As we wake to a sunny day in Nazareth, I am going to try a different blogging strategy for this day of adventures in Israel. I am going to attempt to write a bit after each of our stops today, to perhaps ensure that I get a bit more sleep tonight and do a better job of sharing the day with you.
Today is Saturday, a very quiet morning in Nazareth. Our guide Nathan tells us that the day will become busier after lunch when the market opens for business. But for now, the streets that were bustling last night are serene.
Our first stop of the day was the Mount of the Beatitudes, site of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. At the top of the Mountain is a beautiful church lovingly cared for by an order of Franciscan Sisters. Again, to have the opportunity to pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament is a grace that cannot properly be expressed in words. In the small church there is a lovely crucifix placed directly behind the Tabernacle. As I knelt before it, I noticed a beautiful image of Mary on the back side of the Tabernacle — His mother, looking lovingly at me from directly over Jesus’ shoulder I knelt before Him. To imagine her by his side as He suffered and gave His all for you and me… such a visual reminder in a place I will never forget visiting.
Lest anyone think all we are visiting on this trip is churches, our next holy site to visit today was the Sea of Galilee, and not only did we see it — we actually boarded a “Jesus boat” and went out for a sail on the Sea! Our group has bonded, so this was almost a celebration of our new friendship to experience this together, and even more so on a day when the Gospel passage actually makes reference to the very spot where we stood! During our time on the boat, we were greeted and serenaded by the staff of the boat, who made our trip very pleasant. I would definitely recommend this experience for anyone visiting Israel. After our cruise, we stopped to view a 2,000 year old fishing boat which was excavated from the Sea of Galilee in 1986. This amazing archaeological find harkens back to the time of Jesus and gives you the sense of how he likely traveled in his day.
At the Tabgha Church, we stood and prayed near the rock where Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
Lunch today was at St. Peter’s Restaurant, where most of our group had the signature dish — a Tilapia fish, complete with head, tail and eyeballs. I passed on that…
Our first stop after lunch was a very moving visit to Capernaum. In this place, a beautiful new church rests over the spot where Simon Peter once lived. A stone’s throw away, are the remains of a synagogue from the 4th century stands on the ground of the synagogue where Jesus once taught and prayed.
In the late afternoon, we made a stop at Yardinet. This is a place along the Jordan River which caters to pilgrims to the Holy Land who desire to be baptized along the Jordan River. It is not the spot where Jesus was baptized, but it was special to see this river and to pray along the site where so many have committed themselves to lives of faith.
Our last stop for the day was at the Cana Catholic Wedding Church, built in 1881 by the Franciscans on the spot where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine.At this sacred place, it was wonderful to end the traveling day in prayer for all of the intentions I am carrying with me. The gospel reading and homily at my wedding was the Wedding Feast at Cana, so at this holy site, I remembered my wonderful husband in prayer, as well as Msgr. Michael Collins, my lifelong priest, who always used this first miracle as his homily at weddings.
At the end of this full day, it is amazing to look back and ponder all that we have seen and experienced today. Once again, what an absolute thrill to be able to walk and prayer amidst these places where Jesus lived, served and gave himself for us. I am looking forward to Mass tomorrow at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. I hope your day was blessed and look forward to sharing tomorrow’s adventures with you!