Monday, June 4, 2007

In Search of the Annunciation

May 12th

We arose quite early this morning to meet Henry by the Lion's Gate, taking one bag each for our trek to Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee! Henry promised us a great breakfast, with strong coffee, and croissants...which would've been great if it weren't for Shabbath. Everything in this area that is owned by Jews is closed!

We left Jerusalem, traveling east toward Jordan, going through a check point because we were entering--or are we leaving--occupied territory. Soon out of Jerusalem, we pull over to the side of the road, to a small viewing area. We see before us nothing but desert, but are equally intrigued with the faraway city of Jerusalem. Reading Ps. 55, Henry tells us that it was supposedly here, in this area, that Jesus was tempted by the Evil One! The beauty was that of the arid areas of New Mexico and Arizona in the States. Hostile yet gorgeous to the eye, and brown, black, with specks of green as far as the eye could see.

We found an "oasis," a gas station that was open, and so we ate some b'fast. We are seeing more camels and Bedouins, and the poor of this area live in small hovels and tents. Jericho is in the distance, and we dare not go there because it is Palestinian and thus an impregnable fortress with its prison gray wall.

Snaking up north on highway 90, we see the country Jordan across the Jordan river. It is lush and green where there are farms and fields of grain. We make a long stop at the river Jordan. At first, no one was there. But before we left, a bus load of Russian Orthodox pilgrims donned on long white t-shirts with an image of John baptizing Jesus and (with swim suits underneath) the pilgrims went down into the Jordan, blessed by their priest, coming out wet and a little wild.

We supped at a handsome Bedouin tent nearby, eating a hearty lunch that we keep us going through Nazareth.

In Nazareth, we were surprised at the congestion of a busy city. We went first to the Roman Catholic shrine to the Annunciation: the building hung over the small grotto where Mary was told that she would give birth to Emmanuel. But then Henry took us down the street to the Greek Orthodox chapel, in which Mary was supposedly by a river, drawing water, when she was told by Gabriel that she was to give birth to the source of abundant water, and thus the church was situated over the source of water! Not only that: they have found the ruins of a Roman bath, suggesting Nazareth was not a small town, but a busy city: imagine Jesus as a city kid of middle-class parents!

We then made our way to the Sea of Galilee, spending the night at the Benedictine Pilgerhaus! I met a Benedictine sister who knew of St. Benedict's Monastery, where I am an oblate! Small world! We hiked to the chapel of the Beatitudes, imagining this golden-grained field full of disciples. We hid in a small grotto where Jesus may have hung out after withdrawing from the crowds.

Dinner was superb, and there was an internet for us to use. While Henry went off with his friend that evening, we sat and enjoyed the cool breeze coming from the Sea of Galilee! In the distance were the Golan Heights of Lebanon! We just cannot believe we are in this part of the world of such thick, interesting, and turgid history amid Gospel wonders.

Pilgrim peace, Brett