In Bethlehem it is Christmas every day

On my Patrick Leigh Fermor blog we have often discussed the objective of walking in Paddy’s footsteps. Perhaps to achieve some physical challenge, but there is undoubtedly more to it: a spiritual connection in time and space, and perhaps a sympathetic experience with those of our hero in the same place, even after the passage of time.

A pilgrimage to the Holy Land entails effectively walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. I am sure there could be some debate about various aspects, but Israel and Jerusalem (in ancient history) is a small place, and I have little doubt that most of the places I have visited so far are the places that Christ himself and his disciples lived in, where they studied, and where they experienced his betrayal.

As one looks from the Garden of Gethsemane towards the Golden Gate in the well preserved walls of Jerusalem, who could doubt that when Christ said he knew his betrayer was coming, he could see them coming out of that gate, with torches lit, and perhaps armour and swords clanking, in the cold of the night, just a few hundred yards way. The amazing thing was he remained in his place and awaited his fate.

As we experienced some of his last hours we also worked our way through the Israeli security wall to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity, which was mainly built by Justinian on around 530 AD. In Bethlehem it is Christmas every day, but poverty is all around. Life has not treated the descendants of those Shepherds particularly well for all the wealth brought to their city by pilgrims over the 1,700 years since Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, first visited and ‘uncovered’ the birth place of Christ.

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