On Friday, January 7, 2022, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Christmas according to the established Status Quo.
On Wednesday, January 5, 2022, Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem presided at the reading of the Royal Hours of Christmas to lighten the program of Christmas Eve in Bethlehem.
On Christmas Eve the Patriarchal Entourage headed for Jaffa Gate accompanied by the Police Force and the Scouts to get on the vehicles to go to the Monastery of Prophet Elias by the ancient Monastery of the Seat.
At the Monastery of Prophet Elias, the Patriarch was welcomed by the Mayors and Officials of the Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and Bethlehem, the representatives of the Israeli Civil Authorities and the representative of the Ministry of Religion of Israel, Cecar Marjieh. A prayer was read the Caretaker of the Monastery Monk Achilios offered a reception for all.
Then the Patriarchal Entourage left with the Israeli horsemen leading the procession until Rachel’s tomb. From there the Palestinian motorcycle riders escorted the Patriarchal Entourage to the Square of the Basilica of the Nativity, where the Patriarch was welcomed by the Patriarchal Representative in Bethlehem, Metropolitan Benedictos of Diosaecarea.
From the square, the Hagiotaphite and Arab-speaking Priests along with a large crowd of people led the Patriarchal Entourage to the Basilica, under the chanting of Christmas hymns. The Entourage entered the Church through its humble door and proceeded from the Catholicon to Saint Nikolaos’ chapel, went down to the Cave and the Manger for veneration and came up to the Catholicon through the north gate.
The Service of the Royal Hours of Christmas began, followed by Vespers, the blessing of bread and the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, under the Greek and Arabic chanting with the attendance of local faithful Christians but not pilgrims due to covid restrictions. The Service finished at 15.30 according to the Status Quo.
The Service was followed by a reception.
In the evening the Hegoumen, Metropolitan Benedict of Diocaesarea hosted a formal reception for his distinguished guests, among whom were, the Representative of Palestinian Autonomy, Prime Minister Mohammad Ibrahim Shtayyeh and the representative of Jordan, Mazin Abdellah Hilal Al Farrayeh, Minister of Interior. The Patriarch addressed those present with an address which was read by Fr Issa Mousleh in Arabic.
In his address, the Patriarch underlined the pressures that the Christian Community faces by the radicals in Jerusalem and the power of the Church through the risen Sun of Righteousness to face and overcome those challenges, offering projects of benefit, such as the recent beginning of the construction of the project Lana/Jerusalem and the restoration of Prophet Elias Monastery.
This was the conclusion of Christmas Eve by the Patriarchate in Bethlehem, in anticipation of the main Christmas Feast the next day.
The Christmas Feast began with Matins on Friday night 25 December through the official entry from the Baptism Gate, with the Entreaty and the Six Psalms, led by the Patriarchal Commissioner, Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias.
During Matins, the Patriarch and His Entourage came from the Catholicon to the Holy Altar, where He put on His Patriarchal Liturgical vestments and by His blessings the Archbishops and Priests put on their liturgical vestments.
With the beginning of the Kathisma “Come all ye faithful let us see where Christ was born…” procession went from the Altar to the Holy Cave from its south gate, while the Representative of Palestinian Autonomy, Prime Minister Mohammad Ibrahim Shtayyeh, the President of the Palestinian Committee on Christian Affairs, Ramzi Chouri, and the representative of Jordan, Mazin Abdellah Hilal Al Farrayeh, Minister of Interior followed on the right side, along with the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr Evangelos Vlioras.
The Gospel narrative of the Nativity was read in the God-receiving Cave, followed by the Patriarch’s Christmas message, which was read in Greek by Geronda Secretary-General, Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, and in Arabic by the Patriarchate’s press representative, Priests Issa Mousleh.
The Service continued with Matins in the Basilica, led by Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with the co-celebration of Archbishops; Theophanes of Gerassa, Aristarchos of Constantina, Philoumenos of Pella and Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, Hagiotaphite Hieromonks, the representatives from the Patriarchates of Mosco and Romania, Priests from Bethlehem and Deacons, as the chanting was delivered by Hierodeacon Simeon in Greek on the right, and the Bethlehem choir in Arabic on the left under the lead of Mr Laurence Samour.
The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom followed, with the dismissal at 03:30 a.m. according to the Status Quo. The Divine Liturgy was also celebrated in the God-receiving Cave by Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias.
At the end of the Service, the Patriarchal Entourage went to the Hegoumeneion from the Baptism Gate, where the new Hegoumen, Metropolitan Benedictos of Diosaecarea hosted a reception.
At 09:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, the Elder Dragoman Archimandrite Mattheos went down to the Holy Cave for veneration and by this act, the Despotic Feast of Christmas in Bethlehem came to an end.
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