Today was a very reflective and contemplative day. It began at the Mount of the Beatitudes. A church is located there. (Because there is a church on every holy site in the Holy Land!) We reflected a bit on the beatitudes and what they mean in a world where God is King and God's reign has come on earth. Andrew (our trip leader) challenged us to mediate on one beatitude in the 30 minutes of quiet time given to us there. I found it a good and challenging exercise. Good to focus on one (Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted). Challenging because it was hard to find a quiet place, as there were pilgrims and tourists everywhere. When I stopped being crabby, I found that I could enjoy the mix of languages and cultures I heard all around me, and relax into the space as it was, not as I wished it were.
Here is a distance shot of the Church of the Beatitudes.
We moved from there to the Church of the Primacy of Peter. This church marks the spot of Peter's confession of Jesus as the Messiah. We celebrated the Eucharist there, hearing the story from Luke's gospel about the call of the first disciples, who were fishing in the Sea of Galilee (Luke 5:1-11). Craig, our preacher (a fellow pilgrim from the Diocese of Central NY) invited us to be courageous in answering God's call. Later, I saw this on a plaque on the church: The deeds and miracles of Jesus are not actions of the past. Jesus is waiting for those who are still prepared to take risks at His word because they trust his power utterly. It seemed fitting, given Craig's words to us.
Immediately after the Eucharist, we went down to the Sea and renewed our baptismal vows as we stood in the water. [I'd originally thought we would do this in the Jordan, but the Jordan River is now a military zone and off limits.] It was incredibly powerful. I love our baptismal service in The Episcopal Church, and the promises often make me weep. It was overwhelming and moving to do it right there in that water. This experience may well be the high point of the trip for me. Afterwards, we went into the church, where we could kneel and touch the rock that symbolizes Peter's Primacy (you are Peter, the Rock, and on you I will build my church).
Here are Anne and I after we renewed our baptismal vows. I'm holding the bowl of water and the frond that was used to sprinkle us. The other photo is the Church of the Primacy of Peter. You can see the big rock; the altar sits on it.
We ended the morning at Capernum (spelled a number of different ways here!). The sign at the site refers to it as "Jesus' Village." He came to live here with Peter and his family after being run out of Nazareth after "the synagogue incident." It was incredibly powerful to look over those places and know that Jesus had walked there. In fact, this was another place, like the Judean desert, that really moved me, because I knew that Jesus' feet had walked in these places.
This photos shows the archaeological dig at Capernum, and looks back towards the Church there, which is built over the site of the ruins of Peter's home.
From Capernum, we went to lunch at a restaurant that serves St. Peter's Fish. These whole fish come from the Sea of Galilee and have been caught there since before the time of Jesus.
This is Anne's lunch, ready to go!
We ended our day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee on a fishing boat that is a replica of one that they hauled out of the Sea several years ago. Here's one sailing near the one we are on:
We read the story of Jesus calming the storms on the Sea as we sailed. I couldn't quite believe that I was on a boat, in that place.
Today has been the fullest day we've had so far, with so many things to see and experience. The good news, however, was that we took it easy. In each place, we had time for quiet and for reflection. I never felt rushed (though I often wished for more time, which is a different thing). I'll be forever grateful that my first trip to the Holy Land was on a pilgrimage, rather than a tour. We are intentionally making time for worship together every day. In fact, we've had eucharist almost every day. So while at the end of each day I am tired - I'm not exhausted, which is a different thing. And, I am feeling refreshed and renewed but what I am seeing, hearing, tasting, experiencing.