HOLY LAND, Maria Fischer •
“I carry your name to Bethlehem in the Holy Night”: what the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Dormition in Jerusalem have been doing for many years on the Holy Night has a special touch this year. In this Christmas marked by hatred, violence, and unimaginable suffering, they will carry the names of people from many nations and languages to Bethlehem. —
“We are witnessing in these days a violence against children, women and men that can hardly be expressed in words. In deed and word, people are being degraded, dehumanized,” the brothers write on their website. “Following Jesus shows us another way. He, who became man for us, lives for us to meet each person in his or her dignity. He, who lives as a man among men, has a name and calls each one of us by name. In our prayers we carry the victims of inhuman terror before God, especially in these days. And it is in this trust and hope that we prepare our Christmas action.
My name and that of “my people” in the Holy Night in Bethlehem
“To be able to celebrate Christmas in the Holy Land is a gift,” the website says. “We monks are very happy that we can share this wonderful experience every year with many guests and visitors. – Meanwhile, for us to celebrate Christmas in the Holy Land is not only a gift and a grace but also a pleasant duty: Many people know that after our midnight liturgy at the Dormition Basilica we make our way to Bethlehem, to the place of the birth of our Lord and Redeemer. Just as the shepherds did it! Everyone who joins us in this nocturnal pilgrimage has people and prayer requests in his heart and mind: People he would like to pray for in this special night and at this special place in the grottos of Bethlehem.
Therefore, we offer to collect the names of the people who are “going to Bethlehem”: People can send us names, we write them on a big and long scroll.
From there, the title of our Christmas campaign is:
“I carry your Name to Bethlehem in the Holy Night”.
I have called you by your name
Why names in particular? The monks explain, “Names play a big role in the Bible. They are more than a label; they designate the person himself. This is true of God himself: We baptize and bless to this day ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’
It is also true for man: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine” (Is 43:1), God says to the people of Israel. Addressing someone by name already establishes a personal relationship. We human beings need such relationships in order to live truly. We need admonition and correction, encouragement, and comfort. This is not possible anonymously, without a name.
To call someone by name means to take him or her seriously as a person in his or her individuality, in his or her weaknesses and strengths – ideally: to accept. When we write your names on our large scroll on Christmas Eve, we also take your names with us to Bethlehem: in prayer of petition and thanksgiving, in joy over the child in the manger, and in hope for salvation and peace. At Christmas 2022, we were able to take 83,858 names with us on our pilgrimage. With the firm faith and joyful hope that God, in His goodness and love of man, also wants to enter into all our lives!”
Not just my name…
In a few days I will visit the Casa del Niño in Florencio Varela again. Three hundred children from the poorest neighborhood of this poor city receive food, medical care, and educational assistance. And I think: if I write all three hundred names on a list and send them to Jerusalem, each name will become a prayer. And I think of my friends, my relatives, my colleagues, our collaborators from schoenstatt.org, my neighbor who takes care of my apartment during my vacations, my pastor, and the policeman who helped me load my suitcase at the train station, and… my list becomes longer and longer. And suddenly there are names from politics and from the news, from Ukraine and from Israel and from Gaza… And each name becomes a prayer and an Advent and a miracle of the Holy Night.
What names do you carry to Bethlehem in the Holy Night?