Sing: Thy Word Is a Lamp Unto My Feet, UMH 601
This site was not on our itinerary. A docent saw us standing around the roped-off stairwell down to the caves and told us we would have to wait a few more minutes while another group finished their worship service below. We did not know what we were going to see – sometimes it pays off to look like you are lost!
Saint Jerome’s Cave
Saint Jerome was born in Dalmatia which lies on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea north of Greece. As a young man he became secretary to Pope Damasus I. The Pope encouraged Jerome to use his gift with languages to translate the Bible into Latin. Jerome moved from Rome to Bethlehem and took residence in this two room cavern near the Grotto of the Nativity.
Jerome spent 30 years working on his translation which is now known as the Vulgate. This remained the authoritative version of the Bible for the Roman Catholic Church into the 20th century. One of my favorite quotes I learned on this trip to the Holy Land came from Saint Jerome. Jerome was asked the value of living in the Holy Land while he was translating the Bible and he responded, “The land is the fifth Gospel.” At his death in 420 Jerome was interred in one of the adjacent caves until his remains were removed to Constantinople and then to Rome.
In adjoining caves:
Chapel of Saint Joseph: This chapel was consecrated in memory of Joseph’s dream which warned him to flee with his family to Egypt. (Matthew 2:13-15)
Chapel of the Holy Innocents: This chapel commemorates the children of Bethlehem who were murdered by Herod in his rage to retain his throne. (Matthew 2:16-18)