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The Cradle of Jesus (Nasir-i-Khusrau) -Jerusalem Achaeological Park

Adjacent to the East Wall, and when you have reached the south (eastern) angle (of the Haram Area)—the Kiblah-point lying before you, south, but somewhat aside—there is an underground Mosque, to which you descend by many steps. It is situated immediately to the north of the (south) Wall of the Haram Area, covering a space measuring 20 ells by 15, and the chamber has a roof of stone, supported on marble columns. Here was of old the Cradle of Jesus. The Cradle is of stones, and large enough for a man to make therein his prayers prostrations, and I myself said my prayers their. The Cradle is fixed into the ground, so that it cannot be moved. This Cradle is where Jesus was laid during His childhood, and where He held converse with the people. The Cradle itself, in this Mosque, has been made the Mihrâb (or oratory); and there is, likewise, on the east side of this Mosque the Mihrâb Maryam (or Oratory of Mary), and another Mihrâb, which is that of Zakariyyâ (Zachariah)—peace be upon him! Above these Mihrâb are written the verses revealed in the Kurân that relate respectively to Zachariah and to Mary. They say that Jesus—peace be upon Him!—was born in the place where this Mosque now stands. On the shaft of one of the columns there is impressed a mark as though a person had gripped the stone with tow fingers; and they say that Mary, when taken in the pangs of labour, did thus with one hand seize upon the stone, leaving this mark thereon. ThisMosque is known by the title of Mahd ‘Îsâ
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St Martin De Pore’s Phuthaditjhaba parish liturgy members, who were preparing the cradle. Assisted by our two seminarians, br Mohapi and br Ntefane. On the 16th December 2015

 

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Opening of the Year of Mercy

The opening of the Year of Mercy, on Diocesan level will be on the 12th December at our Marian shrine in Tsheseng (at10h00) In preparation of the Year of Mercy, we integrate the prayer, rite of reconciliation and anointing of the sick into the celebration, and conclude with the Eucharistic celebration for His unconditional love and mercy

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A Letter From Our Bishop

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

When we speak about mercy what does it really mean? It should mean much more than some almsgiving, some act of charity to a beggar, although all of this can be part of it. First of all we have to look at the source of true and everlasting mercy: God, the most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Pope Francis writes in his letter (‘bull’) of proclamation (‘indiction’) of the extraordinary jubilee of mercy: ‘Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy’. It is this mercy which has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis writes: ‘Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved for ever despite our sinfulness’. Gazing, contemplating Jesus Christ as the face of God’s mercy (in prayer) we can become – writes Pope Francis – ‘a more effective sign of the Father’s merciful action in our lives’. Just as God is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other. The motto of this Jubilee Year of Mercy ‘Merciful like the Father’ very well points at this.

How can we live this jubilee? A number of events have been planned in Rome but Pope Francis challenges us to extend this to our own diocese and parishes. The Holy Year of Mercy is to start on the 08th December 2015 when we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Pope will open a special door, called the Holy Door (which has been closed for several years), at St. Peter’s so that it may become a ‘Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope’. But the following Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, he will open such a door in his own cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and moreover he encourages all Bishops to open such a Holy Door somewhere in their diocese, be it at the cathedral or at a shrine frequented by large numbers of pilgrims. This is why we decided to have such a Door at our Marian shrine at Tsheseng which we will open on Saturday 12thDecember during our diocesan pilgrimage.

This should then spill over throughout the whole diocese in the various parishes and Christian communities. I very much encourage all Priests together with their liturgical committees and parish and local councils to be creative and organize activities which highlight God’s Mercy all throughout the year which will close with the Solemnity of Christ the King on 20th November 2016. I challenge also Sodalities, other groups of young and old and diocesan projects to take this up in their year programs.

What could be of particular help in your personal prayer and in your bible sharing at home in your family, or when meeting as blocks or in your Sodality meetings, is to choose one or other parable which speaks about God’s Mercy like in the gospel of Luke 15,1-32. The Southern African Bishops Conference is preparing a reflection booklet in various languages which could also be of a help for sharing and prayer.

Being filled with the love and mercy of God we shall be stimulated to reach out to others in corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Pope Francis invites us to ‘rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead’. He urges us ‘not to forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead’.

Central to our celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy should be the Sacrament of Mercy, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I very much encourage you to celebrate – I say celebrate and not undergo confession – the sacrament as a joyful encounter with the Lord, full of mercy and compassion, regularly throughout the year.

Other activities will be planned on diocesan level with the help of a committee chosen for this purpose, which will also come up with a number of suggestions for parishes.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, may this Jubilee Year of Mercy be a time of renewal for all of us, members of the one family of God, the Church, so that we, through our outreach especially to those brothers and sisters of ours who have fallen away, may become missionaries of God’s mercy in today’s world.

May Mary, our mother in the faith, intercede for us,

Bethlehem, 08th December 2015 on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

+Jan De Groef, M.Afr.

Bishop of Bethlehem