Pilgrim notes #4 - To Galilee
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. Luke 2:39-40
A couple of figurative hand grenades have been rolled out onto the floor, perhaps to make us think. This started Monday as I described in notes #3. As we are motoring very slowly through traffic on the way to Caesarea Maritima, Henry Carse, our lecturer for the Galilee trip, makes a similar reference regarding Luke 2:1 and Quirenius' census, "which unfortunately took place at the wrong time." On the bus wasn't the right forum in which to explore these Bible texts. But, it seems clearer now that the CENSUS is at least a theme in the plan to cause us to want to look beyond the Bible to discover Jesus, since the staff have left Matthew and Luke in a bit of disrepair. Here is the way I see it:
Matthew did not tell us where Joseph and Mary were from. The only time that Matthew mentions a place is when he writes that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. That doesn't necessarily mean, as stated by the St. George staff, that Joseph and Mary originally lived in Bethlehem but moved to Nazareth to protect Jesus, and Luke just has his facts mixed up. I think neither Gospel has the complete story, but each contribute to our understanding of the whole story. Since the census appears to be important, it is important that Luke doesn't call it Quirenius' census, but Augustus' census. Quirenius, governor of Syria, did have his own census in 6 AD. However, because of calendar discrepancies, Jesus was probably born in 6 BC (give or take a year). We no longer can find records of a 6 BC census, but both Justin Martyr and Tertullian said there were such records in Rome. Their testimony is good enough for me. Records from Egypt also show that Rome conducted a census about every 14 years, and there is a documented census in 20 BC. So, now Luke is looking better. We also know from history that Quirenius was somewhere in the "east" during the period. We also know that he was Governor of Syria later, so he may have been Governor of Syria in 6 BC too. Now Luke looks even better.
Matthew wrote, " . . . and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: 'He will be called a Nazareen.'" Where does it say that? It doesn't say that in any of the books in our Bible. This is another of the little grenades rolling around on the floor. But, remember, Matthew didn't say it was in a book to become one of the books in the Bible. Nor have all the books from Jesus' time survived in our time. Matthew knew about it, and that's good enough for me.
Now you know what's going thru my head at the beginning of this trip and I can't let it go. Several other people are in the same head space, and we're going to talk about this in a public forum before it is over.
Cesarea Maritima: Pretty remarkable ruins. Paul was sent to Rome from here. The library used by Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin was here. But, it felt a lot like being a tourist.
Jane Dupke shivering in the rain at Cesarea
Maritima with Finola Featherston,
our Chaplain's wife, looking on.
Nazareth: The city is 35% Christian. We visited The Basilica of the Annunciation. There are a number of reasons to believe that the early church really did find and protect Mary's house. Basically, it's a cave. All the houses in Nazareth at the time were built around caves. But, the truth is, you can't even get close to it. I was frustrated. I just wanted to go inside, shut the door (cave door?) And turn out the light and feel the moment. It didn't happen, of course, but I'm feeling more like a pilgrim. I am deeply moved by what I've learned and what I've seen. Walking down from the church back to the bus, Jan jabs me in the ribs saying "give her something." My mind is elsewhere and I've almost walked over a little girl sitting on the sidewalk looking perhaps 6 or 7 years old, holding a baby and begging alms. I gave her a couple of coins and was rewarded with a smile. Did I do the right thing? Did I give her enough? My heart breaks for the life she must live and future she probably faces. I weep for her and my inability to do enough.
Tiberias: To be our home base for the next two days, Tiberias is a large and prosperous and growing cosmopolitan city on the Western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is dark as we drive up to the Sea of Galilee Center, formerly a Hospital, now a Pilgrim "hotel" run by the Church of Scotland. It feels strange to stay in an old hospital room, yet we have beds and our own toilet; all the comforts of home.
Ash Wednesday: 03/08/2000
"Yardenit" is a safe way for pilgrims to get into the Jordan River after some unfortunate accidents took place on the sometimes rough shores and dangerous water of the river. Here we witnessed several full-immersion baptisms and had an opportunity to wade in the river and repeat vows to teach the Word, proclaim Jesus as Savior, and bring others to Christ. I'll never pass up such an opportunity.
Capernaum, Peters House, & an ancient synagogue: In Capernaum there are ruins dating back to the first century. Some of these ruins MAY have been dwellings used by Jesus and his apostles during part of Jesus' ministry. It really isn't known that the so called Peter's house was Peter's. There is a mid 5th century Byzantine church built on the foundation of a first century house. Other Byzantine churches like this one of the same time were all built over shrines. So, it is conjectured that the earliest layer may have been an important location in Capernaum, but it is not recorded what that was.
The Ancient Boat: From Capernaum: We went by boat to the Nof Ginosar kibutz where the preserved remains of a boat like Peter's has been preserved and newly on display. We were one of the first groups to actually see the boat on display. You may visit the boat on the web at http://mahal.zrc.ac.il/ancient-boat/ Our ride on the Sea of Galilee on a supposed replica of Peter's boat was a useful experience, very important to some, a little too commercial for me. They have a web site too at http://www.kinneret.co.il/holyland/
Mount of the Beatitudes: We enjoyed a moment of spiritual reflection led by Pat Ellertson at the beautiful church where tradition holds that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. We then visited the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
Finally we went to the Church of St. Peter's Primacy, the location where Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection and had breakfast with them. (John 21) Here we celebrated Ash Wednesday Eucharist with imposition of Ashes at an outdoor altar.
It was an overfull day, and we did far too much to process immediately. I was feeling like, "If this is Wednesday, then this must be Galilee." Before dinner I found a pharmacy to get something for a cold.
We departed early for Mt Tabor, site of the Transfiguration. Some scholars believe Mt Hermon was the site of the Transfiguration, but there is ample evidence that it was Mt Tabor. Buses can't climb the road to Mt Tabor, so the ride ends with a hair raising taxi trip. Our driver was Salim, a Moslem Bedouin Israeli who in 35 years wore out 6 taxis, and had no accidents. Salim gave us a continuous flow of information on the way up, 4 kilometers, 16 hairpin turns, and pointed out all the sites, shouting Halleluia at every hard curve.
Mt. Tabor is one of the earliest sites of Christian pilgrimage. Thousands have died in attempts to maintain a pilgrimage retreat and shrine here. The current Franciscan church was begun in 1914, and is built on the ruins of many older structures destroyed in the struggle for this piece of land. It was a spiritually refreshing place after the pace of the previous day.
Enroute to Jerusalem, we had lunch in Sebaste, the town built upon the ruins of Samaria, the capital of Israel, the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings, 16:23ff & 2 Kings 17). After lunch we walked the ruins. Amos is full of prophecy of Samaria's/Israel's punishment. And, of course, it really happened. Makes you think. Here we interacted with some Moslem or Samaritan children who are growing up playing and working (herding sheep, farm and orchard chores, for example) in the middle of the ruins. Some begged alms, but others picked poppies which they gave to the women. A couple of them were learning some English and were able to communicate with us impressively.
Between Samaria and Jerusalem, we stopped at Jacob's well, where Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water (John 4). The well still exists, under the sanctuary of an Orthodox Church. Here Megan Stewart-Sicking delivered a deeply moving homily based on her own experience with thirst. Many admit to having been moved to tears.
So the bus weary pilgrims returned to St. George's full of experiences to assimilate into their lives.
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