Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Silent Reflections, Desert Heat, Jericho, and Nazareth

This morning, we got up and left at 5:00 AM in silence - not simply because we were too weary to talk, but because we spent the morning in silent reflection on the way to Wadi Qelt. Wadi Qelt is the desert valley and stream leading from Jerusalem into the West Bank and to Jericho where it meets the Jordan river. We held the silence as we reached the desert, got off the bus, gathered to hear Psalm 23, and then walked to a place of our own choosing to see the sun rise. It was very moving for us all to be there, in silence - each having our own space on the mountain, yet together with each other. The desert is truly glorious in its beauty. The rolling hills, distant birds, green brush, gentle breeze, and ever-present morning light were all beautiful gifts. It was exactly what many needed at this early point in our pilgrimage. 

At 6:00 AM, we celebrated the Eucharist. It was extremely peaceful. Rev'd Joel G. Hafer from St. James Episcopal in Hendersonville, NC celebrated and gave the homily.
Moving onward, we made our way to Jericho and stopped for breakfast at the Alrawda Restaurant, an Arabic restaurant.
In order for us to avoid the hottest part of the day in this Judaean desert region, we left at 8:15 for Jericho's Tell. Its official name is Jericho es-Sultan and it is a gorgeous panoramic overlook on the Mount of Temptation near where the Biblical town once was. There is a large archaeological site on the way up the mountain. Our group took cable cars halfway up the mountain and most continued to hike up the Mount to see the Greek Orthodox Monastery of the Temptation. It was VEEEEERY hot.
The monastery was declared to be a holy site by St. Helena on her pilgrimage in 326. Like the Church of the Nativity being built over the grotto where Christ was born, this monastery was built over a stone marking the place where Jesus sat during his fast.
After we came down the mountain, we continued our drive to lunch in Nazareth at the Awtar restaurant. Then, we went to see Mary's Well, the only spring-fed fountain in the city. It is located inside the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation and WOW, what a gorgeous church. 
It is small, but paintings and icons cover every single inch of the building. The smell of incense lingered hovered in the air and one can hear the bubbling sounds of Mary's Fountain at the side chapel of the church. It is the traditional site of the angel Gabriel's appearance to Mary, telling her that she would conceive Jesus. Many people come to the fountain to drink the water from the spring and to take it home in special bottles in hopes for its healing powers.
Next, we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation which was also very beautiful. Many mosaics of Mary with Jesus have been presented to this church from around the world and it is fascinating to see the variations, colors, and interpretations. 
(Check our Flickr page tomorrow (Wednesday) for many more photo uploads.
So..... Ramadan fast has broken and local folks are just starting to be out and about in the town's establishments, but for us, 8:00 PM hit and almost everyone was fading fast. It was such a terrific day - one absolutely packed with activities! Everyone seems to be having a great time learning so many interesting things about this area of the world, strengthening our lives in Christ's life, and spending time together in pilgrimage and discovery.
Here's a video collage of parts of our day! :-)
Goodnight from Nazareth! (photo below on my Canon powershot through a bit of desert haze, but it still came out pretty well!)

1 comment:

  1. I'm stunned at the depth of my reaction to your reaction. Tears......
    Prayers and thanksgiving.