We leave Jerusalem and travel south to nearby Bethlehem. This was the home town of King David’s father (Samuel I 16:1) and the place where Christ was born to Mary and Joseph.
We cross Manger Square surrounded by the Mosque of Omar, the Palestinian Peace Center and perhaps the oldest functioning church in the world, the Church of the Nativity. The Byzantine church was originally constructed in the fourth century and later expanded during the sixth century. We can still see part of the original mosaic floor through an opening in the present basilica floor.
We enter the Basilica of the Nativity through a low doorway the “Door of Humility,” on the walls there are faint golden mosaics and 30 of the 44 pink limestone columns in the nave of the church are adorned with decorations from the Crusader period. Beneath the church is the Grotto of the Nativity where it is believed that Jesus was born. A silver star in the grotto is engraved with the Latin phrase “Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary.” Also in the church are the Chapel of the Manger and the Alter of the Adoration of the Magi (the three wise men).
We exit the basilica passing the Armenian Chapel of the Kings and continue on to the adjacent Church of Saint Catherine. From there we descend to grottos which are connected to those beneath the Church of the Nativity. These ancient caves hold several tombs and chapels including the Chapel of the Innocent dedicated to the babies killed under Herod (Matt. 2:16); the Chapel of Joseph and the Tomb of Jerome. There is also the grotto where Jerome worked for many years translating the Hebrew Bible to Latin.
We go on to visit the Franciscan church which houses the Milk Grotto. Here Mary nursed Jesus and a drop of her milk fell to the ground turning the grotto white.
Our final stop is to see Shepherds Field. Here the Bible tells us that an angel appeared to shepherds tending their sheep by night and told them that a savior had been born in nearby Bethlehem. Today a tent-shaped chapel stands here, the chapel was designed by renowned architect Antonio Berluzzi and is decorated with scenes from the life of Christ.
We leave Shepherds Field and make our way back towards Jerusalem past the Field of Ruth. Here Ruth, the great grandmother of King David, worked in the fields of Boaz.