A CHORUS FOR EVERY SITE !
Explaining the site at Qumran1979 was my first pilgrimage to the holy land of Israel,led by a Benedictine sister who lived many years on the Mount of Olives, in Jerusalem,where she became an accomplished Icon painter and kindly taught me the prayerful art.
She also introduced me to many people and places in the Land unknown to most tour leaders, which have been a blessing when, at her retirement, I organised pilgrimages myself. Since then, by the grace of God and under the patronage of Blessed mother, I have taken groups to The Holy Land of Israel for almost 40 years, 60 visits in total.
The photo above was at Qumran , where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, in 1947
What I aim to do , in this presentation, dear reader, is to take you on the same pilgrimage, in the Spirit, praying that, one day, you will go in the flesh !
I start with my first letter so that you get the feel of our attitudes and need of prayer for each other, and to establish that we go in humility and as an act of repentance ; we do not stay in hotels but in simple convents and monasteries, (which are much more fun )
1st Letter to Pilgrims
My dear Pilgrims,
Greetings from Iona! Must be one of the few places that did not have snow this winter. This morning we did see the ground near the parish Church covered in white – but they were hundreds of brave little snowdrops heralding spring!And in less than 6 weeks we will be intoxicated by the beauty of the spring flowers in the Galilee. Praise God!I enclose our updated itinerary. You will see flight times for going and coming. Please note that we check in terminal 1 at Heathrow. Please make sure you are there in good time , 11.30 at the latest. Security is very tight.You will see that we are staying at 5 different places , so please travel as light as possible, absolutely no need to dress up, Tee shirts and undies can be rinsed through en route and the most important thing is to have comfortable footwear. Only bring what you yourself can carry. March can be chilly at night so bring a woolie.There may also be showers. However for our day in the desert you will need cottons, sun hat and sun cream.
Your most important item and only guide book is your Bible which you will need every place we visit.
Other useful items are;Short morning and Evening Prayer Office book.
Plug for sink,Very lightweight rucksack – to hold your Bible, songbook, picnic and water, dailyForget handbags ladies – too tempting for pickpockets (yes, even in the Holyland)BathersSkirt (necessary in some places) shorts not allowed in most holy sites gentlemen Towels are provided each stopping placeSunhat and lotion for desert Travel kettle and teabags if you need
Comfortable shoes, sandals Warm jumper for evenings The main thing is to travel as light as possible, there are no porters and I do not want the men in the group to be lugging heavy suitcases for everybody and ending up with hernias. Remember we have five stops so you do not want a lot to pack and unpack. Bags are better than cases and easier to fit into our minibus. The rooms are en suite, so we can rinse through undies daily. Wear your heaviest items of clothing to save packing them. Bring a gift to leave behind for the orphanages
You might want to bring a snack to eat on the bus up to Galilee, there is quite a gap from our meal on the plane to arriving about midnight in Nazareth.
All this is practical stuff, but of course, the most important preparation is your heart. It is such a blessing to be able to live, a while, in the land God chose to enter the human condition, to walk in the footsteps of our Saviour, to visit the places he loved and ministered and to get to know him more intimately, as the scriptures come to life. So pray everyday for our pilgrimage, for each pilgrim and for me please, that we do not miss any ‘divine appointments’ and that the ferry can get me off the island when I need to set out, which will be on the Wednesday before we meet at Heathrow on Thursd morning at TERMINAL 1, 11.30 am at the EL AL check in, which is situated in zone P usually but check on screen.
I enclose insurance for the pilgrims who ordered it, will the rest of you make sure you have your insurance details with you and your passports. I will distribute tickets at the check in.
The Good Lord has gathered together a wonderful group of pilgrims and it will be exciting to see all the blessings that await us in the Land. We go as repentant and humble pilgrims to pray for blessings on everybody in the troubled land.
We travel and pray for peace in all the places Jesus ministered, but we cannot outdo His kindness to us and I have noticed that there are always special graces showered upon us, so be expectant! Also, if any of your family or friends wants to send a prayer request with you, we can put them on the altar as we celebrate Mass on Calvary.
All the plane tickets have been paid for but could the few who have not yet paid up the full amount please do so as soon as possible, NB CHEQUES MADE OUT TO … BIBLE STUDY GROUP!!Bring your insurance details and passport with you, making sure it does not expire within 12 months of our visit.If you have any questions dont hesitate to phone on 01681 700 144 or my mobile 07851478534 or email CURRENCY; Israeli shekels for picnic fodder but $US for most things in shops.Blessings from Iona, love Joan le Morvan
EXAMPLE OF A Provisional Itinerary
PILGRIMAGE TO THE HOLY LAND OF ISRAEL
To pray for Peace in the Land
MONDAY APRIL 4 – FRIDAY 15 APRIL 2011
UNDER THE PATRON AGE OF OUR LADY QUEEN OF PEACE AND ST BENEDICT
Led by Fr Gary Walsh
Organised by joan le morvan from Iona
PROVISIONAL ITINERARY( Subject to intervention of the Holy Spirit at all all times)
HEATHROW TERMINAL 1 Flight details ; NOT YET FINALISED
Coach to Nazareth (approx. 2 hrs) COACH ORGANISED BEAUTIFULLY BY MARANATHA TOURS.
To Nazareth for 3 nights. 4th,5th and 6th
Where else to begin ? this is where the most wonderful intervention of God into humanity began with a young Orthodox Jewish girl saying ‘ yes’ to something that could result in her being stoned to death.
At that time, the small settlement of Jews in Nazareth, was one of many in the largely pagan area of Galilee. They were ‘Netzer’, see Isaiah 11;1, meaning ‘shoots’, believing that the messiah would be born from their midst.
Today the ground level of the town is thirty feet above its level when Mary and Joseph and their extended family,( no such thing as a nuclear family in their culture. The idea of the ‘holy family of Jesus , Mary and Joseph’ is a western concept imposed upon the story much later) lived there and today, many times wider.
NAZARETH WITH THE BASILICA OF THE ANNUNCIATI0N IN THE CENTRE. AT THE TIME OF JESUS, THE TREES AROUND THE BASILICA WERE THE OUTER BOUNDARIES OF THE TOWN
This is the level at the time of Jesus and we are staying at the convent built over these excavations.
THE CONVENT IS DOWN THE LANE OPPOSITE THE BASILICA, AND THE ‘CATAFAGO MANSION’ WAS BOUGHT, FROM THE TURKS, WHO OCCUPIED THE LAND FOR 500 YEARS , BY THE ‘SISTERS OF NAZARETH’ IN 1855. THEY FOUNDED A DISPENSARY, SEVERAL SCHOOLS AND AN ORPHANAGE.
IN ENLARGING THEIR PROPERTY IN 1881, A WORKMAN FELL INTO A HOLE WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE A LARGE UNDERGROUND CHAMBER WITH A BEAUTIFULLY VAULTED ROOF. CLEARING AWAY THE DEBRIS THEY DISCOVERED A DOORWAY, SEVERAL ROOMS AND A TOMB CHAMBER.
THIS WAS THE BEGINNING OF AMAZING ARCHEOLOGICAL DISCOVERIES FROM THE BYZANTINE PERIOD, THESE INCLUDED MARBLE COLUMNS, COINS, MOSAICS AND NUMEROUS ITEMS INDICATING THAT THIS WAS A TREASURED SITE IN THE EARLY CHURCH AND POSSIBLY THE TOMB OF ST JOSEPH, AS LOCAL TRADITION HAS ALWAYS MAINTAINED
WE WILL BE GIVEN A SPECIAL TOUR OF THE EXCAVATIONS LATER
In the year 2000, Pope St John Paul 2 made a pilgrimage to Israel and stayed at this convent. Later that year, just a week before I was due to lead my pilgrimage, I developed a painful rash over neck and one arm. Doctor diagnosed Shingles; painful but not infectious, so I could travel. On arrival, sister put all my group in rooms on the first floor, but, thinking to give me privacy and quiet, put me on the second floor by myself in the room next to the room in which the Pope had rested. The next morning my shingles had gone. When I rejoiced and told sister his holiness must have seeped through the wall, she told me that he had slept on the mattress in my room which they moved to his room as it was more comfortable! I reckon there are not many women who could claim to have slept in the Popes bed ! And the shingles had been healed !
TUESDAY ; VISIT BIBLICAL RESOURCE CENTRE, MT TABOR AND NAIN
TUES 5TH Visit new Biblical Resource garden and enjoy lecture and Passover meal bus (cost for entrance and meal £15) Mt TABOR taxis up mtn,and Nain if not too tired
Threshing Floor see Isaiah 41;17
THE ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF COMING TO THE HOLY LAND OF ISRAEL IS TO SPEND TIME AT THE BIBLICAL RESOURCE CENTRE IN NAZARETH. THIS CONCEPT WAS ORIGINATED BY DR JIM FLEMING WHO CREATED A MAGNIFICENT PRESENTATION OF BIBLICAL IMAGES, SUCH AS OLIVE GROVES, THRESHING FLOORS, WINEPRESSES AND VATS, WATCHTOWERS, AND MANY MORE INCLUDING A PRESENTATION OF A PASSOVER SUPPER ,EATEN, RECLINING, AT A TRICLINIUM TABLE. EXACTLY AS JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES WOULD HAVE DONE (afraid Michael Angelo got it so wrong). IN TANTUR, BETWEEN BETHLEHEM AND JERUSALEM.
NOT ONLY WERE WE GIVEN A GUIDED TOUR ROUND THE GARDEN BUT THEN TREATED TO THE MOST INFORMATIVE AND HUMOUROUS LECTURES USING BRILLIANT VISUAL AIDS (which I coveted for the Catholic Bible school in UK, but dr Jim Fleming came himself to give a conference and advice ! )
THE CENTRE MOVED TO THE VILLAGE OF EN KAREM FOR SOME YEARS AND IS NOW IN USA. BUT FORTUNATELY IT HAS BEEN REPLICATED BY OTHERS IN NAZARETH AND IS KNOWN AS ‘THE NAZARETH VILLAGE.’
ABOVE we have a member of the team, Hannania, teaching us about the cruel Roman practice of crucifixion using the trees growing along the roads, often crucifying 2000 a day, victims carried the cross-bar. They were not as high up as depicted in art, so Mary would have been able to look into the eyes of Jesus !
EXPLORING AREA AROUND NAZARETH
SUMMIT OF MOUNT TABOR
BELOW IS AN AIRIAL VIEW OF MOUNT TABOR SHOWING BOTH THE LATIN AND ORTHODOX BASILICA’S. THE MOUNT RESEMBLES AN INVERTED PUDDING BASIN. BELOW ARE THE FERTILE PLAINS OF JEZREEL ,FROM WHERE THE FIRST BARLEY WAS TAKEN UP TO JERUSALEM FOR THE FEAST OF PASSOVER.
Standing on the roof of the Latin Basilica, after celebrating Mass, is a great place for prayer and loud prophecy !
Having walked up the winding road many times in the past, I now organise taxi s to get us up the conical hill where we celebrate Mass and pray over the ‘bread basket’ of the land from where the first barley crop was offered in the temple in Jerusalem at Passover. looking out across the Jezreel Valley is a wonderful place for prayer and prophecy. I have learned that when the Holy Spirit drops a prophetic word or thought into my heart, it will not become operative until it is voiced.
Although we remember and celebrate the Transfiguration here , it was a very busy place at the time of Jesus and not the true site , which scholars believe was at Dan, Caesarea Philippi at the foot of Mt. Hermon. Tabor was such a vantage point for battles and , from Deborah in the Old Testament ,to Napoleon in more recent times, was very important. The Benedictines built a monastery, ruins of which remain and later the Francisans built the present basilica which has a chapel to Moses and one to Elijah as bewilded Peter suggested to Jesus.
Right opposite the village of Naim is a great little self-service cafe , next to a petrol station and when we have enjoyed a wonderfully healthy Israeli lunch, we read the lovely account of Jesus restoring the widow’s son to life Lk 7;11-17 , looking across the road to the small Arab village on the mountain side. Very significantly the other side of the mountain is Zarapheth where the widows son was raised to life by the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 17 ;17 and Luke is echoing the response of the on lookers to the miracle.
Knowing the Old Testament and the importance of Names and geographic sites is invaluable on pilgrimage. The greatest help to do so is Fr Bargil’s books ‘Jesus in Galilee’ and ‘ Jesus in Jerusalem’.
EXPLORING THE BASILICA IN NAZARETH
WED 6th Basilica of the Annunciation.
This is one of the beautiful windows in the Basilica, given by the French government. The church is quite a modern structure (1955 -69 ) built over the ruins of Byzantine and Crusader churches which were destroyed. Below the church is the cave, on the same level as the excavations below the convent in which we are staying
Then a visit and Mass in the beautiful church of St Joseph behind the Basilica. There is a strict protocol concerning which steps are to be used to ascend and descend to the lower chapel.On one occasion, as we were the only pilgrims there, I led my group down the wrong steps. immediately the Arab custodian (whom I foolishly had not noticed ) screamed abuse at me and raised his fist in fury asking why I had broken the rules and taken my group down the wrong way. Hanging my head in shame, I admitted it was” because I am stupid” Immediately his face softened, stroking my cheek like a kind Father , he assured me that I was not stupid and taking a huge iron key from his belt, unlocked the door leading into further recent excavations, and allowed us to pray there !
His honour had been restored which is so important in Middle Eastern culture.
BEFORE WE LEAVE NAZARETH ANOTHER SPECIAL VISIT TO THE CONVENT OF THE ‘POOR CLARE’S’ TO MEET MOTHER JOSEPHINE AND ENJOY THE EXHIBITION OF THE CHARLES DE FOUCAULD ,( who worked as a gardener for the order before they moved up the hill to the new convent) MEMOIRS. THE CHAPEL IS A BLESSED PLACE TO CELEBRATE MASS AND WE ARE ALWAYS WELCOMED. MOTHER IS A HOLY AND WISE LADY AND EAGER TO SHARE HER GREAT LOVE OF GOD.
ONE TIME SHE ASKED ONE OF MY PILGRIMS, WHO WAS A MIDWIFE, HOW MANY BABIES SHE HAD DELIVERED, ‘THOUSANDS , MOTHER ‘,SHE REPLIED, MOTHER THEN ENQUIRED IF SHE HAD EVER BEEN FRIGHTENED OF ANY OF THE BABIES, WHEN THE AMUSED RESPONSE ASKED HOW ANYBODY COULD POSSIBLY BE FRIGHTENED BY A BABY, MOTHER EXPLAINED , SOFTLY, THAT WAS EXACTLY WHY GOD CHOSE TO ENTER OUR HUMAN CONDITION AS A BABY !
ONE OF MY FAVOURITE SCULPTURES IS BY THE CHAPEL, SHOWING MARY OFFERING HER BABY IN THE SHAPE OF BREAD. pictured above.
staying in Convent of the Sist rs of Nazareth, who have an orphanage and are very glad of children’s clothes SISTER KINDLY LEADS US DOWN TO THE TIME OF JESUS AND SHOWS US THE LABERINTH OF LANES, ROOMS AND CHAPELS, ESPECIALLY EXCITING IS THE TOMB CHAMBER WHICH HAS ALWAYS BEEN KNOWN IN NAZARETH AS THE TOMB OF ST JOSEPH.
FURTHER EXCAVATIONS LEAD TO THE LOWER CHURCH IN THE BASILICA
Explore Synagogue in Nazareth and ancient well. Tabor ? Visit’sur place’ special excavations beneath our convent
ONE CAN SEE THE SAME KIND OF TOMB IN THE LOWER AREA OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE IN JERUSALEM WHERE JESUS WAS BURIED, THE HUGE AMOUNT OF ANNOINTING OILS WERE TO QUICKEN THE DECAYING PROCESS NOT TO PRESERVE THE BODY.
EXPLORING NAZARETH INCLUDES A VISIT AND PRAYER AT THE WELL, WHICH IS THE ORIGINAL WELL AND THEREFORE AN ‘ A ‘ SITE. NOW ENCLOSED IN A BEAUTIFUL ORTHODOX CHURCH.
SITES ARE CLASSIFIED AS A –GENUINE TIME OF JESUS,
C – CRUSADER
WINDING OUR WAY THROUGH THE COLOURFUL SOUK IN NAZARETH, TEMPTATIONS ON EITHER SIDE, WE MANAGE TO RING THE BELL AT THE ORTHODOX MONASTERY TO GET THE KEY TO THE SYNAGOGUE DESCENDING THE OLD STONE STEPS TO READ AND PONDER LUKE 4; 16-30 AND SINGING ‘ HE SENT ME TO GIVE THE GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR’
AFTER THREE WONDERFUL DAYS IN NAZARETH …..
TO THE SEA OF GALILEE
Horns of Hattim (top right ) and caves in Mount Arbel (top left ) form a wind tunnel through which ferocious storms gust into the sea of Galilee and cause even the hardiest and most experienced fishermen to fear, even today , as they did in the time of Jesus. Mark 4 ;35-41
The Horns of Hattim comprise an extinct volcano with two summits flanking a huge crater . this was where Saladin defeated the Crusader army in 1187 marking the end of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The Arbel Caves on the other side of the Valley of the Dove which was the route Jesus would walk from Nazareth to Capernaum, was where the Zealots,opponents of Herod, would have taken refuge.One of whom was Simon, member of Jesus’s core group. They we’re burned out eventually by the Romans.
THURS 7 TO SEA OF GALILEE. bus from Nazareth, stopping en route at several holy sites.
The beautiful lake is mentioned several times in both Old and New Testaments. It’s oldest biblical name is “yam kinneret” or sea of Kinneret, Yam can be translated as Sea or Lake.In the New Testament several other names are given; Sea of Tiberias, Lake Gennesar or Gennesaret.
The Lake was the scene of most of Jesus’s ministry, and fishermen and sailors were his earliest disciples and followers. It was to them he first preached, standing on the shore of the Lake, as his audience grew, he began to teach from fishing boats. For longer trips Jesus sailed in the boats of fishermen to teach in the towns and villages of the region. The best information of “The Sea of Galilee and It’s Fishermen”is the booklet by Mendel Nun, a dear old friend and famous for his discovery , in 1986, in the Lake, of a 2000yr old fishing boat, which is now artistically housed in Kibbutz Ginosar.(see below)
Visiting lakeshore sites en route to our next beautiful abode – MOUNT OF BEATITUDES for 3 nights
The Lake is a freshwater lake. It is ca. 33 miles in circumference, 13 miles long and 8 miles across.
Where better to read and pray the Word ?
KARIE DESHE YOUTH HOSTEL
A very favourite place to stay at the foot of the mount of Beatitudes ! Especially if you are there on Friday to join in a Passover supper! The hospitality is superb and the joy of praying morning prayer at sunrise, in dressing gowns and feet in the Sea of Galilee is a special blessing !
Coach around Lake
Looking towards Tiberias from Karie Deshe
Another blessing of staying at the wonderful Jewish Youth Hostel of Karie Deshe is the good humour of the staff , especially the chef, who , when I give him my collection of secret shekels, places one in the mouth of each fish. We read Matthew 17;24-27 when Jesus sends Peter to the Lake “cast a hook; take the first fish that bites, open its mouth and there you will find a shekel ……’ and there is always laughter when my beloved pilgrims find their shekel .
So often Jesus uses natural phenomena for miracles and this is typical;Mendal Nun describes the habits of the Musht, or St Peter’s Fish, in the Sea of Galilee
After fertilisation the parents take the eggs into their mouths, for two or three weeks until they hatch.Being used to having their young in mouth, they then pick up all kinds of substitutes including shekels, stones and , these days, bottle tops.
Jesus’s miracles are so often about ‘timing’
JESUS’S MINISTRY AROUND THE LAKE IN GALILEE
FIRST STOP , TABGHA ….HEPTAPEGON ( PLACE OF SEVEN SPRINGS). HOLY MASS WITH FR BARGIL OSB, by the Lake. Meeting up with my wise and holy friend, and introducing my pilgrims to him is always a joy and a blessing, and he always finds time to take us up the Mount of Beatitudes, neat the Eremos Cave, to give us a wonderful lecture, using the geography around us to illustrate the places of Jesus’s ministry. He also did us the honour of leading one o f our conferences at the Bible School in UK.
From this map you get an idea of the rich number of sites around the Lake where so much of Jesus’s ministry took place.
The Benedictine monastery at Tabgha is on the site of the first feeding of the 5000, a well founded Jewish-Christian tradition recorded by Egeria ( a Spanish pilgrim who spent three years between ca. 383-395 in the Land and wrote extensively) , she writes ” above the lake there is also a field of grass with much hay and several palms. By it are the SEVEN SPRINGS, EACH OF WHICH SUPPLIES A HUGE QUANTITY OF WATER, In the field the Lord fed the people with five loaves of bread.” Mk 6; 31-44 She also wrote :’ the stone on which the Lord placed the bread has been made into an altar’
The church of the Multiplication’ has preserved some of the loveliest mosaic floors in the Holy Land, from the 4th century Byzantine church. The Benedictine monks built the present church in 1935
This is the mosaic under the stone altar. Walking down from the church to the shore is an altar by the edge of the lake, on which we are blessed to celebrate the Eucharist with permission from the monks. The previous picture above, on the right, shows us there with Fr Bargil.
CHURCH OF THE PRIMACY OF PETER
This lovely little church , on the edge of the Lake, is another wonderful place to celebrate the Eucharist and relish Jn 21.
The windows are very beautiful in here and I copied one of them, from over the door, of three palm trees, for the entrance to the bible school in Nutbourne. (see page on Catholic Bible School)
We all want to pray at the original stone and renew our lives in response to Jesus’s question ‘do you love me?’ It was after this event that Peter’s primacy was recognised. The church is called both St Peter and the Chapel of the Primacy. In the Middle Ages the church that stood here was known as Tabula Domini (Table of Our Lord ) or Mensa Christi, (Christ’s Table ).The contemporary church dates from the year after I was born, 1934, built , as so many by the Franciscans who had the wisdom to buy land from the ruling Turks, who had destroyed Christian holy sites.
Capernaum became Jesus’s adopted home …’ Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town ‘ Mt 9;1
He lived with Peter,and Andrew and their extended family household. It was a typical first century dwelling, and as recent excavations have shown, by the graffiti on walls, a much revered site by Jewish believers in the first centuries. A Beautiful modern church has been erected above the original site, cleverly using glass floors above the excavations.It was ‘ a stones throw ‘ from the synagogue. SEE BELOW.
The present synagogue stands upon the foundations of the 4th century one and is the same design. I give each of my pilgrims one of the many scripture references to read out and pray into, as we sit for over an hour relishing the Word before celebrating Mass in the church.
These are the scriptures we relish ;
Matt.4;12-17 Mark 1; 29-31 Matt. 9;1 Matt.9;33 Matt. 17;24-27 Luke 5;27-32 Matt.11 ;20-24 Mk.1 ;21-38 Mk 3; 20-21 Mk.3 ;31-33 Lk.5;12-16 LK.7 ;1-10 Mk.2;1-12 Lk.5 ;17-25 John 6 ; whole chapter
The first archaeological excavations were carried out in 1866 by German archaeologists after the Franciscan order had purchased the land.
In 1905, the most impressive structure in the town , the white synagogue, built of white limestone, from a distant quarry in this black basalt area, ca AD 300, was found and cleared. It has been established that from the time of Jesus it remained a small settlement until the Arab invasion in the 7th century, when the site was abandoned audit’s ruins covered over and forgotten.
FRI 8TH bus Drive round lake to Kursi, site of Jesus’ healing of demoniac
KURSI …..THE ‘OTHER SIDE’
Under this lovely Mimosa Tree is where we often eat our picnic, enjoying the shade and intoxicating perfume as we share our sesame bread, falofals, avocados and fresh fruit.
Praying the scriptures in Lk.8;26-39 and Matt.8;23-34, about Jesus ‘crossing to the other side’ which was part of the pagan Decapolis, and healing the demoniac, and sending the evil spirits into the herd of pigs. The use of the words ‘pigs, naked and tombs’ by the evangelist would shock the Jewish listeners so much more than they do to our Greek mindset today.
This site is located east of the sea of Galilee, at the junction road leading to the Golan Heights. It is identified as Gergessa, or ‘the country of the Gaderenes’
In 1970 , the remains of an ancient structure were accidentally uncovered during road construction at Kursi. This was found to be the remains of the largest known Byzantine monastery in the Holy Land . The monastery and church were built in the fifth century, on the traditional holy site recording the ‘ miracle of the swine ‘. In 614 , during the Persian invasion of the Holy Land, the church was damaged and many of the monastic mosaics and treasures destroyed. Later the church was reconstructed but in eight and ninth centuries destroyed by nomadic Arabs who used it as a settlement and storage dump destroying the exquisite mosaic floors and murals.
During the archeological excavations in 1970, after clearing the rubble and overgrowth, the wall round the monastery was unearthed as well as residential buildings, courtyards, drainage channels and oil press, and in the nearby chapel the skeletons of thirty men. It became a very important site in the early church and at the first Council in 150, a Bishop from Hippos, above the site, attended. So we see, now, why Jesus did not allow the healed demoniac to go with him, but rather to ‘Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you‘ So the man went off and proceeded to spread throughout the Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him.And everyone was amazed. Mk 5; 1-20
Mark tells us, in chapter 6;54-66, of the overwhelming reception Jesus received next time he goes to this area. What an evangelist the healed man must have been ! how often the Lord tells us to bloom where we are planted !
I love taking pilgrims to this site where we celebrate the Eucharist in the dark, basalt ruins and consider if perhaps the Lord Jesus is inviting us to visit ‘the other side’ of ourselves; the ‘ false self ‘ which clouds the true image of who we are.
Just up the hill past the Mimosa tree are the remains of another small chapel with some mosaic floor tiles still visible. The view over the sea of Galilee from here is breathtaking.
Free afternoon is often spent in the Jewish holiday town of Tiberius having an indulgent dip in the hot springs, soaking up the 92 different minerals and floating under a blue sky viewing the distant hills of the Golan Heights. I particularly love the opportunity to meet and talk to, the elderly Jewish men and women in the pool, most of whom have the telltale number of the concentration camp burned into their arm. One other precious memory from the Pool was seeing a toddler jump into the deep water yelling ‘ Abba, Abba ‘ to his surprised Father, who ,of course caught him in his arms. Such a lovely reminder that we ,too, will always be caught by our loving Father, if we take the risk of ‘jumping’
ON THE SEA OF GALILEE………
MARK and MATTHEW TELL US A GREAT DEAL ABOUT JESUS’S ACTIVITY AROUND THE LAKE, and LUKE IN CHAPTER 5 ;1-11, DESCRIBES THE MIRACULOUS DROUGHT OD FISHES.
To be on the water and read these scriptures is to truly relish them and pray into them in a very anointed way. The Captain and crew are dear friends and know when to turn off the engine in the middle of the lake for us to pray and when to play the Israeli gospel songs for us to dance to.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LAKE …….
BETHSAIDA AND CHORAZIN
Mark 8;22-26 JESUS CURES A BLIND MAN AT BETHSAIDA
The healing of the blind man, by Jesus, is commemorated by one of FR Bargil’s lovely Stones, just outside the ongoing excavations of the town of Bethsaida, to the north of the Sea of Galilee where the Jordan river enters and exits the Lake,determining whether a location was this or that side of the Lake, as Fr Bargil explains in his book ” With Jesus Through Galilee “
BETHSAIDA as the home of several fishermen, including Zebedee and his sons, James and John , who had a prosperous business, and Peter and Andrew and Philip,with their extended households, and who later moved to live in Capernaum.
King Herod’s son Philip had elevated the large, Jewish fishing village of Betsaida to the status of a city ( Polis ), soon after becoming Tetrach of the area, and renamed it Juias after the Emperor’s daughter. It would become a pagan city and a problem for Jews. We are told that the healing of the blind man took place ‘outside’ the town.
GAMLA , the neighbouring town to Bethsaida, was Jewish. It was posed on a steep , rocky ridge protected on each side by deep ,sweeping valleys, in the Golan Heights,.It was the home of the radical Zealot movement, the leaders of which were executed by Herod for refusing to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor who claimed to be Divine. Simon, the Zealot, one of Jesus’ disciples , was probably the reason Jesus was questioned about to whom he paid the half shekel Temple tax, and showed his brilliant wit in his reply in Matt.17; 24-27. Gamla joined in the Jewish revolt against the Romans in 66 AD, and was the scene of a cruel siege described by Josephus in ‘The jewish War ‘1v;1.
Today Gamla is a wonderful Nature Reserve and well worth a visit by pilgrims to see Vultures, and many other birds of prey, as well as learning more of the history of our ‘elder brothers’ who inhabited the land.
THE largest area is the synagogue at GAMLA
Let’s go up to Jerusalem….
Here is a link to the work of Dr. Jim Fleming’s homepage:
Father Peter Hocken,
Basilica of The Anunciation, Nazareth
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
To be continued with text……