church of the nativity

door-of-humilityYesterday I crouched down to about half my height to enter through the Door of Humility at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and I have never been more humbled in my life. The door was created this way to force everyone who entered to bow down in humility and reverence. This church marks the very spot where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born, a place that thousands from around the world visit each year to honour Christ, celebrate their faith and connect with one of the oldest stories ever told. To say that it was special is an understatement. To describe what I felt would be impossible.

The structure itself is maintained by three religious denominations of the Christian faith: Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic. When you enter, it’s really like two side-by-side churches but down below, down a narrow stone staircase is a grotto. It is here, in this small, dark space where Jesus is believed to have been born, the exact spot marked by a fourteen-point silver star that is touched and kissed by pilgrims from all over the world. The impact it had on me was profound, an experience that will last a lifetime. I would love to one day attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve here.

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a walking tour of jerusalem

church-of-the-holy-sepulchrUpon landing in Tel Aviv, which I wrote about yesterday, I met with my guide Amir and we made our way to Jerusalem. It was a 35-minute drive. After a quick breakfast (hot chocolate and yes, another bagel), we commenced a walking tour of Jerusalem. Before I share with you the highlights, I must tell you that if you do a walking tour of this holy city, be sure to wear GOOD walking shoes (I love my Rockport shoes for walking!) and wear light clothes because the sun can get really hot. But be sure to bring a shawl or pashmina with you so you can cover up if necessary to gain entry to certain sacred sites. I just happened to have one with me, which was lucky, because I was told (quite brusquely, I might add) to cover up when visiting the Western Wall. (Surprising, since I was covered from head to toe, but for bare arms; I hadn’t changed since arriving from Toronto.)

Anyhow, it was an action-packed day, visiting some of the holiest Christian sites in the world. We visited the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested, we walked the Via Dolorosa, the route Jesus walked carrying the cross on his back and finally, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial. There are no words to describe what I felt there. This was only my first day in Jerusalem and I knew that this incredible and special start was merely an indication of all that was yet to come.