Thursday, June 9, 2016

Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, Eucharist on Mt. Hermon, Capernaum, Tabgha, and the Church of the Primacy of Peter

Thursday, June 9
Today was absolutely packed and we left early again. I must say that while many of our pilgrims (myself included) are definitely not "morning people", leaving early has enabled us to arrive at various destinations without too much traffic, too many other tourists, and lets us do many things without the main heat of the day. It is a thoughtful organization by Qumri Pilgrimages that everyone appreciates.
We began with a drive north to the area across the Sea of Galilee from Golan Heights and the Syrian region where we were yesterday. Along the way, we passed the via Maris which was an ancient (Bronze Age) trade route from Egypt to Baghdad and connecting with our travel today, ran through Migdal (also known as Magdala - from where Mary Magdalene is assumed to be) and Capernaum. We descended below sea level again and entered the tropical zone. Most exotic fruits can be grown here and we saw tropical birds, badgers, and lizards.
We headed to the Jordan river where we renewed our Baptismal vows, got our feet wet, sang, and more!
Next, we drove to the Sea of Galilee which is really a lake. It is also know by the names Lake Gennesaret and even Lake Tiberius. It is the largest fresh water lake in Israel and gather seven tributary springs, each supplying huge quantities of water, into one as it moves northward through Jordan.  Several rods also converge where the sea is and then go up to Damascus and then Baghdad. 
It is truly beautiful!
We visited the Synagogue at Capernaum and saw the ruins. The synagogue as it appeared in 381 was described by the Spanish pilgrim, the Lady Egeria, who reported that the way into the structure was up many steps, and that the building was made of dressed stone. (Archaeology in Israel). One very interesting side note we learned today is that Egeria was on a pilgrimage in the 300's, recording her travels visiting religious sites and that was the earliest recorded trip of its kind.

We saw the ruins (above) and an octagonal church from the 5th century which had been built over the original 4th century church. This next photo (below) is of a mantle stone depicting the Ark of the Covenant. John Peterson told a few of us about this and we would not have noticed it or its significance if he had not!
Next came a difficult, yet very rewarding part of the pilgrimage. It hasn't been easy walking in the great heat and on pathways that are slightly or moderately difficult. Today, the group rode the bus up, read the Beatitudes, and then walked down Mt. Hermon, stopping at a refreshingly shady tree to celebrate Eucharist, and then walked the rest of the way down. It was steep, but we did it! It made the service very special. 
One of the things that is making this pilgrimage very meaningful is the reading of the scriptures that have to do with the very places we are seeing and experiencing. It really puts everything into context for us all and gives us an image of how it would have taken place. Plus, it is relevant simply by matching the places.
Lunch was in a townlet called Tanureen between Migdal and Tiberius. Most people had the delicious fried fish and a variety of salads. The Arabic coffee, with its unique and strong flavor was also offered and is a favorite
After lunch, we asked Iyad if we could see the place where Jesus took a nap :-) He said it was "on the way home" Someone also decided to buy him a toy lizard since he likes them so much (he does not like them so it made for a nice practical joke.)
We drove to the church (above) that remembers and celebrates the feeding of the 5,000 - the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. It was called Tabgha (Hyptapegon, which means seven springs). It was here that we saw an old mosaic that is very famous featuring two fish and four loaves. 

Why four, we wondered? Because one is assumed to have been on the altar. As Canon Mark Stanger reminded us "The Eucharist isn't the last supper, but is remembering the living fellowship. All the meal fellowship is recalled in the Eucharist" Someone noted a paraphrase of St. Augustine "Be what you see, receive who you are" YOU are the living fellowship of Christ. Once in time, for all time. The Franciscan group that watches over the sanctuay at Tabgha is the Tabgha Priory on the Sea of Gennesaret.
Later, we went to the Church of the Primacy of Peter. In the ninth century, it was called "The Church of the Charcoal". It is a Franciscan Church. From the front, it looks like a normally built church, but around the back, there is a huge stone foundation. The stone coming out of the sea and jutting out of the side of the church is to represent "Upon this rock, will I build my church."
Our next destination was a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It was very relaxing, we had lots of fun!
Here is today's video collage.  

It's a bit longer than most days because we had a sermon, renewal of vows, singing, and SO MUCH MORE all packed in! 

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