Thursday, 2 December 2010

Commemoration of the Shepherds in Bethlehem who were watching their flocks and went to see the Lord

On December 25th, not only do we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; we also commemorate the Shepherds who went to see the Lord.
The Monastery at the Shepherds’ Field is located in the village of Beit-Sahour, about 1km to the east of Bethlehem and tradition indicates that this was the spot where the Shepherds kept watch (Luke 2:18-20) and where they heard the angelic proclamation “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good will toward men”. Ancient olive trees on the site date back over 2000 years and it is said that two of these trees mark the location where King David wrote many of the psalms.
Locally, the place is known as Kaniseter Rawat, which means ‘Place of the Shepherds’ Shelter’ and the cave in which shelter was taken is now a church – one of many built by Saint Helena in the year 325 AD and dedicated to the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos which we celebrate on 26th December. This is the only remaining ‘original’ church of St Helena as all the others have been destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries.
By the end of the 4th century, pious traditions also associated the Shepherds’ Field with the place where Jacob pastured his flock and built the Mignal Eder (Tower of the Flocks) referred to in Genesis 35:14. The remains of the base of this tower are still visible today.

Let us, like the Shepherds, keep watch and receive the joyful news of Christ’s birth.

Troparion of the Nativity (Tone 4)

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined upon the world the light of knowledge; for thereby, they that worshipped the stars were taught by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory to Thee.