Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wed, Dec 26, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: Canticle, Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59, Psalms 31:3-21,Matthew 10:17-22, St Stephen, The Presentation of Infant Jesus in the Temple, Bethlehem

Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog:

Canticle, Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59, Psalms 31:3-21,Matthew 10:17-22, St Stephen, The Presentation of Infant Jesus in the Temple, Bethlehem

Good Day Bloggers!  Bonne Annee!
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week!

Year of Faith - October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Serenity Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7.

The world begins and ends everyday for someone.  We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift of knowledge and free will, make the most of these gifts. Life on earth is a stepping stone to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Purgatory and/or Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


December 25, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

Our Lady came with little Jesus in her arms and she did not give a message, but little Jesus began to speak and said : “I am your peace, live my commandments.” With a sign of the cross, Our Lady and little Jesus blessed us together.

December 2, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

Dear children, with motherly love and motherly patience anew I call you to live according to my Son, to spread His peace and His love, so that, as my apostles, you may accept God's truth with all your heart and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you. Then you will be able to faithfully serve my Son, and show His love to others with your life. According to the love of my Son and my love, as a mother, I strive to bring all of my strayed children into my motherly embrace and to show them the way of faith. My children, help me in my motherly battle and pray with me that sinners may become aware of their sins and repent sincerely. Pray also for those whom my Son has chosen and consecrated in His name. Thank you." 


Today's Word:  Canticle   can·ti·cle [kan-ti-kuh l]

Origin: 1175–1225; Middle English  (< Old French ) < Latin canticulum,  equivalent to cantic ( um ) song (see canticum) + -ulum -ule

1. one of the nonmetrical hymns or chants, chiefly from the Bible, used in church services.
2. a song, poem, or hymn especially of praise.


Today's Old Testament Reading -  Psalms 31:3-8, 17, 21

3 You are my rock, my rampart; true to your name, lead me and guide me!
4 Draw me out of the net they have spread for me, for you are my refuge;
6 you hate those who serve useless idols; but my trust is in Yahweh:
7 I will delight and rejoice in your faithful love! You, who have seen my misery, and witnessed the miseries of my soul,
8 have not handed me over to the enemy, but have given me freedom to roam at large.
17 I call on you, Yahweh, so let disgrace fall not on me, but on the wicked. Let them go down to Sheol in silence,
21 Blessed be Yahweh who works for me miracles of his faithful love (in a fortified city)!


Today's Epistle -   Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59

8 Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people.
9 Then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia.
10 They found they could not stand up against him because of his wisdom, and the Spirit that prompted what he said.
54 They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.
55 But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God's right hand.
56 'Look! I can see heaven thrown open,' he said, 'and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.'
57 All the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they made a concerted rush at him,
58 thrust him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul.
59 As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'


Today's Gospel Reading - Matthew 10:17-22

'Be prepared for people to hand you over to Sanhedrin and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as evidence to them and to the gentiles. But when you are handed over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes, because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will come forward against their parents and have them put to death. You will be universally hated on account of my name; but anyone who stands firm to the end will be saved.

• The contrast is enormous. Yesterday, Christmas Day, we had the crib of the newly born child, with the singing of the angels and the visit of the Shepherds. Today here is the blood of Stephen, stoned to death, because he had the courage to believe in the promise expressed in the simplicity of the crib. Stephen criticized the fundamentalist interpretation of the Law of God and the monopoly of the Temple. This is why he was killed (Acts 6, 13-14).

• Today, the feast of Stephen, first martyr, the liturgy presents us a passage from the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 10, 17-22), taken from the so called Sermon of the Mission (Mt 10, 5-42). In it Jesus advices the disciples saying that fidelity to the Gospel implies difficulties and persecutions: They will hand you over to the Sanhedrin and scourge you in their synagogues”. But for Jesus what is important in persecution is not the painful side of suffering, but rather the positive side of witnessing: “You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as evidence to them and to the gentiles”. Persecution offers the occasion of giving witness of the Good News which God brings to us.

• This is what happened to Stephen. He gave witness of his faith in Jesus up until the last moment of his life. At the hour of his death he says: “I can see Heaven thrown open, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7, 56). And in falling dead under the stones, he imitated Jesus crying out: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7, 60; Lk 23,34).

• Jesus had said: “When they will hand you over to them, do not worry about how or what you have to say, because it will be suggested to you at that moment what you have to say: in fact, it is not you who will speak, but the Spirit of your Father who will speak in you”. This prophecy is also fulfilled in Stephen. His enemies did not succeed to resist the inspired wisdom with which he spoke” (Acts 6, 10). “The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently on Stephen, and his face appeared to them as the face of an angel” (Acts 6, 15). Stephen spoke “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7, 55). This is why the anger of the others was so great that they killed him.

• The same thing happens also today. In many places, many persons are drawn before the tribunals and they know how to give responses which exceed the wisdom of the learned and the wise (Lk 10, 21).

Personal questions
• Placing oneself in Stephen’s place, have you suffered, sometimes, because of your fidelity to the Gospel?
•The simplicity of the crib and the harshness of martyrdom go hand in hand in the life of the Saints and in the life of so many persons who, today are persecuted up to the point of death because of their fidelity to the Gospel. Do you know closely persons like this?
Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


Featured Item of the Day from Litany Lane


Saint of the Day:  Saint Stephen

Feast Day:  December 26
Patron Saint: casket makers; deacons; Altar Servers; headaches; horses; masons; Serbia

Saint Stephen (Koine Greek: Στέφανος, Stephanos; sometimes spelled "Stephan"), the protomartyr of Christianity, is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Anglican[2], Lutheran,[3] Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Stephen's name is derived from the Greek language Stephanos, meaning "crown". Traditionally, Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom; he is often depicted in art with three stones and the martyrs' palm. In Eastern Christian iconography, he is shown as a young, beardless man with a tonsure, wearing a deacon's vestments, and often holding a miniature church building or a censer. Rembrandt depicted his martyrdom in his work The Stoning of Saint Stephen.



According to Chapter 6 of The Acts of the Apostles, Stephen was among seven men of the early church at Jerusalem appointed to serve as deacon. However, after a dispute with the members of a synagogue of "Roman Freedmen," he is denounced for blasphemy against God and Moses (Acts 6:11) and speaking against the Temple and the Law. Stephen is tried before the Sanhedrin. His defense is presented as accusing the Jews of persecuting the prophets who had spoken out against the sins of the nation:
"Which one of the Prophets did your fathers not persecute, and they killed the ones who prophesied the coming of the Just One, of whom now, too, you have become betrayers and murderers." (7:52)
While on trial, he experienced a theophany in which he saw both God the Father and God the Son:
"Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56) This vision of Christ standing differs from other Scripture which indicates Jesus sits at the right hand of God - perhaps implying that Christ stood in honor of Stephen whose martyrdom was near.
He is condemned and stoned to death by an infuriated mob, which is encouraged by Saul of Tarsus, later to be known as Saint Paul the Apostle. After his own conversion to Christianity, Paul makes reference to witnessing Stephen's martyrdom in his writings.[4]


Saint Stephen's hagiography is included in Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend. De Voragine's version of the legend begins with an etymology from Isidore of Seville's Etymologies: Stephen (from Greek stephanos, "crown") also comes from the Hebrew word for "pattern" [Hebrew "tabniyth"?] since he was the first martyr of the New Testament, he set the pattern for suffering in Christ. He adds etymologies from other sources: Or his name comes from strenue fans, "speaking strongly," because of his manner of speaking and his religious doctrines. Or it comes from strenue stans, "laudably standing" or fans anibus, "instructing and ruling over old women." Thus, according to de Voragine, "Stephen is a crown because he is first in martyrdom, a norm by his example in suffering and his way of life, a zealous speaker in his praiseworthy teaching of the widows."[5]

The version in the Golden Legend proceeds to depict Stephen, in keeping with the Biblical account, as one of seven deacons appointed by the Apostles to appease the widows among the Greek-speaking Christians of the Church in Jerusalem. It goes on to tell how, jealous of Stephen's success in his ministry to his fellow Jews, the Jewish authorities conspire to bring him down. First, they attempt to defeat him by way of argument, but are unsuccessful since the Holy Spirit enlightens Stephen with divine wisdom. Next, they bring false witnesses, who accuse him of blaspheming against God, Moses, the Law and the Temple. Aided by an angel, Stephen refutes every point, a refutation recounted in some detail. Finally, they try torture; still, Stephen attempts to convert them by inciting shame and fear in them, and, showing his love for them, he prays for his opponents as they stone him to death.[5]

Stephen's tomb revealed, AD 415

The miraculous revelation of the whereabouts of the tomb of Stephen in AD 415 was embodied in a Revelatio Sancti Stephani written in the first person, that was translated into Latin and prefaced by a letter from Avitus, bishop of Braga.[6] Lucian of Kfargamla wrote to the churches of East and West announcing the discovery of the tomb of St Stephen, together with that of Nicodemus (see John 3) and the Rabbi Gamaliel, member of the Sanhedrin and uncle of Nicodemus (Acts 5:34-39), and of one of his two sons, Abibos.

The letter begins thus: "Lucian... priest of the church of God in Kfargamla, in the territory of Jerusalem, to the holy church and to all the saints who are in Christ Jesus in the whole world, greetings in the Lord." Lucian continues: on 3 December 415, while he was sleeping in the baptistery of his church, he had a vision of a man, tall, dressed in priestly vestments and a mantle covered with jewels and with the sign of the cross, who said to him: 'Go to the city of Elia (i.e. Jerusalem) and say to the bishop John: "How long are we to remain closed up? When are you going to open us up?" It is absolutely necessary that during your service as bishop you bring to light our mortal remains, which lie abandoned and forgotten. I am not so much worried about myself, as about those who are buried with me, who are saints and worthy of honour.' Upon being asked who he was, the personage replied: 'I am Gamaliel, teacher of Paul, Apostle of Christ, and I used to teach the Law at Jerusalem. Next to me lies Stephen, who for his faith in Christ was stoned to death by the Jews and by the priests of Jerusalem, outside the Northern Gate from which a path leads to the valley of Kedron. There the body of Stephen, by order of the wicked leaders of the city, was left exposed day and night without being buried, that it might be devoured by animals. Nevertheless, by the will of God, no animal touched it, no ferocious animal, no bird, no dog. I, Gamaliel, who admired Stephen greatly and wanted to join him in his faith, sent my servants in secret to carry the body of Stephen on my cart to my property at Kfargamla, which means "property of Gamaliel", 20 miles [about 30 km] from the city. I told them that he should be buried in my tomb and that they should buy whatever was necessary for the burial, at my expense.' Gamaliel went on to explain that the one buried next to Stephen was his nephew Nicodemus who was baptized by Peter and John (whom he later defended) and who had therefore to suffer persecutions by the Jews. Finally he spoke of his son Abibos who together with him had embraced Christianity, while the other son and his wife remained Hebrews and were buried in the native place of his wife.[7]

Gamaliel appeared twice more to Lucian, because Lucian wanted to be sure that the vision had come from God and that he was not being deceived. In the third apparition, Lucian was severely rebuked for his incredulity. He then decided to search for the tomb, and found it not far from the church near which he was living. The remains of the four persons, Stephen, Nicodemus, Gamaliel and his son Abibos, were carried to Jerusalem on orders of Bishop John and deposited in the Mother Church of Hagia Maria Sion Abbey (or Dormition Abbey on Mount Sion), the church of the Cenacle. Lucian had to be satisfied with some relics, conserved in a monument of mausoleum, which Bishop John constructed to console him for his loss.[8]

St Stephen at Bet Gemal

The St. Stephen Church, Bet Gemal monastery, Israel

In 1916, the Salesians of Don Bosco at Beit Jimal Monastery (Bet Gemal) discovered a mosaic floor during excavations for a small construction. Fr Maurizio Gisler, a Swiss Benedictine monk of the Dormition Abbey on Mount Sion, Jerusalem, gave his opinion that the mosaics belonged to a Byzantine Church of the 5th century.[9]

In 614 the Persians under Khosrau II destroyed all the churches of Palestine, except the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem, because of the representations of the three Magi, dressed as Persians, on the facade. The church at Kfargamla was also destroyed and, as happened to many other historical or biblical sites of the Old and New Testaments, it was soon forgotten, its memory vanished.[8]

The Salesians and Fr Gisler, in 1916, knowing the letter of Lucian, immediately made the connection between Kfargamla and Bet Gemal, with the word 'Bet' (house) in place of 'Kfar' (village, settlement). The distance, 30 km, corresponded to that indicated by Lucian. Convinced of having found the tombo of St Stephen, the Salesians built a church over the mosaics in 1930, of the same dimensions as the Byzantine church, and called it the "Church of St Stephen." Not all, however, accepted this identification of Kfar Gamla with Bet Gemal. The greatest opposition came from the Dominicans (Fr Lagrange, Fr Abel, etc.) of the École Biblique of Jerusalem, who were supporting another locality, Jammal, 30 km north of Jerusalem.[10]

In 1999, Fr Andrzej Strus, a Salesian from Poland, professor at the Salesian Pontifical University (UPS), Rome, began archaeological excavations at a site called Jiljil, also itself on the Salesian property at Bet Gemal, about 300 metres from the new Church of Stephen. He found the remains of a circular structure, which had last served as a winepress. However, its original use appeared to be different, because the structure was very well built, with precise Byzantine measures. Fr Strus proposed that it was a funeral monument, a mausoleum, built in honour of an important person or a saint. He believed that this circular structure (Stephen means 'crown' in Greek) was the monument that John, Bishop of Jerusalem, had constructed at Kfargamla, to house the relics of St Stephen, when the body was carried back to Jerusalem.[11] Strus supplies arguments for the transformation of Kfar gamla into Bet Gemal.[12] Strus concludes: "If the identification of Bet Gemal with Kaphar Gamla is correct, Kh. El-Jiljil could be the most probable place where one needs to search for the tomb of St Stephen and for the remnants of his first memorial."[13]

In 2003, near this circular structure was found a stone architrave or lintel with a tabula ansata. A tabula ansata on a lintel indicates that there was something written or carved on this. The writing was, however, indecipherable. However, Fr Puech, expert in ancient writing from the Ecole Biblique, identified the writing and published an article in Revue Biblique.[14] The writing ran: "DIAKONIKON STEPHANOU PROTOMARTYROS." Diakonikon means a place for conserving relics. This is therefore solid evidence for identifying Bet Gemal with the ancient Kfar Gamla, where St Stephen was buried.[15]

St. Stephen's Feast Day

In Western Christianity, 26 December is called "St. Stephen's Day", the "feast of Stephen" mentioned in the English Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas". It is a public holiday in many nations that were historically Catholic, Anglican or Lutheran: Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Poland, Italy, Germany, Finland. In Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, the day is celebrated as "Boxing Day". In Catalonia (though not elsewhere in Spain), it is rendered as Sant Esteve and is a bank holiday. In France, the day of Saint Étienne is a bank holiday in the Alsace-Moselle region, but not elsewhere. In the Philippines Islands, Ligao City, Albay and Tuguegarao City, Cagayan both celebrate a fiesta on this day in honor of St. Stephen Protomartyr, its patron saint. In the Republic of Ireland it is Wren's Day, when children carry a wren from house to house, asking for money.

The Republika Srpska claims Saint Stephen as its patron saint. The Republika was proclaimed on 9 January 1992 (December 27, Saint Stephen's Day, on the Julian calendar observed by Orthodox Christians), and that date is observed as a national holiday known as "Republic Day".

Western Christianity

In the current norms for the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, the feast is celebrated at the Eucharist, but, for the Liturgy of the Hours, is restricted to the Hours during the day, with Evening Prayer being reserved to the celebration of the Octave of Christmas.

The General Roman Calendar used to include a feast on 3 August of the Invention of the Relics of St Stephen — "Invention," (Latin: inventio), meaning "finding" or "discovery" — to commemorate the finding of St Stephen's relics during the reign of Emperor Honorius. In the Tridentine Calendar, this feast was celebrated as a "Semidouble", a rank that it lost in 1955, when Pope Pius XII reduced it to the rank of "Simple". It was one of the second feasts of a single saint removed from the calendar by Pope John XXIII in 1960, and, while it is celebrated by those traditionalist Catholics who observe earlier versions of the Roman calendar, it is not celebrated by those who, in accordance with Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, observe the 1962 calendar.

Eastern Christianity

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, Saint Stephen's feast day is celebrated on December 27. This day is also called the "Third Day of the Nativity".

In India, the Feast of Saint Stephen is celebrated in the former Portuguese colony of Goa, where Santo Estêvão Island is named after him. Santo Estêvão Church on the island of Jua was built in 1759 (see image).

The Eastern Orthodox Church still celebrates the discovery of the saint's relics on 15 September and the translation of his relics on 2 August. The September feast celebrates the discovery of Stephen's relics in 415, after which they were solemnly transferred to a church built in his honor in Jerusalem. Later, during the reign of Theodosius the Younger, the relics were transported to Constantinople, the event commemorated in August. The 4 January marks the commemoration of the "Synaxis of the 70 Apostles". Since Stephen is included in these 70 Apostles mentioned in the "Acts of the Apostles", he is also remembered on that day.


Many churches are named in honor of Saint Stephen, but there was no official "Tomb of St Stephen" until 415. When Christian pilgrims were traveling in large numbers to Jerusalem, a priest named Lucian said he had learned by a vision that the tomb was in Caphar Gamala, some distance to the north of Jerusalem.

Gregory of Tours reported that the intercession of Stephen preserved an oratory dedicated to him at Metz, in present-day France. His relics were preserved when the oratory was left standing, after Huns burned the remainder of the city on Easter Eve, 451.[16]

Commemorative places

St. Stephen Church in Batroun, Lebanon
  • Saint Étienne, France, and numerous other places named Saint Étienne in the French-speaking world
  • Church of Saint-Étienne, Vignory, France
  • Brisbane, Queensland, Australia – The Cathedral of St Stephen, Brisbane
  • Vienna, Austria – Stephansdom, the Cathedral of St. Stephen, founded 1147 and seat of Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna. Symbol of the city of Vienna and of Austria, has the tallest spire in Austria and is the country's most famous church
  • Rome – San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, where his remains are interred with those of the eponymous saint under the altar
  • Old city of Jerusalem – the "Lions' Gate" is also called St. Stephanus Gate, after the tradition that Stephen's stoning occurred here, though it probably occurred at Damascus Gate
  • London – St Stephen's Chapel in the Palace of Westminster was originally built in the reign of Henry III of England; it became the first site of the debating chamber of the British House of Commons. Saint Stephen's Clock Tower was the original name for the tower that housed Big Ben until it was renamed Elizabeth Tower to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Dublin – St. Stephen's Green
  • Manila, Philippines – St. Stephen's Parish and St. Stephen's High School
  • San Esteban, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
  • San Salvador, El Salvador, San Esteban, San Salvador
  • St Stephen's House, Oxford – Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford and Anglican Theological College
  • St Stephen's Church, Bristol – the first city church built outside the walls around c.1250, rebuilt c1430-1490.
  • St Stephen's Church, Tonbridge
  • St. Stephens, Alabama – Alabama Territorial capital from 1817 to 1819.
  • St. Stephen, New Brunswick
  • St. Stephen, South Carolina
  • Church of St. Stephen the Martyr, New York City, established 1848.
  • St. Stephen Catholic Church (Ona, West Virginia) [1]
  • St. Stephens Church, Virginia
  • St. Stephen's Church, Kombuthurai, built by St. Francis Xavier in India in 1542


  1. ^ Saint Stephen the Martyr |
  2. ^
  3. ^ The ELCA "Worship"
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Voragine, Jacobus de (1993). "Saint Stephen". In William Granger Ryan. The Golden Legend: Readings on Saints. Vol. 1. Princeton UP. pp. 45–50. ISBN 978-0-691-00153-1.
  6. ^ The standard edition of the Revelatio Sancti Stephani and the Epistula Aviti is that of S. Vanderlinden in Revue des Etudes Byzantines 4 (1946:178-217).
  7. ^ Scudu 4-6.
  8. ^ a b Scudu 6.
  9. ^ Antonio Scudu, Santo Stefano: primo martire cristiano: morire perdonando, (booklet published by Salesiani Don Bosco, Bet Gemal, 2007)7-8, 4-6. (Earlier published in the magazine Maria Ausiliatrice (Turin), December 2006.) 7-8. See also Maurice Gisler, Le tombeau de Saint Etienne Protomartyr et des Saints Nicodeme, Gamalikel et Abibas, retrouve' a' Beitgemal (Palestine) par les Salesiens du Ven. Dom Bosco, Jerusalem-Sion, 1923.
  10. ^ Scudu 8. F.M. Abel, "Ou' en est la question de Caphargamala," Revue Biblique 33 (1924) 235-245; L.H. Vincent, "A la recherche de Caphargamala," Revue Biblique 35 (1926) 127-132. But see Il luogo del Martirio di S. Stefano e le sue Chiese in Gerusalemme, Brescia: Tipografia Pio Istituto Pavoni, 1910.
  11. ^ Scudu 8-9. A. Strus, "Beit-Gemal puo' essere il luogo di sepoltura di Santo Stefano?" Salesianum 54 (1992) 1-26. A. Strus, Bet Gemal: Pathway to the tradition of Saints Stephen and Gamaliel, (Rome, 2000). A. Strus, Khirbet Fattir - Bet Gemal. Two Ancient Jewish and Christian Sites in Israel (Rome: LAS, 2003. A. Strus, "Bet Gemal and the Byzantine Tradition regarding St Stephen," Ecce ascendimus Jerosolymam (Lc 18, 31), ed. F. Mosetto (Rome: LAS, 2003) 399-418. Edgar Krentz, Review of Khirbet Fattir—Bet Gemal: Two Ancient Jewish and Christian Sites in Israel by Andrzej Strus, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 66/3 (July 2007) 234
  12. ^ Strus 399-401. See also St. H. Stephan, "The Personal Names in the Letter of Lucian of Caphar-Gamala," Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society 19 (1939) 136-146.
  13. ^ Strus 414.
  14. ^ Emile Puech, "Un mausolée de saint Etienne à Khirbet Jiljil - Beit Gimal (Pl. I)", Revue Biblique 113/1 (January 2006) 100–126.
  15. ^ Scudu 9.
  16. ^ Paul Halsall, ed., "Gregory of Tours (539–594)", History of the Franks: Books I–X, Internet Medieval Sourcebook, Fordham University, accessed 4 Aug 2009
  • "St. Stephen, the First Martyr"
  • "St. Stephen". Catholic Encyclopedia. 1913.
  • "Apostle Stephen the Protomartyr"


Featured Items Panel from Litany Lane


Today's  Snippet  I

The Mystical City of God, 
The Divine History and Life of The Virgin Mother of God

The sacred humanity of Christ belonged to the eternal Father not only because it was created like other beings, but it was his special property by virtue of the hypostatic union with the person of the Word, for this person of the Word, being his Onlybegotten Son, was engendered of his substance, true God of true God. Nevertheless the eternal Father had decreed, that his Son should be presented to Him in the temple in mysterious compliance with the law, of which Christ our Lord was the end (Rom. 10, 4). It was established for no other purpose than that the just men of the old Testament should perpetually sanctify and offer to the Lord their first-born sons, in the hope that one thus presented might prove to be the Son of God and a Child of the Mother of the expected Messias (Exod. 13, 2). According to our way of thinking his Majesty acted like men, who are apt to repeat and enjoy over and over again a thing which has caused them enjoyment. For although the Father understood and knew all things in his infinite wisdom, He sought pleasure in the offering of the incarnate Word, which by so many titles already belonged to Him.

This will of the eternal Father, which was conformable to that of his Son in so far as He was God, was known to the Mother of life and of the human nature of the Word; for She saw that all his interior actions were in unison with the will of his eternal Father. Full of this holy science the great Princess passed the night before his presentation in the temple in divine colloquies. Speaking to the Father She said: "My Lord and God most high, Father of my Lord, a festive day for heaven and earth will be that, in which I shall bring and offer to Thee in thy holy temple the living Host, which is at the same time the Treasure of thy Divinity. Rich, O my Lord and God, is this oblation; and Thou canst well pour forth, in return for it, thy mercies upon the human race: pardoning the sinners, that have turned from the straight path, consoling the afflicted, helping the needy, enriching the poor, succoring the weak, enlightening the blind, and meeting those who have strayed away. This is, my Lord, what I ask of thee in offering to Thee thy Onlybegotten, who, by thy merciful condescension is also my Son. If Thou hast given Him to me as a God, I return Him to Thee as God and man; his value is infinite, and what I ask of Thee is much less. In opulence do I return to thy holy temple, from which I departed poor; and my soul shall magnify Thee forever, because thy divine right hand has shown itself toward me so liberal and powerful."

On the next morning, the Sun of heaven being now ready to issue from its purest dawning, the Virgin Mary, on whose arms He reclined, and being about to rise up in full view of the world, the heavenly Lady, having provided the turtle-dove and two candles, wrapped Him in swaddling-clothes and betook Herself with saint Joseph from their lodging to the temple. The holy angels, who had come with them from Bethlehem, again formed in procession in corporeal and most beautiful forms, just as has been said concerning the journey of the preceding day. On this occasion however the holy spirits added many other hymns of the sweetest and most entrancing harmony in honor of the infant God, which were heard only by the most pure Mary. Besides the ten thousand, who had formed the procession on the previous day, innumerable others descended from heaven, who, accompanied by those that bore the shields of the holy name Jesus, formed the guard of honor of the incarnate Word on the occasion of his presentation. These however were not in corporeal shapes and only the heavenly Princess perceived their presence. Having arrived at the temple-gate, the most blessed Mother was filled with new exalted sentiments of devotion. Joining the other women, She bowed and knelt to adore the Lord in spirit and in truth in his holy temple and She presented Herself before the exalted Majesty of God with his Son upon her arms (John 4, 23). Immediately She was immersed in an intellectual vision of the most holy Trinity and She heard a voice issuing from the eternal Father, saying: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I well pleased" (Matth. 27, 20). Saint Joseph, the most fortunate of men, felt at the same time a new sweetness of the Holy Ghost, which filled him with joy and divine light.

The holy high-priest Simeon, moved by the Holy Ghost as explained in the preceding chapter, also entered temple at that time (Luke 2, 7). Approaching the place where the Queen stood with the infant Jesus in her arms, he saw both Mother and Child enveloped in splendor and glory. The prophetess Anne, who, as the Evangelist says, had come at the same hour, also saw Mary and her Infant surrounded by this wonderful light. In the joy of their spirit both of them approached the Queen of heaven, and the priest received the Infant Jesus from her arms upon his hands. Raising up his eyes to heaven he offered Him up to the eternal Father, pronouncing at the same time these words so full of mysteries: "Now dost thou dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy Word in peace. Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light for the revelation of the gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2, 29). It was as if He had said: "Now, Lord, thou wilt release me from the bondage of this mortal body and let me go free and in peace; for until now have I been detained in it by the hope of seeing thy promises fulfilled and by the desire of seeing thy Onlybegotten made man. Now that my eyes have seen thy salvation, the Onlybegotten made man, joined to our nature in order to give it eternal welfare according to the intention and eternal decree of thy infinite wisdom and mercy, I shall enjoy true and secure peace. Now, O Lord, Thou hast prepared and placed before all mortals thy divine light that it may shine upon the world and that all who wish may enjoy it throughout the universe and derive therefrom guidance and salvation. For this is the light which is revealed to the gentiles for the glory of thy chosen people of Israel" (John I, 9, 32).

Most holy Mary and saint Joseph heard this canticle of Simeon, wondering at the exalted revelation it contained. The Evangelist calls them in this place the parents of the divine Infant, for such they were in the estimation of the people who were present at this event. Simeon, addressing himself to the most holy Mother of the Infant Jesus, then added: "Behold this Child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed." Thus saint Simeon; and being a priest he gave his blessing to the happy parents of the Child. Then also the prophetess Anne acknowledged the incarnate Word, and full of the Holy Ghost, she spoke of the mysteries of the Messias to many, who were expecting the redemption of Israel. By these two holy old people public testimony of the coming of the Redeemer was given to the world.

At the moment when the priest Simeon mentioned the sword and the sign of contradiction, which were prophetical of the passion and death of the Lord, the Child bowed its head. Thereby, and by many interior acts of obedience, Jesus ratified the prophecy of the priest and accepted it as the sentence of the eternal Father pronounced by his minister. All this the loving Mother noticed and understood; She presently began to feel the sorrow predicted by Simeon and thus in advance was She wounded by the sword, of which She had thus been warned. As in a mirror her spirit was made to see all the mysteries included in this prophecy; how her most holy Son was to be the stone of stumbling, the perdition of the unbelievers, and the salvation of the faithful; the fall of the synagogue and the establishment the Church among the heathens; She foresaw the triumph to be gained over the devils and over death, but also that a great price was to be paid for it, namely the frightful agony and death of the Cross (Colos. 2, 15). She foresaw the boundless opposition and contradiction, which the Lord Jesus was to sustain both personally and in his Church (John 15, 20). At the same time She also saw the glory and excellence of the predestined souls. Most holy Mary knew it all and in the joy and sorrow of her most pure soul, excited by the prophecies of Simeon and these hidden mysteries, She performed heroic acts of virtue. All these sayings and happenings were indelibly impressed upon her memory, and, of all that She understood and experienced, She forgot not the least iota. At all times She looked upon her most holy Son with such a living sorrow, as we, mere human creatures with hearts so full of ingratitude, shall never be able to feel. The holy spouse saint Joseph was by these prophecies also made to see many of the mysteries of the Redemption and of the labors and sufferings of Jesus. But the Lord did not reveal them to him so copiously and openly as they were perceived and understood by his heavenly spouse; for in him these revelations were to serve a different purpose, and besides, saint Joseph was not to be an eyewitness of them during his mortal life.

The ceremony of the presentation thus being over, the great Lady kissed the hand of the priest and again asked his blessing. The same She did also to Anne, her former teacher; for her dignity as Mother of God, the highest possible to angels or men, did not prevent Her from these acts of deepest humility. Then, in the company of saint Joseph, her spouse, and of the fourteen thousand angels in procession, She returned with the divine Infant to her lodging. They remained, as I shall relate farther on, for some days in Jerusalem, in order to satisfy their devotion and during that time She spoke a few times with the priest about the mysteries of the Redemption and of the prophecies above mentioned.

When the most holy Mary and glorious saint Joseph returned from the presentation of the Infant Jesus in the temple, they concluded to stay in Jerusalem for nine days in order to be able each day to visit the temple and repeat the offering of the sacred Victim, their divine Son, thus rendering fitting thanks for the immense blessing for which they had been singled out from among all men. The heavenly Lady had a special veneration for this number in memory of the nine days, during which She had been prepared and adorned by God for the incarnation of the Word, as I have related in the first ten chapters of this second part; also in memory of the nine months, during which She had borne Jesus in her virginal womb. In honor of these events She wished make this novena with her divine Child, presenting Him that many times to the eternal Father as an acceptable offering for her lofty purposes. They began the devotions of the novena every day before the third hour, praying in the temple until nightfall. They chose the most obscure and retired place, meriting thereby the invitation of the master of the banquet in the Gospel: "Friend, go up higher."

As an answer to her petitions He conceded to Her new and great privileges, among which was also this one, that, as long as the world should last, She should obtain all that She would ever ask for her clients; that the greatest sinners, if they availed themselves of her intercession, should find salvation; that in the new Church and law of the Gospel She should be the Cooperatrix and Teacher of salvation with Christ her most holy Son. This was to be her privilege especially after his Ascension into heaven, when She should remain, as Queen of the universe, as the representative and instrument of the divine power on earth. This I will show more particularly in the third part of this history. Many other favors and mysteries the Most High confirmed upon the heavenly Mother in answer to her prayers. They, however, are beyond the reach of spoken language, and cannot be described by my short and limited terms.

In the course of these manifestations, on the fifth day of the novena after the presentation and purification, while the heavenly Lady was in the temple with the Infant on her arms, the Deity revealed Itself to Her, although not intuitively, and She was wholly raised and filled by the Spirit. It is true, that this had been done to Her before; but as God’s power and treasures are infinite, He never gives so much as not to be able to give still more to the creatures. In this abstractive vision the Most High visited anew his only Spouse, wishing to prepare Her for the labors, that were awaiting Her. Speaking to Her, He comforted Her saying: "My Spouse and my Dove, thy wishes and intentions are pleasing in my eyes and I delight in them always. But Thou canst not finish the nine days' devotion, which Thou hast begun, for I have in store for Thee other exercises of Thy love. In order to save the life of thy Son and raise Him up, Thou must leave thy home and thy country, fly with Him and thy spouse Joseph into Egypt, where Thou art to remain until I shall ordain otherwise: for Herod is seeking the life of the Child. The journey is long, most laborious and most fatiguing; do thou suffer it all for my sake; for I am, and always will be, with Thee."

Any other faith and virtue might have been disturbed (as the incredulous really have been) to see the powerful God flying from a miserable earthly being, and that He should do so in order to save his life, as if He, being both God and man, could be affected by the fear of death. But the most prudent and obedient Mother advanced no objection or doubt: She was not in the least disturbed or moved by this unlooked for order. Answering, She said: "My Lord and Master, behold thy servant with a heart prepared to die for thy love if necessary. Dispose of me according to thy will. This only do I ask of thy immense goodness, that, overlooking my want of merit and gratitude, Thou permit not my Son and Lord to suffer, and that Thou turn all pains and labor upon me, who am obliged to suffer them." The Lord referred Her to saint Joseph, bidding Her to follow his directions in all things concerning the journey. Therewith She issued from her vision, which She had enjoyed without losing the use of her exterior senses and while holding in her arms the Infant Jesus. She had been raised up in this vision only as to the superior part of her soul; but from it flowed other gifts, which spiritualized her senses and testified to Her that her soul was living more in its love than in the earthly habitation of her body.

On account of the incomparable love, which the Queen bore toward her most holy Son, her maternal and compassionate heart was somewhat harrowed at the thought of the labors which She foresaw in the vision impending upon the infant God. Shedding many tears, She left the temple to go to her lodging-place, without manifesting to her spouse the cause of her sorrow. Saint Joseph therefore thought that She grieved on account of the prophecy of Simeon. As the most faithful Joseph loved Her so much, and as he was of a kind and solicitous disposition, he was troubled to see his Spouse so tearful and afflicted, and that She should not manifest to him the cause of this new affliction. This disturbance of his soul was one of the reasons why the holy angels spoke to him in sleep, as I have related above, when speaking of the pregnancy of the Queen. For in the same night, while saint Joseph was asleep, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, and spoke to him as recorded by saint Matthew: "Arise, take the Child and its Mother and fly into Egypt ; there shalt thou remain until I shall return to give thee other advice; for Herod is seeking after the Child in order to take away its life." Immediately the holy spouse arose full of solicitude and sorrow, foreseeing also that of his most loving Spouse. Entering upon her retirement, he said: "My Lady, God wills that we should be afflicted; for his holy angel has announced to me the pleasure and the decree of the Almighty, that we arise and fly with the Child into Egypt, because Herod is seeking to take away its life. Encourage thyself, my Lady, to bear the labors of this journey and tell me what I can do for thy comfort, since I hold my life and being at the service of thy Child and of Thee."

"My husband and my master," answered the Queen, "if we have received from the hands of the Most High such great blessings of grace, it is meet that we joyfully accept temporal afflictions (Job 2, 13). We bear with us the Creator of heaven and earth; if He has placed us so near to Him, what arms shall be able to harm us, even if it be the arm of Herod? Wherever we carry with us all our Good, the highest treasure of heaven, our Lord, our guide and true light, there can be no desert; but He is our rest, our portion, and our country. All these goods we possess in having his company; let us proceed to fulfill his will." Then most holy Mary and Joseph approached the crib where the Infant Jesus lay; and where He, not by chance, slept at that time. The heavenly Mother uncovered Him without awakening Him; then the heavenly Mother, falling upon her knees, awakened the sweetest Infant, and took Him in her arms. Jesus, in order to move Her to greater tenderness and in order to show Himself as true man, wept a little (O wonders of the Most High in things according to our judgments so small)! Yet He was soon again quieted; and when the most holy Mother and saint Joseph asked his blessing He gave it them in visible manner. Gathering their poor clothing into the casket and loading it on the beast of burden which they had brought from Nazareth, departed shortly after midnight, and hastened without delay on their journey to Egypt.

WORDS OF THE QUEEN. (The Virgin Mary speaks to Sister Mary of Agreda, Spain.)

My daughter, what thou must especially learn from this chapter is, that thou accustom thyself to humble thanksgiving for the benefits which thou receivest, since thou, among many generations, art so specially signalized by the riches of grace with which my Son and I visit thee without any merit of thine. I was wont to repeat many times this verse of David: "What shall I render the Lord for all the things that he hath rendered to me?" (Ps. 15, 12). In such sentiments I humiliated myself to the dust, esteeming myself altogether useless among creatures. Therefore, if thou knowest what I did as Mother of God, consider what then is thy obligation, since thou must with so much truth confess thyself unworthy and undeserving of all thou receivest, and so poorly furnished for giving thanks and for making payment. Thou must supply thy insufficiency and thy misery by offering up to the eternal Father the living host of his onlybegotten Son, especially when thou receivest Him in the holy Sacrament and possessest Him within thee: for in this thou shouldst also imitate David, who, after asking the Lord what return he should make for all his benefits, answers: "I will take the chalice of salvation; and I will call upon the name of the Lord" (Ps. 115, 13). Thou must accept the salvation offered thee and bring forth its fruits by the perfection of thy works, calling upon the name of the Lord, offering up his Onlybegotten. For He it is who gave the virtue of salvation, who merited it, who alone can be an adequate return for the blessings conferred upon the human race and upon thee especially. I have given Him human form in order that He might converse with men and become the property of each one. He conceals Himself under the appearances of bread and wine in order to accommodate himself to the needs of each one, and that each one might consider Him as his personal property fit to offer to the eternal Father. In this way He furnishes to each one an oblation which no one could otherwise offer, and the Most High rests satisfied with it, since there is not anything more acceptable nor anything more precious in the possession of creatures.

In addition to this offering is the resignation with which souls embrace and bear with equanimity and patience the labors and difficulties of mortal life. My most holy Son and I were eminent Masters in the practice of this doctrine. My Son began to teach it from the moment in which He was conceived in my womb. For already then He began to suffer, and as soon as He was born into the world.  He and I were banished by Herod into a desert, and his sufferings continued until He died on the Cross. I also labored to the end of my life, as thou wilt be informed more and more in the writing of this history. Since, therefore, We suffered so much for creatures and for their salvation, I desire thee to imitate Us in this conformity to the divine will as being his spouse and my daughter. Suffer with a magnanimous heart, and labor to increase the possessions of thy Lord and Master, namely, souls, which are so precious in his sight and which He has purchased with his life-blood. Never shouldst thou fly from labors, difficulties, bitterness and sorrows, if by any of them thou canst gain a soul for the Lord, or if thou canst thereby induce it to leave the path of sin and enter the path of life. Let not the thought that thou art so useless and or that thy desires and labor avail but little, discourage thee; since thou canst not know how the Lord will accept of them and in how far He shall consider Himself served thereby. At least thou shouldst wish to labor assiduously and eat no unearned bread in his house (Prov. 31, 27).


Today's  Snippet  II:   Bethlehem

Bethlehem ( Bayt Laḥm or Bēt Laḥm, lit "House of Meat"; Hebrew: בֵּית לֶחֶם Bēṯ Leḥem, Modern: Bet Leḥem, IPA: [bet ˈleχem], lit "House of Bread;" Greek: Βηθλεὲμ, Vithleém) is a Palestinian city located in the central West Bank, neighboring south Jerusalem, with a population of about 25,000 people.  It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority. The economy is primarily tourist-driven.

The Hebrew Bible identifies Bethlehem as the city David was from. The New Testament identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The town is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, although the size of the community has shrunk due to emigration.

The city was sacked by the Samaritans in 529, but rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. Bethlehem was conquered by the Arab Caliphate of 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb in 637, who guaranteed safety for the city's religious shrines. In 1099, Crusaders captured and fortified Bethlehem and replaced its Greek Orthodox clergy with a Latin one. The Latin clergy were expelled after the city was captured by Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria. With the coming of the Mamluks in 1250, the city's walls were demolished, and were subsequently rebuilt during the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

The British wrested control of the city from the Ottomans during World War I and it was to be included in an international zone under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Jordan annexed the city in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Since 1995, Bethlehem has been governed by the Palestinian National Authority.

Bethlehem has a Muslim majority, but is also home to one of the largest Palestinian Christian communities. Bethlehem's chief economic sector is tourism which peaks during the Christmas season when Christian pilgrims throng to the Church of the Nativity. Bethlehem has over thirty hotels and three hundred handicraft work shops. Rachel's Tomb, an important Jewish holy site, is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem.


Bethlehem stands at an elevation of about 775 meters (2,543 ft) above sea level, 30 meters (98 ft) higher than nearby Jerusalem. Bethlehem is situated on the southern portion in the Judean Mountains.

The city is located 73 kilometers (45 mi) northeast of Gaza and the Mediterranean Sea, 75 kilometers (47 mi) west of Amman, Jordan, 59 kilometers (37 mi) southeast of Tel Aviv, Israel and 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) south of Jerusalem. Nearby cities and towns include Beit Safafa and Jerusalem to the north, Beit Jala to the northwest, Husan to the west, al-Khadr and Artas to the southwest, and Beit Sahour to the east. Beit Jala and the latter form an agglomeration with Bethlehem and the Aida and Azza refugee camps are located within the city limits.

In the center of Bethlehem is its old city. The old city consists of eight quarters, laid out in a mosaic style, forming the area around the Manger Square. The quarters include the Christian al-Najajreh, al-Farahiyeh, al-Anatreh, al-Tarajmeh, al-Qawawsa and Hreizat quarters and al-Fawaghreh — the only Muslim quarter. Most of the Christian quarters are named after the Arab Ghassanid clans that settled there. Al-Qawawsa Quarter was formed by Arab Christian emigrants from the nearby town of Tuqu' in the 18th century. There is also a Syriac quarter outside of the old city, whose inhabitants originate from Midyat and Ma'asarte in Turkey. The total population of the old city is about 5,000.


Canaanite period

An historical reference to the town appears in the Amarna Letters (c. 1400 BC) when the King of Jerusalem appeals to his overlord, the King of Egypt, for help in retaking "Bit-Lahmi" in the wake of disturbances by the Apiru. It is thought that the similarity of this name to its modern forms indicates that this was a settlement of Canaanites who shared a Semitic cultural and linguistic heritage with the later arrivals.
Lachmo was the Akkadian god of fertility. Worshiped by the Canaanites as Lachama, some time in the 3rd millennium BC, they erected a temple to worship the god on the hill now known as the Hill of the Nativity. The town was known as Beit Lachama, meaning "House of Lachama." William F. Albright notes the pronunciation of the name remained essentially the same for 3,500 years, but has meant different things: "'Temple of the God Lakhmu' in Canaanite, 'House of Bread' in Hebrew and Aramaic, 'House of Flesh' in Arabic."

Israelite and Judean period

Archaeological confirmation of Bethlehem as an Israelite city was uncovered in 2012 at the archaeological dig at the City of David in the form of a bulla (seal impression in dried clay) in ancient Hebrew script that reads "From the town of Bethlehem to the King," indicating that it was used to seal the string closing a shipment of grain, wine, or other goods sent as a tax payment in the 8th or 7th century BCE.

Biblical scholars believe Bethlehem, located in the "hill country" of Judah, may be the same as the Biblical Ephrath, which means "fertile", as there is a reference to it in the Book of Micah as Bethlehem Ephratah. The Bible also calls it Beth-Lehem Judah, and "a city of David". It is first mentioned in the Tanakh and the Bible as the place where the matriarch Rachel died and was buried "by the wayside" (Gen. 48:7). Rachel's Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem. According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moab gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. Biblical tradition holds that Bethlehem is the birthplace of David, the second king of Israel, and the place where he was anointed king by Samuel. It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam.[

Writing in the 4th century, the Pilgrim of Bordeaux reported that the sepulchers of David, Ezekiel, Asaph, Job, Jesse, and Solomon were located near Bethlehem. There has been no corroboration of this.

Classical antiquity

Between 132 and 135 the city was reoccupied by the Romans after its capture during the Bar Kokhba revolt. Its Jewish residents were expelled by the military order of Hadrian. The Romans built a shrine to the mythical Greek cult figure Adonis on the site of the Nativity. A church was erected in 326, when Helena, the mother of the first Byzantine emperor, Constantine, visited Bethlehem.

During the Samaritan revolt of 529, Bethlehem was sacked and its walls and the Church of the Nativity destroyed, but they were rebuilt on the orders of the Emperor Justinian I. In 614, the Persian Sassanid Empire, supported by Jewish rebels, invaded Palestina Prima and captured Bethlehem. A story recounted in later sources holds that they refrained from destroying the church on seeing the magi depicted in Persian clothing in a mosaic.

Islamic and Crusader rule

In 637, shortly after Jerusalem was captured by the Muslim armies, 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb, the second Caliph, promised that the Church of the Nativity would be preserved for Christian use. A mosque dedicated to Umar was built upon the place in the city where he prayed, next to the church. Bethlehem then passed through the control of the Islamic caliphates of the Umayyads in the 8th century, then the Abbasids in the 9th century. A Persian geographer recorded in the mid-9th century that a well preserved and much venerated church existed in the town. In 985, the Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi visited Bethlehem, and referred to its church as the "Basilica of Constantine, the equal of which does not exist anywhere in the country-round." In 1009, during the reign of the sixth Fatimid Caliph, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, the Church of the Nativity was ordered to be demolished, but was spared by local Muslims, because they had been permitted to worship in the structure's southern transept.

In 1099, Bethlehem was captured by the Crusaders, who fortified it and built a new monastery and cloister on the north side of the Church of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox clergy were removed from their sees and replaced with Latin clerics. Up until that point the official Christian presence in the region was Greek Orthodox. On Christmas Day 1100, Baldwin I, first king of the Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem, was crowned in Bethlehem, and that year a Latin episcopate was also established in the town.

In 1187, Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria who led the Muslim Ayyubids, captured Bethlehem from the Crusaders. The Latin clerics were forced to leave, allowing the Greek Orthodox clergy to return. Saladin agreed to the return of two Latin priests and two deacons in 1192. However, Bethlehem suffered from the loss of the pilgrim trade, as there was a sharp decrease of European pilgrims.

William IV, Count of Nevers had promised the Christian bishops of Bethlehem that if Bethlehem should fall under Muslim control, he would welcome them in the small town of Clamecy in present-day Burgundy, France. As such, The Bishop of Bethlehem duly took up residence in the hospital of Panthenor, Clamecy, in 1223. Clamecy remained the continuous 'in partibus infidelium' seat of the Bishopric of Bethlehem for almost 600 years, until the French Revolution in 1789.

Bethlehem—along with Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Sidon—was briefly ceded to the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem by a treaty between Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil in 1229, in return for a ten-year truce between the Ayyubids and the Crusaders. The treaty expired in 1239, and Bethlehem was recaptured by the Muslims in 1244.

In 1250, with the coming to power of the Mamluks under Rukn al-Din Baibars, tolerance of Christianity declined; the clergies left the city, and in 1263 the town walls were demolished. The Latin clergy returned to Bethlehem the following century, establishing themselves in the monastery adjoining the Basilica of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox were given control of the basilica and shared control of the Milk Grotto with the Latins and the Armenians.

Ottoman and Egyptian rule

Bethlehem, 1880
From 1517, during the years of Ottoman control, custody of the Basilica was bitterly disputed between the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. By the end of the 16th century, Bethlehem had become one of the largest villages in the District of Jerusalem, and was subdivided into seven quarters. The Basbus family served as the heads of Bethlehem among other leaders during this period. The Ottoman tax record and census from 1596 indicates that Bethlehem had a population of 1,435, making it the 13th largest village in Palestine at the time. Its total revenue amounted to 30,000 akce.

Bethlehem paid taxes on wheat, barley, and grapes. The Muslims and Christians were organized into separate communities, each having its own leader; five leaders represented the village in the mid-16th century, three of whom were Muslims. Ottoman tax records suggest that the Christian population was slightly more prosperous or grew more grain than grapes (the former being a more valuable commodity).

From 1831 to 1841, Palestine was under the rule of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty of Egypt. During this period, the town suffered an earthquake as well as the destruction of the Muslim quarter in 1834 by Egyptian troops, apparently as a reprisal for the murder of a favored loyalist of Ibrahim Pasha. In 1841, Bethlehem came under Ottoman rule once more and remained so until the end of World War I. Under the Ottomans, Bethlehem's inhabitants faced unemployment, compulsory military service, and heavy taxes, resulting in mass emigration, particularly to South America An American missionary in the 1850s reported a population of under 4,000, nearly all of whom belonged to the Greek Church. He also noted that a lack of water crippled the town's growth.

Modern era

Bethlehem was administered by the British Mandate from 1920 to 1948. In the United Nations General Assembly's 1947 resolution to partition Palestine, Bethlehem was included in the special international enclave of Jerusalem to be administered by the United Nations. Jordan captured the city during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Many refugees from areas captured by Israeli forces in 1947–48 fled to the Bethlehem area, primarily settling in the what became the official refugee camps of 'Azza (Beit Jibrin) and 'Aida in the north and Dheisheh in the south. The influx of refugees significantly transformed Bethlehem's Christian majority into a Muslim one.

Jordan retained control of the city until the Six-Day War in 1967, when Bethlehem was captured by Israel, along with the rest of the West Bank. Following the Six-Day War, Israel took control of the city. In 1995, Israel turned it over to the Palestinian National Authority in accordance with the Oslo peace accord.

Extensive Israeli settlements have been since built around the city; they are subject to Israeli, not Palestinian, legal authority. According to Leila Sansour, Bethlehem residents are confined to less than 13% of their original pre-war land. A majority of the forty-odd Israeli settlements surrounding Bethlehem is built on land confiscated from Christian, not Muslim, Palestinians.


Birthplace of Jesus

Nativity scene

Silver star marking the place where Jesus was born according to Christian tradition
Two accounts in the New Testament describe Jesus as being born in Bethlehem. According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus' parents lived in Nazareth and travelled for the Census of Quirinius to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, after which they returned home. The Gospel of Matthew account implies that the family lived in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born and from which they later fled to Nazareth to escape persecution. Matthew says that Herod the Great, told that a 'King of the Jews' has been born in Bethlehem, ordered the killing of all the children aged two and under in the town and surrounding areas. Joseph is warned of this in a dream, and the family escapes this fate by fleeing to Egypt and returning only after Herod has died. 

Early Christians interpreted a verse in the Book of Micah as a prophecy of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. The birth of Lord Jesus is a fulfillment of prophecy and implies a connection to the lineage of King David. The Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John do not include a nativity narrative, but refer to him only as being from Nazareth. In a 2005 article in Archaeology magazine, archaeologist Aviram Oshri points to an absence of evidence of the settlement of Bethlehem near Jerusalem at the time when Jesus was born, and postulates that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Galilee. In a 2011 article in Biblical Archaeology Review magazine, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor argues for the traditional position that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, near Jerusalem.

The existence of early traditions of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem is attested by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr, who stated in his Dialogue with Trypho (c. 155–161) that the Holy Family had taken refuge in a cave outside of the town. Origen of Alexandria, writing around the year 247, referred to a cave in the town of Bethlehem which local people believed was the birthplace of Jesus.

Christmas celebrations

Christmas rites are held in Bethlehem on three different dates: December 25 is the traditional date by the Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations, but Greek, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 6 and Armenian Orthodox Christians on January 19. Most Christmas processions pass through Manger Square, the plaza outside the Basilica of the Nativity. Roman Catholic services take place in St. Catherine's Church and Protestants often hold services at Shepherds' Fields.

Other religious festivals

Christmas pilgrims, 1890
Bethlehem celebrates festivals related to saints and prophets associated with Palestinian folklore.

One such festival is the annual Feast of Saint George (al-Khadr) on 5–6 May. During the celebrations, Greek Orthodox Christians from the city march in procession to the nearby town of al-Khader to baptize newborns in the waters around the Monastery of St. George and sacrifice a sheep in ritual.

The Feast of St. Elijah is commemorated by a procession to Mar Elias, a Greek Orthodox monastery north of Bethlehem.


Church of the Nativity
Tourism is Bethlehem's main industry and unlike other Palestinian localities before 2000, the majority of the working residents did not work in Israel. Over 25% of the working population was employed directly or indirectly in the industry. Tourism accounts for approximately 65% of the city's economy and 11% of the Palestinian National Authority.

The Church of the Nativity is one of Bethlehem's major tourist attractions and a magnet for Christian pilgrims. It stands in the center of the city — a part of the Manger Square — over a grotto or cave called the Holy Crypt, where Jesus supposedly was born. Nearby is the Milk Grotto where the Holy Family took refuge on their Flight to Egypt and next door is the cave where St. Jerome spent thirty years creating the Vulgate, the dominant Latin version of the bible until the Reformation.

There are over thirty hotels in Bethlehem. Jacir Palace, built in 1910 near the church, is one of Bethlehem's most successful hotels and its oldest. It was closed down in 2000 due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but reopened in 2005.



The women embroiderers of Bethlehem were known for their bridalwear. Bethlehem embroidery was renowned for its "strong overall effect of colors and metallic brilliance." Less formal dresses were made of indigo fabric with a sleeveless coat (bisht) from locally woven wool worn over top. Dresses for special occasions were made of striped silk with winged sleeves with a short taqsireh jacket known as the Bethlehem jacket. The taqsireh was made of velvet or broadcloth, usually with heavy embroidery.

Woman in traditional Bethlehem costume
Bethlehem work was unique in its use of couched gold or silver cord, or silk cord onto the silk, wool, felt or velvet used for the garment, to create stylized floral patterns with free or rounded lines.

This technique was used for "royal" wedding dresses (thob malak), taqsirehs and the shatwehs worn by married women. It has been traced by some to Byzantium, and by others to the formal costumes of the Ottoman Empire's elite.

As a Christian village, local women were also exposed to the detailing on church vestments with their heavy embroidery and silver brocade.


Mother-of-Pearl carving

Craftsmen working with mother-of-pearl, early 20th century
The art of mother-of-pearl carving is said to have been a Bethlehem tradition since the 15th century when it was introduced by Franciscan friars from Italy.

A constant stream of pilgrims generated a demand for these items, which also provided jobs for women. The industry was noted by Richard Pococke, who visited Bethlehem in 1727.

Cultural centers and museums

Bethlehem is home to the Palestinian Heritage Center, established in 1991. The center aims to preserve and promote Palestinian embroidery, art and folklore. The International Center of Bethlehem is another cultural center that concentrates primarily on the culture of Bethlehem. It provides language and guide training, woman's studies and arts and crafts displays, and training.

The Bethlehem branch of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music has about 500 students. Its primary goals are to teach children music, train teachers for other schools, sponsor music research, and the study of Palestinian folklore music.

Bethlehem has four museums: The Crib of the Nativity Theatre and Museum offers visitors 31 3D models depicting the significant stages of the life of Jesus. Its theater presents a 20-minute animated show. The Badd Giacaman Museum, located in the Old City of Bethlehem, dates back to the 18th century and is primarily dedicated to the history and process of olive oil production. Baituna al-Talhami Museum, established in 1972, contains displays of Bethlehem culture. The International Museum of Nativity was built by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to exhibit "high artistic quality in an evocative atmosphere".

The Church of the Nativity is a basilica located in Bethlehem, Palestinian territories, and is considered to be the oldest continuously operating Christian church in the world. The church was originally commissioned in 327 AD by Constantine and his mother Helena over the site that is still traditionally considered to be located over the cave that marks the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The Church of the Nativity site's original basilica was completed in 339 AD and destroyed by fire during the Samaritan Revolts in the sixth century AD. A new basilica was built 565 AD by the Byzantine Empire, restoring the architectural tone of the original. The site of the Church of the Nativity has had numerous additions since this second construction, including its prominent bell towers. Due to its cultural and geographical history, the site holds a prominent religious significance to those of both the Christian and Muslim faiths. The site of the Church of the Nativity is a World Heritage Site, and was the first to be listed under Palestine by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The site is also on UNESCO's List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.


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