The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Those Holy Fields *
by the Rev. C.H. Chase
Being Sunday Evening Thoughts for Our Children Concerning
"Those holy fields,
* [Having had the great happiness of a ride through the Holy Land, I write these short papers with the hope that they may make some dear children happier on Sunday evenings, and help them to picture more perfectly the scenes of Holy Scripture.]
XL. THE HOUSE OF BREAD.
"Let us now go even unto Bethlehem."--St. Luke ii. 15.
A six miles ride in a comfortable carriage along a fairly good road, brings us from Jerusalem down to Bethlehem, the House of Bread, for such the word means.
It is built on the narrow ridge of a long grey hill. Below lie the corn-fields, where Ruth of old gleaned in the fields at harvest-time, while on the slopes of the hill may be traced the vineyards in terraces, marked by their watch-towers. Away to the east stretch the wild hills where David kept his flocks, where the herdsman Amos may have gone in search of some lost sheep, and where, long afterwards, shepherds were abiding when they heard the choirs of angels.
There, at the eastern gate, is a well, a deep cistern hewn out of the solid rock. Was this the scene of that act of chivalry, when the three mighty men came at the risk of their lives to draw water for their king? Bethlehem, how full thou art of associations! of Rachel who died on her way hither; of Naomi, who left thee full and returned empty; of Boaz, the rich landowner; of Samuel, the seer; of David, the sweet poet; and last, but chief, of Him of whom it is written, "He cometh out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was."
The town, as we see it to-day, looks fairly clean, and its inhabitants are more independent than we have seen elsewhere, no one asking us for "Backsheesh." The women are prettily dressed. Their robe is a long blue or striped gown (girded at the waist), with wide sleeves, the front being embroidered with red, yellow, or green. The head-dress is a white veil, which stands up as a sort of crown over the forehead, and is ornamented with a silver chain, from which are suspended a number of gold or silver coins. The beauty which many travellers notice in the maidens of Bethlehem is said to be due to the fact that many of them are descendants of the French and English Crusaders. The whole of the present population, which numbers some thousands, is Christian.
The House of Bread. Does not the very name tell us of Him whose wondrous birth is the true glory of Bethlehem.
He came as "the living Bread" down from Heaven.
May He be to you and me our "Daily Bread."
When you are old enough you will be able to come to Him in His appointed means of grace, the blessed Sacrament of His love. Then will you know, as you can never otherwise know, what He meant in that marvellous chapter, St. John vi.
"Your fathers did eat manna, and are dead." "I am the Bread of Life." "He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me."
"Bread of Heaven, on Thee we feed,
"Vine of Heaven, Thy precious blood
XLI. THE BETHLEHEM CHILDREN'S MESSAGE.
"The Lord is my light and my Salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"--Ps. xxvii. 1.
Shopping in Bethlehem is a new experience. We are given coffee in small cups while we make our purchases. The shop-man asks about twice the value of each article, and gradually comes down in price.
The peasants are very clever in the way in which they carve the mother-of-pearl oyster shells found on the shores of the Red Sea. Olive-wood is made into boxes, crosses, pen-holders; and the black stone found by the Dead Sea is made into vases, coffee-cups, &c.
Leaving the tempting shop, we are guided to the house kept by two Englishwomen as a Girls' School. We find a most kindly welcome in the beautiful new buildings belonging to the Society of Female Education in the East. There are some fifteen older girls who are boarders, and nearly fifty younger girls day scholars.
The children seem bright, happy, and well-taught. Some native teachers look picturesque in the white veil, in a sort of crown over the head, which is a mark to show they are married. Several of the little children are blind, and others have very weak eyes; it is very sad in Palestine to find so many suffering from this terrible ophthalmia.
I deliver my message sent by some English schoolgirls, the same I had give to the Nazareth children. "Now I want a Bethlehem child's message to carry home to English children."
Here it is, words from a Psalm by David the Bethlehem boy, sent you, dear child, from a sister in Christ in that far-off land of the King.
"The Lord is my light and my Salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
What would a shepherd-lad need who had to watch his flock by night, with lions and bears prowling about? Light--safety--so that he need not fear. And what do you and I need as we journey home through the enemies' country, with one like "a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour"? Light and safety.
There is One Who can be both to us. "I am the light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." "Neither is there Salvation (safety) in any other," for He is "the Captain of our Salvation."
"Light of Light, with morning shine:
"Lead, kindly light amid the encircling gloom
XLII. THE "KHAN."
"There was no room for Him in the inn."--St. Luke ii. 7.
[I am indebted to a fellow traveler for this account of a night in an Eastern Khan.]
The weather is bitterly cold, and the rain is falling in torrents. Our tents are so soaking wet that the poor baggage animals cannot carry them, and they have to be left behind, while we press on as fast as our tired horses can carry us to seek some shelter for the night. At last we reach a Khan, or Eastern inn. It is little better than a barn, but very glad are we to find any refuge from the storm outside. The hospitable host gives us the only two rooms the inn contains, and we retire to rest. I am just falling to sleep when my ears catch the sound of bells. Another caravan has arrived, and after a great deal of quarrelling and shouting, the noise subsides, and we are able to rest.
Next morning we inquire of our dragoman or guide, the cause of this disturbance, and he tells us the reason. Another party of travelers had arrived over night, on their way to the coast. But we had taken up the only two rooms the Khan possessed. And so they had to sleep in the stable, "because there was no room for them in the inn."
These are the very words the guide uses in his broken English. But little does he know how they will be treasured up on the memory of some who heard them never to be forgotten. For they make us understand as never before, the incident of that wonderful night, nearly 1900 years ago, when a Galilean peasant and his betrothed wife arrived tired and weary in Royal David's city, and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born in a lowly cattle-shed at Bethlehem, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Christ Child comes to each heart, seeking for a lodging, not as a "wayfaring man," who comes to tarry for a night, but to abide with us always.
Will you, dear child, receive Him? Or is your heart like the Khan, full, so He has to turn aside? Full of love of pleasure, the love of self, the love of some sin?
Let Him enter in; then pleasure will be tenfold happier, self will be kept well in hand, sin will be conquered.
"Thou didst leave Thy Throne and Thy kingly crown,
XLIII. THE CAVE.
"She laid Him in a Manger."--St. Luke ii. 7.
We enter the oldest Church in the world, still used as a Church. It was built by Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, about the year 327. The nave is very large, and has four rows of Corinthian columns supporting the roof. These pillars are said to have been brought from the ruins of the old Temple at Jerusalem, and are black with age. The roof itself is of English oak, and was given when the Church was repaired by our own King Edward IV. The walls still show some old faded Mosaics. Once the Church was a blaze of gold and marble, and in it Baldwin was crowned on Christmas Day 1100, King of Jerusalem.
After seeing the nave, we descend a flight of steps, and reach what is the centre of all the interest in the Church and in the town of Bethlehem. A small grotto or cave blazing with the light from numberless silver lamps, shows a silver star, which is let into the pavement at our feet. Inscribed on it we read these words:
"Hic de Virgine Mariae Jesus Christus natus est."
"Here of the Virgin Mary Jesus Christ was born."
Is this really the stable? Did the manger stand here in this very cave? you ask.
"Already in the second century a cave near Bethlehem was fixed upon as the place where Christ was born," so says Justin Martyr. In this cave the great St. Jerome lived, because he loved to think it was his Lord's birth-place, and here, in the year 420, he died.
As we stand here, what a crowd of thoughts rush to our minds.
Do we "believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ"? Then we do believe that God the Son, "The Word," Who was equal with His Father, "became flesh," "took our Nature upon Him," and was made "Very Man."
Well might Angels appear to announce such tremendous news, and sing:
"Glory to God in the Highest."
It seems to me, as I study it more and more, the Incarnation is the most blessed of all the truths we believe as Christians. It is a Fact which, when really received, will help us to do our life's work nobly, to persevere in study diligently. It is a Fact which gives us power in our utter weakness to conquer evil. It is a Fact which puts into our minds high and lofty thoughts to drive out thoughts of folly and of sin.
As you get a little older, questions may arise to perplex you about God, Life, Suffering, Trial. You will wonder when you see the rich very rich, and the poor very poor.
Then, when these perplexities come, believe me, dear child, the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ will be the key to unlock them, and other like riddles, or at least to throw some light upon them. The Incarnation says to us:
"God's in His Heaven, all's right with the world."
It tells us of love, power, sympathy, perfect goodness.
It tells us you and I are made for God, and some day shall be with God.
"Once in royal David's city
"Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Proofread by LNL, Nov. 2023
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