The day that we spend moving around Lake Galilee is always one of my favourites. We visit some of the places where Jesus spent most of his ministry and it really brings things to life. The Pilgrims day began at the Church of the Beatitudes. This a beautiful Barluzzi church set atop a mountain. Set in wonderful grounds the church commemorates the Sermon on the Mount. Here we can see the words of the eight beatitudes dotted around the path to the church. Those of us who had been before noticed that there seemed to be more altars in the grounds near the church. We were told that the altars had been moved there because the settlers had encroached more and more on the lands near the church complex. So, the altars are now nearer to where the sisters live and the guest house. As we wandered around, we could see the scorched trees from where there had been an arson attack a few weeks back, as people attempted to burn down the church. Thankfully, it had survived and was undamaged, but it was a stark reminder of how difficult things can be in the Holy Land for Christians.
From the Mount of the Beatitudes we boarded our coaches once again in order to visit the Primacy of Peter at Mensa Christi. This beautiful site allows the opportunity to paddle in the Lake and to simply take in the peace and beauty of the Lakeside. Here too we visit the chapel built over the stone upon which Jesus and the disciples are said to have had breakfast and the powerful statue of Jesus Commissioning Peter as the rock upon which the church will be built.
The water is so high here, that at the moment everything looks a little different; the trees are much deeper in the water and it is no longer possible to walk around the little cove. Our Guides keep telling us that they had not seen the Lake so full for many years and, certainly, I have never seen it like this in the times I had visited and neither had Bishop Christopher. Global warming seems to be striking everywhere.
Once we have had tried to absorb and admire all that we had so far seen it was time to move on and walk the few minutes back up the hill to Tabgha and to the church of the Loaves and Fishes. Sadly, we were not able to spend too much time in the very crowded church but it was good to have the chance to see the mosaics and to have our Eucharist at the lakeside. This is such a beautiful and moving setting for a Eucharist, so Andrew Nunn presided and Bishop Paul gave the homily.
Before we moved to Upper Galilee for lunch and to renew our baptismal promises we went to Capernaum, Jesus’ Galilean base. Here there are ruins of a Temple and a church built over the site of Peter’s mother-in-laws house where Jesus spent some of his time during his ministry. The church looks a bit like a spaceship with interesting ruins underneath. There are also some interesting and arresting sculptures on the site one of which is of Jesus as a homeless man.
Once we had had lunch we moved on to Caesarea Philippi and to Banias where we were to renew our baptismal promises. It was especially moving to do this because at the same time as we renewed our promises one of the Pilgrima, Isha, was baptised by Bishop Christopher and we all look forward to her confirmation in the Cathedral later this year.
From there, after a short time to explore and get a drink or an ice cream, it was time to head back to the coaches and to our hotel. At the regular evening meeting Isha was able to thank the Pilgrims for the day and to talk a little about how she was feeling. What a wonderful place to be baptised and to renew our baptismal vows.
As we have journeyed around various if the Pilgrims wrote contributions to the blogs and this came from Susan Patterson:
The example of the Stations of the Cross
I hadn’t intended to be a cross carrier. My knee was aching from the travelling and walking, the alleyways in the Old City steep, slippery and narrow. And packed with pilgrims, business owners, soldiers and Palestinians trying to go about their daily business.
But at the second station Kathleen stepped forward. She is one of the eldest on the pilgrimage and walks with a stick. She hasn’t been widowed long, but her joie de vive and lack of cynicism makes her a delight to be around. Then Elaine joined her, also older, also a widow, also willing to get cheerfully involved in everything. And then Aisha, another widow, here with so much delight at being in the Holy Land, preparing to get baptised while we are here.
I felt so touched at their willingness to do something difficult and meaningful. Women like Kathleen, and Elaine, and Aisha are the people who faithfully turn up and serve; I couldn’t not follow their example.’