Daily liturgy in memory of Christmas and the Daily Procession

The Daily Procession

The daily rhythm of the life of the Franciscan friars, custodians of these Holy Places, is marked by the animation of the liturgy and the welcoming of pilgrims. While each day the community celebrates the Eucharist according to the calendar of the Universal Church, the pilgrims celebrate in this place the memory of Christmas.

The para-liturgical moment that is celebrated each day in memory of the Birth of Jesus in the place of the Nativity is the Daily Procession to the Grotto of the Nativity. This, like all processions in the Holy Places, grew out of the desire to welcome pilgrims and bring them to the holy place along a precise route. Here it is celebrated every day at noon by the community of friars based in the Church of the Nativity.

The Daily Procession in Bethlehem has seen many changes in the form of the ritual over the centuries, since during that time worship within the church and in the adjoining structures has undergone numerous changes.

The evidence of the first friars mentions that in the 14th century, a time when they still had exclusive ownership of the church, the procession departed from the altar dedicated to the Virgin that was located in the middle of the left aisle.

In 1470, to avoid pilgrims having to pay tribute to the Saracens, the Friars Minor opened a passage connecting the Grotto of the Nativity, the Grotto of St. Joseph and what was then the Chapel of St. Catherine. These are just some of the examples of the variations that the church, and hence the route of the Daily Procession, has undergone over the course of time. It is also clear that some of the changes to the daily ritual were linked to different historical periods as well to internal dissensions between the Latins and Greeks, the latter who on several occasions limited access to the Grotto.

Today the procession follows the itinerary below, preserving a number of elements from the processions carried out by Father Bonifacio da Ragusa (16th century) and later elaborated upon by Father Tommaso Obicini (17th century):

 

  • I. The procession always departs from the Altar of St. Catherine with its first stop, or “station”, at the Altar of the Nativity;
  • II. the Holy Manger;
  • III. Altar of the Magi The following stations, which in earlier centuries were covered in their entirety, are today chosen on a daily basis as the final point of the itinerary:
  • IV. Tomb of the Innocents;
  • V. Oratory of St. Jerome;
  • VI. Tomb of St. Jerome;
  • VII. Tomb of St. Eusebius;
  • VIII. Altar of St. Catherine.

 

The route followed helps one to relive each day the moment and the places of the Birth and Manifestation of Lord Jesus, and of the altars dedicated to those who were witnesses in history to these facts.

Daily Procession

Daily Procession

  • Daily Procession Daily Procession in Bethlehem (81,54 KB)

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