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  * Introd.
  * Texts
  * Gospels
  * Byzan. 1
  * Byzan. 2
  * Byzan. 3
  * Pilgrims
  * Mid.Ages
  * Modern
  * Conclusion


Bethany - Conclusion

The Franciscan Church at Bethany
CONCLUSION

In conclusion, it must be acknowledged that, while the name of Bethany appears quite often in spiritual treatises, the site itself has not yielded data of great importance to our historians. To be sure, many documents have references to it but they are usually brief and somewhat inconsistent. Thus, books like Guides to the Holy Land and articles by specialists do no more than reproduce the words of the chief witnesses of old. Even travellers who experienced all kinds of happenings during their journeys, some funny. some quite frightening, have nothing out of the ordinary to say about Bethany, even those who usually grace their accounts with interesting reflections.

It is precisely in view of this that we should fully appreciate the worth of the discoveries of 1949-1953, spanning great gaps and throwing light on the written documents and other evidence from antiquity. Actually, history has given way to archaeology. All the same, it must be borne in mind that while they help explain 1600 years of religious history, the closely-examined ruins of Bethany make sense always and only with reference to the tomb of Lazarus. At the beginning of the fourth century, the faithful were concerned with 'pointing out" the tomb, left in its natural state. From this, it is clear that they recognized the long tradition already associated with it. Despite wars, deliberate destruction and all manner of obstacles, this tradition remained constant down through the ages. No other can ever be substituted for it. In a word, a visit to Bethany means much more than viewing ruins, a mosque and churches and taking quick snapshots with a camera. Even a visit to the tomb of Lazarus will be of only passing interest if one fails to take note of the real reason why thousands of Christians have been drawn to this place, and why six shrines have been erected here.

The basic reason is the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Therein, the Gospel writers and the faithful have discerned the greatest of Christ's miracles, the one which most clearly showed forth his mission as envoy of God. This was quite clear, in the beginning, to the members of the Sanhedrin who straight-way took counsel and decided that the wonder-worker must go (John 11:47-53). Thus, the tomb of Lazarus is no ordinary grave. Unceasing worship on the part of pilgrims to Bethany is not centred on some "casual" wonder. In their eyes, Lazarus' resurrection prefigured that of Christ, and heralded their own return from the grave.

The task of the writer ends here. As with other shrines, Bethany will be fully understood only in the light of the Gospel record itself.

The Franciscan Church at Bethany

© franciscan cyberspot - text written by Albert Storme



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