Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pastor's Sabbatical - 3rd Post - Israel

Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth

26 March 2011
Time seems to go very quickly here. They are keeping us busy with classes on a variety of topics and with going to the station churches around Rome. They are early morning walks to the churches and back for classes. It has been great. There are thirty priests taking part in the program I am in. Most of them are from around the United States and a couple from Canada and two from New Zealand. They bring a nice mix to the experience.

Ancient Mosaic from 4th-5th Century ruins of Sepphoris

In the middle of the program they offer a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and that is what I am on right now. We flew down to Tel Aviv on Thursday and we started traveling around to the different Holy Sites. On Friday we traveled along the Mediterranean to Ancient Ceasarea Meritima ruins which was the site of the first Gentile baptism by St. Peter. St. Paul was also imprisoned there for two years while awaiting a ship to Rome for his trail as a Roman citizen. Then we went on to the tel site of Meggido. A tel is a mound or a hill that has been created over the centuries by one city being destroyed and another one built on top of it. At Meggido there was twenty six cities built on top of each other. It is amazing to see the excavations that have been done over the years and to history they uncover. After that we went to Haifa and Mt Carmel, which was the foundation of the Carmelite Order and the site of Elijah's showdown with Jezebel's prophets. We celebrated mass over the Cave of Elijah's cave. It sometimes is referred to as the cave of the Madonna for one tradition said the holy family stayed there on the way to Nazareth from Egypt. As you can tell there is a lot of history and powerful religious experiences that we are having.

This morning we got up early and packed up the bus and headed out from Mt Carmel and traveled to Haifa to the Mt of Beatitudes near the Sea of Galilee. On the way we celebrated mass at Cana, the site of Jesus' first miracle of water into wine, and then on to Seogirus (Zippori) which was an ancient Herodian style city. There were some great mosaics there that go back to the 4-5th century.

Dormition of St. Joseph
After lunch in Nazareth we went to the Basilica of the Annunciation. I came to the Holy Land once before, about 20 years ago, on a Catholic and Greek Orthodox pilgrimage and remember this church as well as the church next to it dedicated to St Joseph.

The Basilica of the Annunciation is a modern church built in the 60's very modern and large but not impressive as a building but only impressive to me as a place where Mary gave her Fiat, "let your will be done." It has brought back many great memories of my first experience and my thoughts and prayers have gone out to Fr Nick Raffael who put my first pilgrimage together. He has passed on a few years ago but I still hear his passion and excitement for being in this Holy Land. If you would, please remember Fr Nick in your prayers and all of us who are on pilgrimage this time, that this journey continues to deepen our faith and enlivens our passion for the gospel message and our ability to share it with others.

Celebrating Mass at the Church of St. Peter's Home, near Sea of Galilee

We end our journey today at the Church of the Beatitudes and the pilgrim house on the grounds which overlook the sea of Galilee. It is beautiful to be here.

Excavation St. Peter's home, Galilee
  Tomorrow (Sunday) we go to Capernaum and to Ceasarea Philippi. I am sure it will be a busy and powerful day. I have good a internet connection today so I am able to send this out, I hope tomorrow night to be able to write more. Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers and at the Mass I celebrate each day.

God Bless
Fr Joe Porpiglia

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