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Bethlehem: “Let us tear down the walls”

26 Dec

Below are excerpts of the 2011 Christmas homily of His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, close to the Holy Grotto where the Virgin Mary swaddled her son and laid him in a manger. The full text is on the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

– The song of the angels in the sky above Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago still echoes: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth.”

– If we glorify God, we shall enjoy his peace. If we glorify ourselves, we shall be denied this peace.

– Among all the continents and countries of the world, God chose Palestine, our beloved land, to be the homeland of the Saviour … and so, we are duty-bound to follow the host of angels in forever repeating: “Glory to God in the highest”.

– We are one with our people, for their suffering … their hopes are our own.

– We hope that, with the grace of God and with the support of people of goodwill, the physical and psychological walls that men build around themselves may disappear. God wants bridges that unite rather than walls that separate that which God has united. Dear brothers and sisters let us tear down the walls of our hearts in order to tear down walls of concrete!

– We ask that the road travelled by our ancestors – the Magi and the shepherds – to Bethlehem should remain open, without barriers or hindrance, open to the pilgrims of the whole world, including the Arab world.

– And on this holy night, the children of the Holy Land, fellow citizens of the Infant Jesus, beg us: “Let us grow up as normal children, grant us the time to play in the squares and market places of our towns and villages far from political intrigue.”

– O Child of Bethlehem, in this New Year, we place in your hands this troubled Middle East and, above all, our youth full of legitimate aspirations, who are frustrated by the economic and political situation, and in search of a better future. We implore you to grant their wishes and fill their hearts with courage and wisdom together with a spirit of responsibility.

+ Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

Peace the Angels Sang About

23 Nov

In the fields near Bethlehem … “Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Bethlehem is still not enjoying the peace that the angels sang about on that first Christmas night.

When we sing the Gloria at Mass, we begin, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” We sing the hymn of the angels at Christmas.

Eman, a teacher in the Catholic school in Beit Jala near Bethlehem, was at St. Andrew a few weeks ago, with other teachers from Catholic schools throughout the Holy Land. Coming from the West Bank, from Jordan and from Israel, the teachers spent time with teachers from our school, learning together and establishing a partnership for continued learning together.

At Sunday Mass as we sang the Gloria, we noticed Eman looking up.

A teacher from Bethlehem looking up as the hymn of the angels is sung. Was she hearing the angels? Was she expecting to hear them? Was she thinking of the angels and their peace song? Was she thinking of her students in Bethlehem who long for the peace about which angels sing?

We did not ask. We thought it best to leave it between her, the angels and the Prince of Peace born in Bethlehem.

Andrew, the Bride and the Centurion: Holy Communion

20 Nov

It is an invitation to communion.

We are Andrew. “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.”

We are the bride. “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

We are the centurion. “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

As we approach the altar for communion, we are Andrew. We are the bride. We are the centurion. It is an invitation to communion – holy communion!

Click here for today’s homily, Andrew, the Bride and the Centurion.”

A great Scrabble word!

16 Nov

Julianne Wallace, Campus Minister at St Joseph University Parish in Buffalo serving the University at Buffalo, writes on the Busted Halo website about the “Top Five Mass Changes” she thinks young adults need to know. 

#1: “And with your spirit!” 

“This response is more than just a greeting. This response is also a spiritual exchange between the priest and the assembly. The priest extends a greeting of the Lord’s presence and the assembly grants a similar greeting inviting God to be with the presider as we worship together.”  

#2: The Gloria 

“There are many minor textual changes to this prayer.  A change occurs in the Gloria when we sing together, ‘We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory!’ This five-fold invocation of praise poetically expresses the majesty and glory of God.” 

#3: “We to I” 

“This small change harkens back to when the person entering the Church says, ‘I do’ in the Credo formula. So the change from ‘we’ to ‘I’ is more consistent with how we have professed our faith throughout history.” 

#4: “Consubstantial” 

“That sounds like a great Scrabble word!” 

#5: The centurion’s faith and our response 

“As we come to the Eucharistic table, may we approach with the humble faith of the centurion and carry this humility with us through our everyday life.” 

Julianne finishes with, “And remember, we are not just saying this new translation; we are praying this new translation!”


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