Bethlehem!!! Birthplace of our Lord!

by Steve Ray on December 20, 2010

Why were the shepherds the first to be told about the birth of Jesus? Hint: where was he born? In a stable with animals?

The reason the Shepherds were notified first is because shepherds are ALWAYS the first to be notified of the BIRTH OF A LAMB! Jesus is the Lamb of God — born where lambs are born.

Here is the video of our day in Bethlehem!

If you want to join us on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, or learn more about it, click here.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ross Earl Hoffman January 28, 2010 at 12:09 AM

This is wonderful, brother Ray…..I love your teaching…and God is so…good…..look at how great he is using you….absolutly wonderful….

Ross Earl Hoffman

Pete December 21, 2010 at 12:44 PM

STEVE RAY HERE. PETE WROTE A COMMENT WHICH YOU CAN READ BELOW. I RESPONDED IN THE COMMENT BELOW IN THE SECOND COMMENT. HERE IS WHAT PETE SAID:

I would appreciate it if you would forward this to Steve Ray, who made the following errors during this morning’s Morning Air broadcast on 12/20/10. I am sure that he is making the same errors during these tours. Steve’s quotes are in “quotation marks”:

* Steve said, “There are paintings on the pillars”. No. These are holy icons. Icons are written, not painted. Icons communicate the gospel. They are not painted, and are not art.

* Same issue with the “mosaics”. These are also holy icons. The are written, not assembled.

* “Greek Iconostasis”, “Greek Priests”? No.These are Greek ORTHODOX priests. Would I call a local Catholic priest in Chicago a “Roman priest”? Of course not. I would call him a Roman Catholic priest, or simply Catholic priest. Please refer to them as Greek Orthodox priests or even better, Orthodox priests, since they may be from the Armenian patriarchate.

* “Greek Liturgy”? No. The Orthodox priests at the Church of the Nativity are celebrating THE DIVINE LITURGY OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, from the 4th century, which is what Orthodox churches celebrate 48 out of 52 weeks each year.

* “Greeks are IN CONTROL of the area”? Jerusalem and the surrounding land including Bethlehem has been an Orthodox patriarchate since 33 A.D. Would an Orthodox visitor to the Roman see comment that “Roman Catholics are IN CONTROL of the graves of St. Peter & St. Paul”, as if it were something out of the ordinary?

If Steve is going to give tours of an Orthodox church, he should really take the time to learn and understand the basics of Orthodoxy and Eastern Christianity. Maybe the Orthodox priests would be “friendlier” if he bothered to learn the proper Orthodox terminology.

STEVE RAY HERE. GO TO THE NEXT COMMENT TO READ MY RESPONSE.

Steve Ray December 21, 2010 at 6:06 PM

PETE: I would appreciate it if you would forward this to Steve Ray, who made the following errors during this morning’s Morning Air broadcast on 12/20/10. I am sure that he is making the same errors during these tours. Steve’s quotes are in “quotation marks”:

STEVE: There is a bit of presumption here — preemptively calling my comments “errors” as though you somehow are the final word on all matters religious. You may in the future suggest your opinion in these matters without the air of infallibility.

PETE: Steve said, “There are paintings on the pillars”. No. These are holy icons. Icons are written, not painted. Icons communicate the gospel. They are not painted, and are not art.

STEVE: You may not be aware, but the images on the pillar are frescos which is a procedure of painting colored pigments on wet plaster. In simple and common terms frescos are painted. The images are so old and covered with soot that it is barely possible to even ascertain that they exist. I suspect that an image of any saint or religious person to you is an “icon” but it isn’t so with everyone.

The word “icon” usually, and in popular terminology, refers to a beautiful image of a saint or holy person or holy thing “written” with paint on a piece of wood with a golden background representing heaven. It is not a painting but a window into heaven and is venerated. I happen to have over 50 of these in my home.

PETE: Same issue with the “mosaics”. These are also holy icons. The are written, not assembled.

STEVE: I never used the word “assembled.” You are putting words in my mouth. I referred to the mosaics on the floor which is the language any educated person would use. It is the way they are described in all the scholarly books written on the Church of the Nativity.

And in case you are not aware, the section of mosaic floor still visible, the section I was referring too, are not icons or images of people but geometric figures and shapes.

Unless you are using the word “icons” in some unique, antiquated or esoteric manner, the floors can not be considered “icons” as generally understood, not by any stretch of the imagination.

PETE: “Greek Iconostasis”, “Greek Priests”? No.These are Greek ORTHODOX priests. Would I call a local Catholic priest in Chicago a “Roman priest”? Of course not. I would call him a Roman Catholic priest, or simply Catholic priest. Please refer to them as Greek Orthodox priests or even better, Orthodox priests, since they may be from the Armenian patriarchate.

STEVE: I am leading Roman Catholics through this church, not Orthodox. Roman Catholics do not have the iconostasis, the Eastern churches do. Since it is the Greek Orthodox who have possession of the main section of the Church of the Nativity, it is not incorrect to refer to it as the iconostasis of the Greeks, as opposed to an altar and apse of the a Catholic Church. And I would suggest that using **Greek priests** in such a general way, and when they are all ethnically Greek, is correct in contrast to the
Roman Catholic or **Latin priests** who accompany our groups.

You might call a priest in Chicago a Roman priest if you were making a distinction between different rites, such as Maronite, Greek Catholic, etc. You may also refer to them as Latin priests which is what they are often called in the Holy Land. Of course we can always be more correct and specific by adding adjectives, but what I said was not incorrect nor misunderstood especially with the speed at which I have to cover a lot of material in a short amount of time on the radio.

The iconostasis and priests I was referring to were not Armenian or I would have said Armenian. The Armenian altar is off the left in their own section. The church is divided among Greeks, Latins and Armenians — and that is the sense in which I used the term and the sense in which any reasonable person would have understood it.

PETE: “Greek Liturgy”? No. The Orthodox priests at the Church of the Nativity are celebrating THE DIVINE LITURGY OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, from the 4th century, which is what Orthodox churches celebrate 48 out of 52 weeks each year.

STEVE: And I am supposed to be that specific when mentioning briefly what happens in the church? My point was not to make minute description of the differences in liturgies, that is for a theology or sacramental classroom setting. I am speaking to Catholics who celebrate the Catholic Mass, and I was making a distinction with what happens in that church. We as Catholics cannot celebrate our Latin liturgy at the main altar, but we can at our own altar.

I am making a simple distinction. To concede to your demands I would have to begin making careful distinctions between any kind of liturgy: Novo Ordo or Tridentine, traditional, etc. We have a Latin liturgy, they have a Greek liturgy. To be more specific in many situations is unnecessary.
And don’t forget, the liturgy is celebrated in Greek, not Latin or English.

PETE: “Greeks are IN CONTROL of the area”? Jerusalem and the surrounding land including Bethlehem has been an Orthodox patriarchate since 33 A.D. Would an Orthodox visitor to the Roman see comment that “Roman Catholics are IN CONTROL of the graves of St. Peter & St. Paul”, as if it were something out of the ordinary?

STEVE: Oh, the Greeks are certainly in charge of the main portion of that building. And to correct a misstatement of your, it has been a “**Catholic Patriarchate** since 33 AD. I don’t recall the early Fathers as calling themselves **Orthodox** rather, they called themselves ** Catholics**. To call it a Greek Patriarchate since 33 AD is anachronistic at best.

There is a thing called the “status quo” which dominates the religious functions within the church, as within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Until a few centuries ago it was under the control of the Latin Catholics. If anyone today denies it is now under the control of the Greeks — just rub their grouchy priests the wrong way or laugh in the church or pray the Rosary and see what happens! In the Holy Sepulchre, in the areas under the jurisdiction of the Greeks (and they are ethnically Greek), it is not unusual for them to swing at visitors with sticks, throw rocks at the Catholic priests and act with embarrassing rudeness.

About “Romans” in charge of St. Peters’ Tomb. You could and would refer to the **Romans** as in charge of the tomb of St. Peter if St. Peter’s Basilica was divided into six different religious traditions competing and even fighting for their own turf. Then you WOULD refer to the Peter’s tomb as under the control of the **Romans**.

Believe me, I see it all the time, the Greeks are in charge of certain areas and they make sure everyone knows it.

PETE: If Steve is going to give tours of an Orthodox church, he should really take the time to learn and understand the basics of Orthodoxy and Eastern Christianity. Maybe the Orthodox priests would be “friendlier” if he bothered to learn the proper Orthodox terminology.

STEVE: There is not a lot you can do to get the Greek priests “friendlier” in the Holy Land — unless of course you can prove you are ethnically Greek. I understand the basics of the Orthodox church (I am glad you used a small “c” here, though to be even more correct you should say the Orthodox “churches” since you are not one “church” but differing “churches” that usually cannot agree among themselves and have no one patriarch who can bring them together.)

I would suggest you lighten up a bit. If you want to instruct someone, shed the mantle of superiority which comes across as though you are the final word — infallibility. You seem prickly and it does not serve you or the Orthodox well. In the Middle East the Greek priests are often known for a similar attitude. I use Greek here because it is not the Orthodox per se (Armenians, Russians, etc.) but the Greeks who often have the attitude. I try to love and respect them and do my best to befriend and cooperate with them. However, very rarely does it pay off.

Pete December 22, 2010 at 6:13 PM

Steve,

Thanks for responding.

“Frescoes” are what Western Christians painted during the Renaissance period. “Icons” are what 1st millennial Christians – both Eastern and Western – wrote, and what Orthodox Christians write today. The holy images in the Church of the Nativity are icons, no matter what the surface is that they are written on.

UNFORTUNATELY FOR YOUR THEORY, THIS CHURCH WAS NOT ALWAYS EASTERN ORTHODOX. IT WAS CATHOLIC AND MANY OF THE “FRESCOES” OR “ICONS” WERE NOT PAINTED BY THE ORTHODOX BUT BY THE CATHOLICS, ESPECIALLY ON THE PILLARS. AND THEY WERE NOT ALL PAINTED IN THE FIRST MILLENIA.

“Greek priests” is an incorrect terminology, and an insult. Some of these “Greek” priests you refer to are ethnic Palestinians, Syrians, or Turks. “Greek” people can be atheists, after all. These are “Orthodox priests”; or “Greek Orthodox priests” to differentiate their patriarchate.

THE PRIEST I REFER TO **ARE** ETHNIC GREEKS AND THEY TREAT ETHNIC GREEK PILGRIMS LIKE ROYALTY AND EVERYONE ELSE WITH SCOWLS AND PETTINESS. THEY ARE GREEKS, SPEAK GREEK, HAVE A LITURGY PRAYED IN GREEK AND ARE GREEK ORTHODOX. SO IN COMMON PARLANCE I OFTEN REFER TO ALL OF THOSE IN CHARGE OF THE CHURCH AS GREEKS AS OPPOSED TO THE LATINS WHO ARE NEXT DOOR, OR THE ARMENIANS WHO HAVE THE ATTACHED ALTAR.

It is not a “Greek Liturgy”. It is the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which is celebrated in the Greek language, Greek being the language of the Septuagint Old Testament and New Testament. St. John was an ethnic Syrian from Antioch; he was not “Greek”.

IT IS CELEBRATED BY GREEKS, IN GREEK AND YES, IT IS THE DIVINE LITURGY OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM BUT THAT IS NOT EASY WAY TO EXPLAIN IT ON THE FLY. I KNOW WHERE ST. JOHN WAS FROM. THE PRIESTS THERE TODAY ARE NOT FROM SYRIA AND THEY MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THEY ARE GREEKS AND BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE. EVEN THOUGH THEY CELEBRATE THE LITURGY ORIGINALLY FROM A SYRIAN FROM ANTIOCH THEY DO NOT CONSIDER THEMSELVES SYRIAN — THEY MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THEY ARE GREEKS, BY LANGUAGE, BY ETHNICAL ORIGIN AND BY TREATING OTHER GREEKS WITH GREAT PREFERENCE.

Anyway, here’s a real simple rule: we’ll call you what you want to be called, and you call us what we want to be called. Seems reasonable to me.

YOU CALL US WHAT YOU WANT, AND I WILL CALL THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO BE CALLED.

The Orthodox Church is made up of several churches in full communion: Russian, Greek, Romanian, etc. These are the same churches teaching the same Gospel, but in the local language of the people. I would wager when you were Protestant that you attacked the Roman Catholic Church for holding their Masses in Latin for so long, vs. the local language.

YOU ARE NOT IN FULL COMMUNION IN A PRACTICAL WAY. YOU HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO CALL A COUNCIL FOR OVER 1200 YEARS BECAUSE NO ONE IS IN CHARGE AND YOU NO LONGER HAVE A “CAESAR” TO CALL IT FOR YOU. THEY ARE SEPARATE CHURCHES UNDER SEPARATE PATRIARCHS AND THEY DO NOT HAVE THE GREAT UNITY YOU PROFESS. I NEVER ATTACKED THE CATHOLICS FOR MASS IN LATIN. IT WAS A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE AND I COULDN’T OF CARED LESS WHAT THEY DID AT THE TIME.

We are indeed one Orthodox Church, the true apostolic Church that Christ founded in 33 AD.

THE EARLY CHURCH SINCE 33 AD DID **NOT** CALL ITSELF ** ORTHODOX** IT WAS **CATHOLIC!** WHEN YOU BROKE FROM ROME YOU TOOK A NEW NAME AND BROKE WITH YOUR OWN PATRIARCHS AND SAINTS OF OLD WHO RECOGNIZED THE CHURCH OF ROME AS THE PRIMACY. I AM NOT GOING TO ARGUE THAT WITH YOU. JUST READ MY BOOK **UPON THIS ROCK** WHICH HAS BEEN THE REASON FOR MANY ORTHODOX TO CONVERT TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

We are not united by a single human person, which is what you consider the “standard of unity” – and this standard was unknown in the early church – but instead we are in communion through the purity and sameness of doctrine, unchanged through the ages, through the grace of the Holy Spirit. You and Scott Hahn may find our “theology to be stagnant” (Rome Sweet Rome), but we find it extraordinarily beautiful. Being the only church to continue “stale” apostolic traditions through the centuries invites derision from the more theologically innovative Roman Catholic and Protestant sects, but that comes with the territory, I am finding out.

WHICH IS WHY YOU NOW HAVE NO MEANS TO DEVELOP DOCTRINE OR CONFRONT THE MODERN WORLD. THIS IS WHY YOU DO NOT TAKE A STRONG STAND AGAINST ABORTION, ALLOW THREE DIVORCES PER PERSON (WHY NOT 2 OR 4?) AND YOU DO HAVE A STAGNANT THEOLOGY WHICH EVEN YOUR OWN THEOLOGIANS ADMIT (SEE **PRIMACY OF PETER** EDITED BY JOHN MERYENDORFF AND QUOTED FREQUENTLY IN MY BOOK). WITHOUT AN OVERALL HEAD YOU HAVE NO ROOM TO MOVE, TO CALL A COUNCIL, TO DEFINE OR DEVELOP DOCTRINE — AND SPEND MOST OF THE TIME SQUABBLING AMONG YOURSELVES WITH THE GREEK AND RUSSIAN PATRIARCHS USUALLY EXERTING THEMSELVES DUE TO SIZE AND IMPORTANCE.

Finally, you used the word “infallibility” more than once, although I did not bring it up. Certainly Orthodox of today, as well as the 1st millennial Christians, considered no human – or group of humans – to be infallible. I certainly do not consider myself infallible; I’m just trying to make you aware of correct terminology so that you can improve the accuracy of your tours.

I USED THE WORD **INFALLIBLE** IN A PEJORATIVE SENSE. YOU DENY THAT DOCTRINE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH REGARDING THE POPE YET YOU COME ACROSS AS THOUGH YOU ARE THE FINAL WORD ON MATTERS. YOU ARE WRONG ABOUT THE ACCEPTANCE OF INFALLIBILITY IN THE FIRST MILLENIA. EVEN THE FIRST LETTER OF CLEMENT TO THE CORINTHIANS IMPLIES THIS JUST AS REALLY AS THE FIRST VATICAN COUNCIL. READ MY BOOK. I KNOW YOU DON’T CONSIDER YOURSELF INFALLIBLE, BUT YOU COME ACROSS AS SOMEONE WHO KNOWS EVERYTHING AND IS OUT TO TEACH ALL CATHOLICS HOW WRONG AND MISGUIDED THEY ARE.

I APPRECIATE THE INTENT OF YOUR COMMENTS, MAYBE NOT THE WAY THEY COME ACROSS. I TRY TO LEARN ALL I CAN SO AS TO BE ACCURATE, THOUGH NOT TEDIOUS. MY LOCAL GUIDE WAS RAISED ORTHODOX AND IS NOW CATHOLIC — SO HE KNOWS BOTH VERY WELL. BELIEVE ME, IF I SAY SOMETHING WRONG ON A TOUR HE IS THERE TO CORRECT ME AS I OFTEN DO WITH HIM IN BIBLICAL MATTERS. I AM ALWAYS LEARNING AND FINE-TUNING MY OWN UNDERSTANDING AND WHAT I TEACH.

PS: Why the heck would anyone in your group laugh in the Church of the Nativity, a place that you yourself called “Holy Ground”? Did Moses laugh in the front of the burning bush? He would have been lucky, if he did, to only get whacked by a stick. (Just trying to take your advice and “lighten up”)

First, some of our group laughed because as we were standing in line in 90 degree temperatures for two hours waiting our turn to go down into the grotto, we have headsets on and I and my Greek Orthodox guide (whose father was Catholic and mother was Orthodox and he goes to both churches now) talk quietly to them explaining the church, the history, etc. In the course of two hours sometimes we say something funny and the people chuckle — never more than that. One time the Greek priest (not Palestinian, but ethnically Greek) came over and yelled at us and said if we laughed again he would kick us out of the church.

My local guide stepped up and said, “Try it! You are a foreigner from Greece and you have the audacity to tell me a local Christian that you will kick me out of my own church? Try it!”

People chuckle at things when you talk with them for two hours; we are humans.

The whacking with sticks was in the Holy Sepulchre when pilgrims who had traveled thousands of miles to see this holy site were standing in line for hours and the Greek priest (yes, Greek from Greece) told them to leave because he was going to clean it now. They just stood quietly in line waiting. He yelled and told them to leave. They quietly waited. He grabbed a broom and starting whacking them and yelling until they all scattered. Believe me, I have seen such things and know their usual temperaments.

And I appreciate your being more friendly here. It makes me more willing to learn from you as I know there is much I can learn. But I am also no fool and have some very distinct disagreements with you that I am not going to take the time to expound since my time is limited and usually I don’t even respond to this kind of thing. But you have grown on me :-)

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