Holy Land Pilgrimage Part 1 – Galilee

Galilee and the ministry years

The blog of our visit to the Holy Land, along with all the humorous thoughts and occurrences as they happened, can be viewed here

Tuesday 26th October

The sun rose on spectacular weather, and from the balcony from my hotel room (only Fr Anthony and I had balconies!) you could see Lake Kinneret (The Sea of Galilee).  After breakfast (the first of three, three course meals that and every day) we set off to the River Jordan to renew our Baptismal Promises in the River Jordan which was very moving.   This is not the actual site (which is in Jordan itself and part of a military base) but the accepted official site in Israel.   We then moved on to the site of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish at Tabgha which has an altar built over the rock where Jesus performed the miracle.   From there, we went to the Mount of Beatitudes where Fr Anthony celebrated an open air mass overlooking the Sea of Galilee.   After this, we were able to visit the octagonal shaped Church of the Beatitudes which marks the spot where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount: “and seeing the multitude he went up into a mountain, and he opened his mouth, and taught them.”   From there, we went to Peter’s Primacy and the church which sits on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.   Here, Jesus showed himself to the disciples for the third time after his death when he told them to go back out to sea and they will find fish to be caught.   It is then that they realised it was the Lord, and they came ashore and Jesus cooked breakfast for them during which, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. The rock used by Jesus for the cooking is located inside the church, under the altar.    At lunch, we ate “Peter’s Fish,” caught in the Sea of Galilee, so called because of the distinctive (Peter’s) ‘thumb prints’ on the fishes’ sides.   In Capernaum, where Jesus performed many miracles, we visited the site of the ancient synagogue where Jesus taught.  The house of St Peter is here, the remains of which were discovered under the remains of an octagonal Byzantine church, which has since been replaced by a modern building which “floats” above the remains of St Peter’s House.    To finish our day, we took a cruise on the Sea of Galilee in a replica fishing boat from the time of Jesus – the perfect end to a packed and moving day.

Wednesday 27th October

This morning, we visited the ancient city (some 2000 years old) and harbour of Acre (or Akko).   Its heyday was in the time of the Crusaders who, in 1104, made it their capital.   We explored the ancient buildings, tunnels and caves, and were relieved when we eventually came back out in the sunshine and found time to relax on the fortifications of the sea defences.   Onto Haifa which is built on the slops of Mount Carmel.   We had Mass and lunch in Stella Maris, the largest Carmelite Monastery and Centre of the World Order with views over Haifa.   The church contains the cave where the Prophet Elijah lived.   We paused for sometime in the spectacular Baha’i Gardens which overlook the port of Haifa.   The 19 terraces which extend all the way up the northern slope of Mount Carmel include the final resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, which stands on the central terrace, looking across the bay towards Akko.  From here, we drove to Cana, the site of the wedding feast at which Jesus performed his first miracle.   Here, those that were married renewed their marriage vows, and for those who were not, Fr Anthony gave a special blessing.   The Church of the Miracle built in 1879 over the ruins of a sixth century sanctuary, which in turn was built over the site of the village synagogue, which is believed to the site of The Wedding.   In the crypt is one of the massive stone jars (there would have been 6 in total) which Jesus used to turn the water into wine.  

Thursday 28th October

This morning we climbed (by minibus) to the top of Mount Tabor which was the site of the transfiguration.  At the top of the mountain stands the magnificent Franciscan Basilica of the Transfiguration.   We celebrated Mass outside, and then visited the basilica and took in the stunning views from the summit across all the Lower Galilee and the Armageddon Valley, which comes from a Hebrew word Har-Magedone, which means “Mount Megiddo” and has become synonymous with the future battle in which God will intervene and destroy the armies of the Antichrist as predicted in biblical prophecy (Revelation 16:16; 20:1-3, 7-10). “There will be a multitude of people engaged in the battle of Armageddon, as all the nations gather together to fight against Christ.”   We moved onto Nazareth and visit the Church of the Annunciation and the Home of Mary.   Here, on this spot, the Angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear a son, and the grotto, which is spectacular, is the holiest area in the Basilica.   Next door is St Joseph’s Church which contains remains of his workshop.   We then drove along the Jordanian boarder, following the electric fence and mine fields, to Jericho (one of the oldest cities in the world, where Elijah was taken up into heaven, and where Jesus passed through on his way to Jerusalem) and visited the Mount of Temptation where Jesus fasted for forty days, resisting the devil’s offer of “all the kingdoms in the world.”   The Greek Orthodox Monastery is part way up the mountain, and tradition says it is here that Jesus isolated Himself.    From here we drove through Jerusalem at night, and took up residence (having crossed the check points installed by the Israeli Government to keep the Palestinians without permits from entering Israel) in Bethlehem (which is in what we know today as the West Bank). 

Andrew Richardson