Friday, June 10, 2011

Holy Land: Tabgha, Nazareth, & Cana (Day 3: Afternoon, 31 May 2011)

Day three of our pilgrimage was so completely filled to the brim with sights and experiences, it just had to be divided into two parts. Here's part number two: the afternoon.

"Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children."
Matthew 14:19-21

After our fish lunch on the Sea of Galilee, we ventured to Tabgha. This is the spot where the Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fish to feed the thousands who had come to hear Him speak. We entered a church commemorating this miracle. Inside, there was a large rock. This is the rock that is believed to be the spot that Jesus laid the loaves and the fish.

After leaving Tabgha, we set off toward Nazareth. We walked several blocks through the streets of Nazareth. Our wanderings led us through narrow bazaars selling every trinket and nic nac imaginable (very similar to the bazaars in Turkey), quiet alleys lined with dumpsters and stray cats, and a bustling modern street filled with pedestrians and cars. We drove by "Mary's Well" which is the site of the Nazareth town well since the time of Christ. We got off the bus and walked by the church built over the synagogue where Christ was rejected by his town people and then nearly driven off a cliff. We then came to the largest Christian church in the Middle East: the Basilica of the Annunciation. This church is built over the spot where the Angel Gabriel visited Mary and asked her to be the Mother of God. It was a gorgeous church. The walls were covered with paintings and mosiacs of Mary donated by countries all over the world. Each country depicted Mary uniquely and beautifully. It was a moving reminder of our universal Church.

Outside the Basilica of the Annunciation

Inside the Basilica. The grotto where St. Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary is on the left. Mass was being celebrated by a group of Koreans (I believe) in front of the grotto...yet another reminder of the universal Church!

Our next stop in Nazareth was a smaller, humble church built over the remains of Saint Joseph's was nearby the Basilica of the Annunciation. The church is located, according to early traditions, over the carpenter workshop of the Holy Family. Later traditions identify this place as the house of Joseph and the Holy Family. I wish I could've spent all day there, just imagining what it must've looked like to see Joseph and the Child Jesus working in the workshop, to see Mary drawing water from the well, to see their holy footsteps walk those same streets that we had just trod. As I watched my little Peter play with sticks and leaves outside of Saint Joseph's workshop, I had to wonder if little Jesus toddled and played in that same spot. I'm still just trying to comprehend it all. Some things are just too big to wrap your mind around.

St. Joseph's Church
We closed our day with a trip to Cana. This is the site of Jesus' first public miracle: changing the jars of water into wine at a wedding feast. We entered the church and went to a small side chapel and prepared to celebrate Mass together. It was incredible to be able to spend time in prayer and meditation in the location of the miracle of Cana. As I reflected on this miracle, I took comfort in knowing that just like Christ cared for the newly married couple by saving them from embarrassment, He also looks after the small, seemingly insignificant details in my own life as well. I also took comfort in knowing that Mary intercedes to her Son for me constantly, just as she intereceded in this instance. What a beautiful miracle to reflect upon!

During Mass, we had the privilege of renewing our wedding vows in Cana! It was so beautiful! And so perfect! And so completely different from our first round of wedding vows almost three years ago. It was the end of a long day of touring, and Peter was done. I can't blame the kid, he had been so good all day and sitting quietly in a warm, small chapel while his parents renewed their wedding vows was just not on his agenda. So, I looked into Dan's eyes, spoke those beautiful words of love and commitment, and smiled as Peter loudly yelped, flailed, grunted, and squirmed in Dan's arms. It was unforgettable-and so perfect- because, after all, Peter is the fruit of our first wedding vows. And he definitely made his presence known during the second round! After Mass, we received a wedding certificate and a red rose from the church in Cana and drank some Cana wine (of course!).

The Church at Cana

After celebrating Mass and renewing our wedding vows, we toured the church. It was very amazing. In the basement underneath the altar are the remains of the house where the wedding was celebrated. We got to stand inside of the walls where Christ performed his first miracle! Also on display inside of the remains of the house was a large stone water jar that was discovered at this site during excavations. It is believed that this was one of the stone water jars used by Jesus in his miracle. We ended our day with some wine tasting and shopping in Cana...quite a special, busy, and wonderful day!

Behind the glass were sections of the wall from the House where Jesus performed His first miracle!

A stone jar excavated at the site of the Church...thought to be one that Christ used in His miracle.

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