Bethlehem by Fra Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, accompanied by the Franciscan friars and parishioners of Jerusalem.
The procession stopped first at the Monastery of St. Elias, to exchange greetings with representatives of the Israeli authorities, the Mayor of Beit Jala and the parish community.
The procession then passed through the separation wall, continuing through the streets of the old city to Nativity Square, where it was received by the Palestinian authorities, many friars and Scouts. At the door of the Basilica, priests of the Orthodox Church and of the Armenian Church greeted its members. Finally, the Custos was welcomed by the Guardian of the Basilica of St. Catherine, Fra Stéphane Milovitch, to begin the solemn entrance into the Basilica.
After the chanting of 1st Vespers and the Office of Readings, the procession ended in the Grotto of the Nativity, were the star and the manger were incensed.

On the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th, the Custos presided at the Solemn Mass, with the Custodial Vicar, the Guardian of Bethlehem and several other priests as concelebrants. The Mayor of Bethlehem, Mrs. Vera Baboun, attended the Mass, as well as the European Consuls and their families and guests.
A combined choir from the Parishes of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, joined by a foreign choir group, provided music for the celebration.

In his homily, Fra Marwan Di’des, pastor of Bethlehem, outlined the differences between the figures of Herod and the Magi.
The Magi, mysterious figures, came from the East to seek the truth about the King of kings; they found and they worshiped him…
Herod, blinded by power, performs the largest massacre recorded in history, the slaying of the firstborn males born in his Kingdom of Judea.
Fra Marwan urged the faithful to follow, like the Magi, the path in order to seek the truth that Jesus left us, and that we can find in His Word.

After the proclamation of the Gospel and before the homily, the deacon proclaimed, in Latin, the liturgical calendar for 2013.
After the Mass, those present gathered in the parish hall to greet the Franciscan family.

At 15.30, Second Vespers was celebrated, with a solemn procession to the Grotto of the Nativity and the symbolic presentation of the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh offered by the Magi to the Child King.
After the ritual of incensing in the grotto, Fra Pierbattista carried the statue of the Child Jesus, Prince of Peace seated on the royal thrown, for the rest of the procession.
Surrounded by the entire Franciscan community, as well as religious who came to express their devotion to the Son of God made manifest to the world, the Custos passed around the cloister of the Basilica, to enter St. Catherine, which was filled with the expectant faithful.
In front of the main altar, the regal statue of the Child Jesus was offered for adoration by the faithful, who came forward to reverence and kiss the statue, to show their love and their faith to this Child King who had come into the world with absolute humility, forever changing the history of man.

While the Catholic Church ends the Christmas season with the Baptism of the Lord on January 13th, the Orthodox Churches began their Christmas celebrations this day, with the solemn entry into Bethlehem and into the Basilica, according to the Status quo. The Orthodox Churches, in fact, celebrate Christmas on January 7th.

Text: Internet Office
Photos: Nadim Asfour

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