Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mount of the Transfiguration and Nazareth (3 March 2010)

This is the last post from when I was away (3 March 2010). And, a note about photos. Something odd has happened in the last 24 hours, and my vertically oriented photos have stopped coming through in the blog with vertical orientation. In some cases, this is limiting which photos I'll post. There is one for today though that I can't resist. You'll just have to cope with a sideways shot.

We began our day at the Mount of the Transfiguration. This mountain was where Jesus retired to pray with Peter, John, and James, before setting his face towards Jerusalem. It's a beautiful high mountain above Galilee. There's a huge church (of course). The day was overcast and cloudy, but as one of my fellow pilgrims reminded us, at the Transfiguration, it wasn't so much about the view! (They were enveloped in a cloud during the Transfiguration.)

While on the Mount, we celebrated Eucharist together. Abbott, one of my fellow pilgrims, offered a lovely mediation on Transfiguration. Quoting Peter, she talked about how good it is to be here, and our temptation to build a booth and stay. Stay in Galilee or stay in the Holy Land. But, really, we must set our faces towards Jerusalem, and then towards home. However, we are all being transfigured by this pilgrimage. So, the question was, How? How is the pilgrimage transfiguring and transforming us?

I feel as though the Transfiguration is being made incarnate in this experience. I am being broken open by it.
First, a bit of the Church of the Transfiguration and then a cloudy view.

Next, we journeyed to Nazareth, where we saw two sites dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. First, the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel. There are two traditions regarding Gabriel's Annunciation to Mary that God has chosen her to bear our Lord (or, as the Greek Orthodox would say, to become the Theotokos, the God-Bearer). One is that Mary was at home, the other was that she was at a well. So, the art in the church depicted Mary in both settings. There were Annunciation icons everywhere.

"Mary's well" ran through the church. After seeing the site of the well, with Living Water (running water) I was able to fill a cup with water from the well and soak my hands in it. I lit more candles and offered more prayers, and took lots of photos of the icons and the art. The church is being restored; my memory of this church will forever be mixed with the smells of turpentine, paint, and solvent.

First, the external shot of the church. And next, a photo I could not leave out. There were two subtle metal engravings that some folks missed in the midst of all the bling of the icons and the gold plate. This one is clearly the Annunciation. In the other (less clear in what it depicts), the faces had been removed and many small scraps of paper, clearly prayers, had been jammed in. The final shot shows an expanse of iconography.

After lunch, we repaired to the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation. This is a very modern church, completed within the last 10 years, or so. Before entering the church, another pilgrim, Megan offered a reflection on the Annunciation. Her words were so helpful to me. She offered us three possibilities for contemplation (with the encouragement to choose one).

First, messengers from God always say not to be afraid - but often fear is warranted. And sometimes we are afraid for good reason, and sometimes our fears are not rational. We might use this time to tell God about our fears, both the totally irrational ones and the completely logical and reasonable ones. Second, we might thank Mary. We are here, essentially, because Mary said yes. Finally, Megan pointed out that this story does not start with Mary, but with God. Mary was not quietly praying for the Messiah when Gabriel came. Nor was she in any way the center of the story. God chose her. So, we might note where our salvation has come from, and Thank God for the work that God is doing in us. They were powerful suggestions and my meditations on them were quite fruitful.

Despite growing up Roman Catholic, I don't have a tradition of venerating Mary. But, as I walked around the site after Megan's meditation, and saw all of the art from around the world honoring Mary, I was moved to offer her thanks. I also thought alot about fear. I've got a fair amount of it these days, for a variety of reasons. Some of it rational and justified, and some just plain crazy old fear. In that church, I gave it all over to God, at least for a little while.

Many different things are happening in this church. We could see the site of Mary's house (by tradition). In the upper part of the building is the functioning church for the Roman Catholic community at the Basilica.
The Basilica of the Annunciation, followed by one of many many mosaics (and other art) depicting the Virgin and child, from countries around the world. What I loved about this one (so could not resist, even though it's ALSO sideways) is that she is in native Thai costume. Finally, the detail of the dome from the inside. Amazing architecture.

From Nazareth, we returned to Jerusalem. It's about a two hour drive on the coach (bus, we've got lots of Brits here!). I slept some, and scribbled notes as we got some lectures. And, I saw again the problem of settlements. Particularly as you near Jerusalem, there are Jewish settlements that are huge. They are fenced off, and there have roads which go directly into the city (new and uncrowded) that only settlers can use. The Palestinian areas are fenced off (though it was pointed out to us that the fences were lovely and decorated with coloured bricks).

I have no idea what a reasonable solution to this problem is, but I find the present lived out realities of it heartbreaking.

1 comment:

Abuela Marty said...

I love the power of immersing your hands in that living water. That act will forever enhance each blessing you pronounce.