Pilgrimage to the Holy Land – Day 6 (6 May 2017)

Day 6, May 6, 2017

After a full day of following in Jesus’ footsteps today, I don’t know how I can share this journey in any meaningful way. I only wish all of you reading this could feel what I’m feeling and experience what I’m experiencing. But let me try.

We headed out from Nazareth early this morning and came to Cana. Our guide told us the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana and, at the end of the day, Joseph had a little too much wine. When they got home, Mary asked Joseph if she could get him anything. He said perhaps some water … but, please, don’t let Jesus touch it!

Still early in the morning, we arrived at the Jordan River where we renewed our Baptismal vows. (Pic 1). From wading in the river, I can tell you that it’s true: “River Jordan is chilly and cold, alleluia; chills the body but not the soul, alleluia.” We hiked down the hill called Mount Eremos where, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, we celebrated the Eucharist (Pic 2)


Yes, you see a woman presiding at the Service. This is normal in the Episcopal church and hopefully will one day be in the Roman Catholic Church. From there we walked down to where the crowd gathered for the Sermon on the Mount. One of our fellow pilgrims stood up on the hill and read the Beatitudes while the rest of us stood and listened below. Even without a microphone, had Jesus been standing up above, we found it easy to hear a voice coming down from the mount.


Our next stop is known as Peter’s Primacy. It is the place where Jesus, standing on a rock from shore, told Peter where to cast his net; then, despite of an entire night of catching nothing, when they caught lots of fish, Jesus fixed breakfast for his disciples. The historical Jesus and the Jesus for pilgrims is not always one and the same. Even though this is not the place where Jesus said: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church,” that is what is attributed to this site (Pic 3). As you see, the altar is built over the rock.




We walked down to the Sea of Galilee (Pic 4) and splashed in the water. I was not alone in feeling a sense of awe that Jesus had been on this very same body of water. After lunch of whole fried fish (not caught in the Sea of Galilee I must confess), we went to Capharnaum (also known here as Caperneum). The natural rock of the first century in this city was black and the city itself was made entirely of black rock. The contemporary Church here is built over what was discovered to be Peter’s home, a rather elaborate home that appears large enough to have housed his family, his mother-in-law, and perhaps his brother and his family. You can see Peter’s home through the glass floor below the Church (Pic 5). The temple was only a stone’s throw from Peter’s house but was made of limestone which had to have been carried in from far away (Pic 6). The implication is that the building of the temple was special and treated with the greatest dignity.


Our next stop was Tabgha where Jesus fed 5000 from only five loaves and two fish. I never noticed until today’s reading that the Gospel says there were about “5000 men besides the women and children.” Hmmm – sounds a little dismissive of the women and children as if they don’t count as significant. We noticed that only four loaves are shown in the mosaic in the Church. Why? Because the fifth loaf is on the altar.

We ended this part of our day’s excursion with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee (Pic 7). The boat we were in was a larger version of the boat recently uncovered that dated back 2000 years ago. On the ride home, I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that we were walking where Jesus walked, renewing our baptismal vows where He was baptized by John, splashing on the Sea where He walked on the water. Being here, even for someone not religious, is a moving experience. But we’re fortunate to be here with a group with whom we share a common experience of faith and of deeply-held shared values.

If this day wasn’t full enough, in the evening we had another speaker. This time an Arab, Palestinian, Christian, Israeli. You may say to yourself as I did: huh? He was born in Israel; his parents are Palestinians because they were born prior to 1948; he is an Arab; and his family has been Christian since the time of Christ. He is also an Episcopal priest. If any of us think we understand the situation here between Palestine and Israel, how little most of us really know. I can only tell you that being here has dramatically altered my perspective on the situation.

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