Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mont Tabor, Nazareth and Cana….Day 4, November 6th, 2013

Late last night, just before turning off the light, I took a look outside the window to see if I could see anything more than haze over the Sea of Galilee; to my delighted surprise I could see for miles! 
At the dock there was a sailboat with lights on the sails, the lights of boats moored at the docks were visible and the city itself was full of lights in town and up the hillside.  Thought you’d enjoy some photos of them and again in the morning of the same scenes in Tiberias.
We were already awake when the wakeup call came at 6 am and went down to breakfast at 6:30 am.  By 9 am we were on the bus and ready for our day’s adventure here in the Holy Land.  We drove for many miles along the shore of the Sea of Galilee; a freshwater lake that is about thirteen miles long from north to south fed by the Jordan River.  It is called a “Sea” because there is no word for “Lake” in Hebrew.  Soon we turned inland and started climbing.  A piece of information:  he said that we are about two plus miles from the Syrian boarder “as the crow flies”. 
Our first site to visit took about half an hour to drive to.  During that time Raouf filled the air with volumes of information about the agriculture in the area as we drove through the Jordan Valley towards Mt. Tabor.  This area is very fertile because over the centuries the rain has washed all of the good earth off of the hills into the valley that is filled with groves of olive, almond and date trees.  He told us that the best olives are products of trees that are not watered by man but only by God.  He stated that the best quality olive oil is produced near Bethlehem.    
We could glimpse the church on the top of Mt. Tabor long before we arrived at the base of the hill.  It is an actual rounded top rather than a ridge.  There is a taxi service, vans that hold a dozen people each, that go up and down the zig-zag road that goes straight up the hill for the Pilgrims wishing to visit. 
Large buses are not permitted to drive the last twelve minutes up to the top of this hill that is about one thousand feet above sea-level.  At the top there are two churches, one for Catholics and one for Greek Orthodox.  We visited the one for Catholic Christians.  In the slideshow is a photo I took of an aerial photo in the bus that shows the road going up the mountain.
What happened at the top of Mt. Tabor?   Christ took three apostles, Peter, James and John, to the top of the mountain.  There he was transfigured and joined by the prophets Moses and Elijah before God appeared as a cloud and told them that Jesus is his son.  Then Jesus told the apostles not to speak of this to anyone while he was still on earth as a man.  There has been a church here for several centuries.  This is the third church to be erected over the spot on the mountain as over the centuries during wars all of the churches have been destroyed, some more than once.
This is the Church of the Transfiguration; we arrived at 9:30 am and had to wait for our turn to go up the mountain behind fourteen other large buses loaded with people.  That took about half an hour as each trip is only about twelve minutes and they load and unload the taxis rapidly. 
Our Mass today was planned for later in the afternoon; but when our Tour Guide noticed that no one was using the altar in the main church; he questioned the monk in charge.  He said that a German group had reserved the church for a Mass at 10 am; they were ten minutes late and he said that if they didn’t arrive within five minutes we could take their spot!   To say a Mass in this church requires a reservation made at least a year in advance! 
Yes, we had our Mass in the church right on top of the spot on the mountain where the Transfiguration took place; a glass floor gave us a view of the actual rock under the sanctuary. 
Everyone, including Father Paw, was shedding a few tears; it was a very emotional experience for all of us.  Deacon Nick was also provided vestments and joined Father Paw at the Altar to celebrate the Mass.  Wow…how do we top this experience?
By noon we were down the hill and back on the bus.  Did I tell you that I’d left my purse in the bus for the trip up the hill and yes; my battery on my camera died just as the Mass began.  But I must admit I was more involved in the Mass because I didn’t have the distraction of taking photos.  I did manage to get four more photos by turning it off for a rest after each before it finally would not turn on again!
We arrived in the town of Nazareth about 12:30 pm and walked about five minutes up the hill from the bus parking lot towards the church we were going to visit.  But first we stopped at a restaurant around the corner and all had Gyro Pita Bread Sandwiches for lunch.  Yummy!  There were also many shopping opportunities along the street but we all managed to walk past them without stopping.
Then a quick walk and we arrived at the Church of the Annunciation; built over the house where Mary lived and said “yes” when she was visited by the Angel of the Lord.  There have been several churches built over this house that was actually built into the rock probably using a cave; a very common practice up until recent times.  
Once the home was established, steps would be put at the back of the cave and a second story built on top of the cave.  It was the stones from the second story that are now in Rome; probably carried by the Crusaders.  But we were assured that what we saw is original and not restored.  The church is huge and has gifts of paintings of Mary from many different countries including the USA  All of the art work is displayed in the upper church and out in the courtyard surrounding the church.  The lower church surrounding the “crypt with the house” is very bare of decoration. 

From there we walked the short distance to the church of St. Joseph that is built over Joseph’s house.  When Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to Nazareth from Egypt; they moved into Joseph’s home where he lived before they were married.  It is here that Jesus lived with his family until he came of age and started his public life.   
Our last site in Nazareth was to a very modest and ancient Greek Orthodox Church that is built over the original well.  This would have been the place where Mary came or must of come, to get their water on a daily basis as this was the public well for the city at that time.   More than likely, her son accompanied her many times on this journey to the well for water.
But, the best was yet to come.  It was nearly four o’clock when we climbed back on the bus and were treated by Akarm and Raoul to Bourma, a Palestinian sweet dessert. 
Then we were off to the City of Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine at the wedding feast.  There, eleven couples in our group celebrated a renewal of their wedding vows in the chapel of the church. 
This was the third time to the altar for Jim and me; we were married in 1960, renewed our vows in Paris in 2010 and then again tonight.  Joining new and old friends to celebrate was very special; there were several who were fifty years or more along with us.  But we did have the longest marriage in the group since we have passed the fifty-three year mark as of last June.   We teased Father Paw about making water out of the wine to celebrate!  It was a fun evening followed by our drive back to the hotel in Tiberias with just enough time to finish the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary together before we arrived.  Dinner at 7 pm was special as Jim found a table for two and we took some ribbing as tables ranged from four to ten but someone had taken two chair away from a small round table and we had a special celebration with our own table in the dining room!
The sun has set on another day and I’m going to be adding a group photo when I get one tomorrow of all the couples with Father Paw after the Renewal of the Vows.  There has to be at least fifty or so, but none on my camera!  A day late but have now attached a photo of the wedding group to the slideshow for you.  Thanks Lynda!   Hope you enjoy the slideshow. 

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