Friday, April 1, 2011

Pastor's Sabbatical - 4th Post - Israel

Church of the Transfiguration, Mt. Tabor
30 March 2011 Wednesday

Church of the Beatitudes
Yesterday was another long day for traveling for we left the pilgrim house on the Mt of Beatitudes and started traveling down towards Jerusalem. On the way down, we stopped at an Israeli park and excavation site of Bet Shean on the east end of the Jezreel valley which intersects the Jordan valley. It has been amazing to see what people were able to accomplished so many years ago and that anything would be left would be incredible.

From there we headed to Jericho and then to the Dead Sea for a swim. This was my first time swimming in the Dead Sea, I should be more accurate and say floating in the Dead Sea! That is what you do best and easiest there. The salt content is very high and makes you very buoyant. From there we went to the excavation site of Qumran, where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. Amazing that someone in the 1950's could be out tending sheep could stumble over something so ancient in ceramic jars.

Then we headed back north to Bethany (now a Palestinian city of Azariah) to the site of the miracle of Lazarus an the home of Martha and Mary. We celebrated mass at the Franciscan chapel next to Lazarus' tomb. From there we headed up to Jerusalem to the Notre Dame pilgrim center just outside the Old city of Jerusalem.

Door of Humility, Church of the Nativity
Today we started our day in Bethlehem, which from what I understand were fortunate that it we did not have to stop long at the checkpoint into to Bethlehem. I did not realize it but Bethlehem has a metal wall which surrounds it and not everyone can pass through the checkpoint as easily as we were able to. As the day went on, I understand that if you are Palestinan and were born in Bethlehem you can not visit or travel to Jewrusalem or any other part in this Holy Land. Actually there are very few Christians left in Bethlehem and those that are there have a difficult time supporting themselves and their families. I am beginning to understand why people from Bethlehem want to sell their olive wood products in our churches in the States to help those who are still living in this area. A very interesting insight and challenging time. After arriving in Bethlehem we went to the church of the Navitity controlled primarily by the Greek Orthodox. After waiting for more than forty minutes in line we were able to spend a few minutes to pray and venerate what is believed to be place of Jesus birth.

Church of the Shepherds' Field

Crypt of St. Jerome, St. Catherine Church
Next we went to the Church adjacent to the Church of the Nativity to the Catholic Church of Catherine of Alexandria. St. Catherine Church is the one they televise Christmas midnight mass in Nazareth from. We celebrated mass at the cave of St. Jerome which is the basement crypt of St Catherine's. From there we went to the Shepherd's Field with its cave chapel and the Franciscan Chapel above. I love the painting on the nativity that are painted on the walls of the Chapel. I think they are great.

From there we went to the Shrine of the Book Museum which had one of the Dead Sea Scrolls and an outdoor model of ancient Jerusalem. It was very helpful to see an overview with our guide pointing out some of the highlights. It put in context the history and layout of Jerusalem which was helpful to me. I must admit, I don't have it all figured out completely but it is now starting to make more sense.

Later in the day we went to the Museum of Yad Vashem which is their Holocaust museum. It was well done museum that was very moving. I did not realize how many countries the Nazi influence went until their persecution was stopped.

Needless to say, we were kept busy and moving. We have done a lot of walking and climbing of stairs here. It has been very thought provoking. You have been in my thoughts and prayers and especially the masses we have offered. Please continue to keep me in yours.

God Bless,
Fr Joe

Church of the Tranfiguration

this Sabbatical Blog post -
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first Sabbatical Blog post -
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