Coronavirus in the Holy Land

Coronavirus in the Holy Land

Just like the rest of the world, COVID19 changed life in the Holy Land. The streets of the Old City in Jerusalem were once bustling with life. Thousands of pilgrims and tourists used to crowd the cobblestone streets. The churches were once full of people praying together, in the most historical and spiritual locations.

But for most of 2020, the Old City was empty. The shops in the bazaar shut down, even the churches closed their doors. The smell of incense still floats over the alters, but only the local clergymen are here to smell it.

The market stalls of Jerusalem shuttered their doors
The market stalls of Jerusalem shuttered their doors

I like to think now is the time to appreciate the things that we were too busy to see before. With everything closed, and only quietness around, we have time to reflect. We have time to fully dedicate ourselves to Jesus Christ. 

Since Coronavirus started, I have had more time to pray. I like to pray every day for myself and my family. But I also pray for the virus to end. I pray for people who lost their jobs. I pray for people who are sick or families that lost someone they love.

What do you pray for?

A church in Jerusalem
A church in Jerusalem

We can pray together as Christians. Let’s turn to God, faithfully untied. Even if you are physically separated from your friend or family, you can pray online together.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Do not lose faith. Do not lose hope. Remember that God is always with you. Turn to Him during difficult times and His goodness will prevail. 

And even though the Holy Land is closed for pilgrimages, your prayers can still be heard in Jerusalem. The Salvation Garden family is waiting to hand-deliver your prayer requests.

How to Celebrate St. Joseph’s Day

How to Celebrate St. Joseph’s Day

If you love watching the parades on St. Joseph’s Day or bingeing on zeppole (doughnuts) and sfinge (cream puffs), there’s much more to this day than the grand processions and feast laid out for one and all. Those of you who attend mass religiously before partaking of the lavish spread may have at some point in time thought about the tradition, customs, and facts that make this day stand out as an important one. But what if your circumstances act as a deterrent and stand in the way of your celebrating the day? A prayer request could be the solution that you are looking for so you, too, can participate in this solemn occasion. Although you are not physically present, a prayer request will bring the much-needed peace to your mind and let you soak in the spirit of the occasion. Read on to delve deep into the facts and history that make this day so special and why it is observed all over the world.

The History of St. Joseph’s Day

Every year, St. Joseph’s Day is celebrated on March 19. It is also known as La Festa di San Giuseppe or the Feast of Saint Joseph. It is believed that St. Joseph was the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the stepfather of Christ. Since the 10th century, certain Western calendars had started marking and celebrating March 19 as St. Joseph’s Day. The custom was adopted by the Romans by the late 15th century. Pope St. Pius V spread the acceptance of this date to the Roman Rite. It has been observed that between the late 19th century and the middle of the 20th century, people organized a Feast Day in veneration of St. Joseph as the husband of the Virgin Mary. Initially, St. Joseph’s Day was celebrated on the third Sunday after Easter; with time, it was moved to the Wednesday before and renamed as The Solemnity of Saint Joseph but in 1955, Pope Pius XII abolished this celebration. 

St. Joseph’s Table

People don red attire as it is customary to wear this color on St. Joseph’s Day and participate in the celebrations. Participants construct an altar also known as St. Joseph’s Table and decorate it with candles and flowers, particularly white carnations and lilies. Food and wine are placed on the table. The food items include lemons, fish, seafood, and fava beans; these food items have a symbolic meaning and considered to be lucky. Fava beans must be included as it is the only crop that had survived the severe drought in the Middle Ages in Italy. It is also considered to be lucky as people believe that a dried fava bean brings good luck and fortune to a person who carries it with him or her. Breadcrumbs are included in the recipes as St. Joseph was a carpenter; the breadcrumbs denote sawdust or the dry earth left behind after the drought. But care is taken not to include any meat dishes, as St. Joseph’s Day falls during the season of Lent.

According to popular belief, if a woman who wants to get married manages to steal a lemon from St. Joseph’s Table, she will have better luck in finding a husband. 

According to the legendary story, St. Joseph interceded on behalf of the villagers during a severe famine in Sicily and prayed for rain. The Lord answered his prayers and the famine came to an end. The villagers held an annual feast to honor the Almighty and St. Joseph. This gave birth to the tradition of well-to-do families preparing large meals and distributing the food to the less fortunate people like the homeless, ill, and poor. 

The Three Tiers of the Table

St. Joseph’s Table comprises three tiers that symbolize the Most Holy Trinity. The topmost tier holds a statue of the saint amidst greenery and flowers, particularly lilies. The other two tiers are decorated with food and other items such as candles, and symbolic pastries and bread shaped like fish and doves. 

The Table is always blessed by a priest and a basket is kept for the people to place their prayer petitions.

What is Eaten on St. Joseph’s Day?

Traditionally, the food items laid out on St. Joseph’s Table must include fava beans and lemons. Stuffed artichokes, other vegetables, and a bean soup known as minestras are served during the feast. There is an assortment of bread but it is baked into symbolic shapes such as a hand, cross, or staff. Cheese is not eaten on this particular day. Certain dishes are sprinkled with dry breadcrumbs as a topping. Dessert includes cookies with almonds and sfinges rolled in sugar or filled with custard or cream.

How Does the Day End?

The words Viva La Tavola di San Giuseppe mark the beginning of feasting. After feasting is over, the altar is broken. This is followed by Tupa Tupa or Knock Knock signifying the Holy Family’s search for shelter before Christ’s birth. Three children dressed as the Holy Family knock on three doors seeking shelter; they are refused twice and welcomed in the third house.

At the end of the day’s celebrations, every participant is given a bag containing fruits, pastries, cookies, bread, a medal with an engraving of St. Joseph, a Holy Card and/or a sanctified fava bean.


What Is Palm Sunday About?

What Is Palm Sunday About?

You must have seen Christian churches decorated with palm branches and parishioners in rapt attention crafting crosses made of palm branches in their pews. You may have taken part in the processions taken out on Palm Sunday or been handed palm fronds in your parish. But have you ever thought about what makes this day significant in the Christian calendar?

Or what is the history of Palm Sunday? If you’re looking to seek answers to these questions as well as gain a clearer perception of the rituals involved and their significance, read on to learn more about this day. But if you are unable to visit a church and be a part of the congregation, an online prayer request to the Holy land can blur geographical boundaries and let you seek divine blessings. You can send a prayer request for yourself, your family members and friends and seek His divine grace.

What is Palm Sunday?

Palm Sunday marks one of the most important dates in the Christian calendar. It falls on the Sunday just before Easter – the last Sunday before the Lenten season ends. It marks the first day or beginning of the Holy Week. The day is celebrated to commemorate the arrival of Christ in the holy city of Jerusalem before his arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection. Palm Sunday depicts how the people of Jerusalem welcomed Christ into their city and laid out palm leaves on his path as he passed by. Nowadays, processions are taken out to celebrate Palm Sunday where people carry willow, palm, or olive branches. Palm Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday, Flower Sunday, Willow Sunday, and Branch Sunday.   

The History of Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday denotes Christ’s entry into the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey before his crucifixion five days later. The crowds waved palm branches and leaves and shouted in jubilation. They referred to Christ as their “Messiah” or Savior. Palm Sunday refers to the fulfillment of a prophecy made in the Old Testament by Prophet Zachariah, who had predicted the event. The Prophet had also said that the people would recognize Christ as their Messiah as he rode into Jerusalem. 

During that era, it was customary that a king would come riding into the city on a white horse signifying victory in a battle but he would ride a donkey during peaceful times. Christ came riding on a donkey to send a message that he had come not to judge the people but to demonstrate God’s grace. He came unarmed along with his disciples to demonstrate peace and the Kingdom of God.

What do the Palms Signify?

Palms are considered to be a representation of immortality. In ancient Egypt, there was a tradition where people carried the palm leaves and branches to funeral processions. The Egyptians believed that the palm was a representation of eternal life. They also considered palm branches to be a symbol of one’s spiritual triumph over death. Thus palms have been associated as a sign of paying homage. The people often threw palms as a mark of respect to people who belonged to the nobility as well as those who commanded a higher position in society. In Christianity, palm branches have been considered as a symbol of peace, joy, and victory over the flesh. 

If one reads the Gospels, it speaks of how the crowds of Jerusalem threw palm leaves at Christ’s feet as a mark of honor and respect as foretold in the Old Testament. The palm leaves were used as a symbol of victory and peace.

Importance of Palm Sunday

The Palm Sunday Scripture documents Christ’s victorious entry into the city of Jerusalem and marks the final week of his earthly ministry. Christians believe that the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ saved them from the punishment that they should have received. Thus, Palm Sunday has immense significance for all Christians as it serves as a reminder of how Christ had died for their sins.

Celebration of Palm Sunday

Traditionally, parishioners walk in processions to church carrying palm leaves in their hands. Holy water is used to bless the palm leaves. The branches are symbolic and serve as a reminder to people of Christ’s triumph over death. Many congregation members hand out small crosses made out of palm leaves and branches. A lot of worshippers twist the branches of the palms into crosses as well as other religious symbols. If palms are unavailable, one can use branches of willows, olives, and other trees. Many people take the palm leaves home and place it before a picture or statue of Christ; it is preserved till Christmas Eve and handed back to the church so that it can be used in a bonfire, but a majority of Roman Catholic churches collect the palm leaves and branches and burn them into ashes to be used for Ash Wednesday the following year.


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