Friday, September 8, 2017

Germany Berlin All Day! Berlin Wall, Wow!

by Steve Ray on September 8, 2017

After celebrating mass at the church of Saint Thomas Aquinas (brilliant homily here) we spent the rest of the day touring Berlin. There’s a tremendous amount of history here and we packed a lot in.

IMG_5439I think the most moving part of the day was as we walked around the remaining segments of the Berlin Wall and saw all the pictures and images of what it was like here not too long ago.

Janet and I shared with the group our experience here in 1985 when we smuggled Bibles, books, medicine and money into the Christians behind the Iron Curtain by driving through checkpoint Charlie.

The first video details our tour of the city and the second shorter video is of our fun evening on the dinner cruise on the Spree River running through Berlin.

Everyone is doing fine and having a great time and getting over jet leg ?


Nativity and Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

by Steve Ray on September 8, 2017

The birth and presentation of Mary is described in the early 2nd century document known and loved by the first Christians. It is the source for the names of Mary’s parents Joachim and Anna. It is entitled “The Protoevangelium of James.”  It is fascinating.

I have only provided the first 1/3 of the document. The second part is about Joseph and Mary’s betrothal. The third about the birth of Jesus.

The Protoevangelium of James 
The Birth of Mary the Holy Mother of God,
and Very Glorious Mother of Jesus Christ

In Honor of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8.

IN THE RECORDS OF THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL was Joachim, a man rich exceedingly; and he brought his offerings double, saying: There shall be of my superabundance to all the people, and there shall be the offering for my forgiveness to the Lord for a propitiation for me. For the great day of the Lord was at hand, and the sons of Israel were bringing their offerings. And there stood over against him Rubim, saying: It is not meet for thee first to bring thine offerings, because thou hast not made seed in Israel. And Joachim was exceedingly grieved, and went away to the registers of the twelve tribes of the people, saying: I shall see the registers of the twelve tribes of Israel, as to whether I alone have not made seed in Israel. And he searched, and found that all the righteous had raised up seed in Israel. And he called to mind the patriach Abraham, that in the last day God gave him a son Isaac. And Joachim was exceedingly grieved, and did not come into the presence of his wife; but he retired to the desert, and there pitched his tent, and fasted forty days and forty nights, saying in himself: I will not go down either for food or for drink until the Lord my God shall look upon me, and prayer shall be my food and drink.

2. And his wife Anna mourned in two mournings, and lamented in two lamentations, saying: I shall bewail my widowhood; I shall bewail my childlessness. And the great day of the Lord was at hand; and Judith her maid-servant said: How long dost thou humiliate thy soul? Behold, the great day of the Lord is at hand, and it is unlawful for thee to mourn. But take this head-band, which the woman that made it gave to me; for it is not proper that I should wear it, because I am a maid-servant, and it has a royal appearance. And Anna said: Depart from me; for I have not done such things, and the Lord has brought me very low. I fear that some wicked person has given it to thee, and thou hast come to make me a sharer in thy sin. And Judith said: Why should I curse thee, seeing that the Lord hath shut thy womb, so as not to give thee fruit in Israel? And Anna was grieved exceedingly, and put off her garments of mourning, and cleaned her head, and put on her wedding garments, and about the ninth hour went down to the garden to walk. And she saw a laurel, and sat under it, and prayed to the Lord, saying: O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as Thou didst bless the womb of Sarah, and didst give her a son Isaac.

3. And gazing towards the heaven, she saw a sparrow’s nest in the laurel, and made a lamentation in herself, saying: Alas! who begot me? and what womb produced me? because I have become a curse in the presence of the sons of Israel, and I have been reproached, and they have driven me in derision out of the temple of the Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like the fowls of the heaven, because even the fowls of the heaven are productive before Thee, O Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like the beasts of the earth, because even the beasts of the earth are productive before Thee, O Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like these waters, because even these waters are productive before Thee, O Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like this earth, because even the earth bringeth forth its fruits in season, and blesseth Thee, O Lord.

4. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by, saying: Anna, Anna, the Lord hath heard thy prayer, and thou shalt conceive, and shall bring forth; and thy seed shall be spoken of in all the world. And Anna said: As the Lord my God liveth, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life. And, behold, two angels came, saying to her: Behold, Joachim thy husband is coming with his flocks. For an angel of the Lord went down to him, saying: Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God hath heard thy prayer Go down hence; for, behold, thy wife Anna shall conceive. And Joachim went down and called his shepherds, saying: Bring me hither ten she-lambs without spot or blemish, and they shall be for the Lord my God; and bring me twelve tender calves, and they shall be for the priests and the elders; and a hundred goats for all the people. And, behold, Joachim came with his flocks; and Anna stood by the gate, and saw Joachim coming, and she ran anti hung upon his neck, saying: Now I know that the Lord God hath blessed me exceedingly; for, behold the widow no longer a widow, and I the childless shall conceive. And Joachim rested the first day in his house.

images5. And on the following day he brought his offerings, saying in himself: If the Lord God has been rendered gracious to me, the plate on the priest’s forehead will make it manifest to me. And Joachim brought his offerings, and observed attentively the priest’s plate when he went up to the altar of the Lord, and he saw no sin in himself. And Joachim said: Now I know that the Lord has been gracious unto me, and has remitted all my sins. And he went down from the temple of the Lord justified, and departed to his own house. And her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth. And she said to the midwife: What have I brought forth? and she said: A girl. And said Anna: My soul has been magnified this day. And she laid her down. And the days having been fulfilled, Anna was purified, and gave the breast to the child, and called her name Mary.

7. And her months were added to the child. And the child was two years old, and Joachim said: Let us take her up to the temple of the Lord, that we may pay the vow that we have vowed, lest perchance the Lord send to us, and our offering be not received. And Anna said: Let us wait for the third year, in order that the child may not seek for father or mother. And Joachim said: So let us wait. And the child was three years old, and Joachim said: Invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are undefiled, and let them take each a lamp, and let them stand with the lamps burning, that the child may not turn back, and her heart be captivated from the temple of the Lord. And they did so until they went up into the temple of the Lord. And the priest received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: The Lord has magnified thy name in all generations. In thee, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel. And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her.

Ann-Joachim-Mary-233x3008. And her parents went down marveling, and praising the Lord God, because the child had not turned back. And Mary was in the temple of the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there, and she received food from the hand of an angel. And when she was twelve years old there was held a council of the priests, saying: Behold, Mary has reached the age of twelve years in the temple of the Lord. What then shall we do with her, test perchance she defile the sanctuary of the Lord? And they said to the high priest: Thou standest by the altar of the Lord; go in, and pray concerning her; and whatever the Lord shall manifest unto thee, that also will we do. And the high priest went in, taking the robe with the twelve bells into the holy of holies; and he prayed concerning her. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by him, saying unto him: Zacharias, Zacharias, go out and assemble the widowers of the people, and let them bring each his rod; and to whomsoever the Lord shall show a sign, his wife shall she be. And the heralds went out through all the circuit of Judaea, and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and all ran.

Click here for the rest of the document



We know where Jesus was baptized. It was on the Jordan side of the Jordan River. The site is called Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan as mentioned in John 1:28. This is a nice little 2 minute video about this site.

You will also see this site in great detail in our upcoming documentary on Elijah & Elisha – and you can see it in person in Jan-Feb 2018 and Sept 2018 when we take two pilgrimage groups to this exact spot.

Sorry for the stupid 30 second advertisement that pops up first – argh!

For my previous blog post on this site from when we were last there with maps, pictures, etc., click here.

Come, meet Jesus on Jordan’s bank
By Jordan Tourism Board NA | September 1, 2017

From Aleteia On-line: Visiting Jordan, you walk in the footsteps of Joshua, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Christ Himself.

There is a place on earth where the heavens opened, not once, but twice. When you stand here, on the banks of the Jordan River, the sun on the water dazzling your eyes and the wind stirring the leaves and grasses of this oasis, you are not alone. You stand in the company not only of your fellow pilgrims and travelers, but of thousands of wanderers and seekers across the millennia. And you walk in the footsteps of Jesus Himself.

Listen. You can hear the splash of wilderness-weary feet entering the stream. Not far from where you stand, Joshua assumed the leadership of the Israelites after Moses’ death, and led the people at last across this very river into the Land of Promise.

In the 4th century, the wealthy pilgrim Egeria stopped here. She noted in her diary, “Setting out from Jerusalem and journeying with holy men, with a priest and deacons from Jerusalem and with certain brothers, that is monks, we came to that spot on the Jordan where the children of Israel had crossed when holy Joshua, the son of Nun, had led them over Jordan.” Egeria and her companions stood on this holy ground and prayed, as pilgrims have been doing for centuries before and after her.

Listen. Can you hear the roar of a whirlwind? Very near here, the prophet Elijah struck the river with his mantle and the waters rolled aside, so he and his follower Elisha could cross on dry land. Here Elisha asked for a double share of Elijah’s spirit, and then the heavens opened for the first time:
As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” (2 Kings 2:12-13)

Now, listen. Hear “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the ways of the Lord, make his paths straight!’” In this very spot John began baptizing sinners. You stand in the crowd, you hear him say, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” And as John’s Gospel recounts, “This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.” (John 1:26-28)

Bethany beyond the Jordan, where Christianity was born

In this place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Jesus humbled Himself to be baptized by John. And the sky — the sky above you right now — opened once more, and the Blessed Trinity was revealed:

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:15-17)

Here, Jesus’ public ministry began. Here, in these waters, Christianity was born.

Pilgrims renew their baptismal promises where Jesus was baptized by John.

The evidence of centuries of pilgrimages, brought to light by archaeological finds as recent as 1996, confirms it. From coins that may have been carried by those who came out to the desert to see John the Baptist, to the ruins of early prayer houses marked with baptismal crosses, from monks’cells cut into the banks to the remains of Byzantine churches that flourished even after the Islamic conquest, Bethany beyond the Jordan speaks eloquently of the presence of the Divine.

Bethany beyond the Jordan — in Arabic al-Maghtas, “the Place of Baptism” — is just the beginning of the many spiritual, historical, and cultural wonders offered by a Jordan pilgrimage. North Americans are often unaware of Jordan’s modernity, gracious hospitality, and deep dedication to preserving and sharing the land’s diverse yet common religious roots.

Writer Peter Jesserer Smith shared his experience of a 2016 #HolyJordan trip with the National Catholic Register. “Jordan is arguably the safest and most secure country in the Middle East,” he wrote. “The kingdom is at peace with all of its neighbors and has a unique Arab society. Wherever I went, I encountered a welcoming culture of hospitality, a warm fraternity of Christian-Muslim coexistence, and an abiding love of their ancient sites and heritage.”

Christianity flourished in Jordan from its beginnings, and still does today.

A visit to Bethany beyond the Jordan, as to all of Jordan’s holy sites, is not simply a visit to a bygone past. Christianity flourishes here today. When Pope Francis visited this place in February 2016, he was welcomed by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, whose flock includes Jordanians. His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal extended a welcome to all, saying: “We invite the Christian world to visit this site and learn more about our roots and our ecclesial life. For many, this river is a border. For the Latin Patriarchate … it is more a bridge that unites, a call to communion and unity.”

Imagine yourself standing on the banks of the Jordan, on the ground where Jesus walked. You cup the water in your hand and cross yourself in the Name of the Trinity, renewing your own baptismal vows. Around you stand the Israelites, the disciples of John the Baptist, the first Christians and their pilgrim descendants — and the vibrant, living Church of today. The water, the stones, the ruins, the sky all speak to you of how your life changes in this moment, in this place.

To join Steve Ray on one of his two trips to Jordan in 2018, visit