Hello friends . . . grace and peace,
You get to hear from Aran today. As a result, first and foremost, we ask your prayers for Tony, who has an infection or something going on with his lower leg. It IS getting better but it is still quite painful for him. He’s hobbling around and gutting this once in a lifetime trip out. But prayer is more powerful than the antibiotics he’s on. So please, do pray for healing for Tony Walter. Thanks.
Our day began in Jerusalem but that didn’t last long as we loaded onto our bus, driven by the always steady handed Ahmed, and we headed west to Caesarea Maritima. This was a site that, 3 years ago, we visited only briefly. Today, we spent almost 2 hours there. And oh, what a treat.
I’ll let you learn about Caesarea Maritima by clicking on the name there but suffice today, this place has loads of history and figures prominently in the scriptures as it is where Peter goes in Acts 10 after The Spirit of God leads him to “break the rules” of his religion and culture in order to spread the news of Jesus. It is also the place where Paul, in Acts 25, appeals to have his life spared by being sent to Rome to speak directly to Caesar himself.
From there we stopped briefly at the far northern side of Caesarea Maritima to view the aqueducts that stretched for 17 miles in order to bring fresh water from Mount Carmel down to this flourishing seaport town.
Back on the bus we went and drove to Nazareth. The weather began to turn a bit icky as the winds increased and really stirred up the dust and sand in that region. We stopped at two very high points of Nazareth to get a view but it was oh so windy and oh so dusty that the views weren’t so good. We may return there before we head back to Jerusalem on Saturday.
The rest of our day was focused on Mary, the mother of Jesus. We visited The Synagogue Church, which is a Greek Orthodox Church, and the site of Mary’s Well. This was the place where Mary (as well as the rest of the women in Nazareth) would have come for water each morning. The spring is still there, flowing strong. You can touch and drink the water as it is fresh, clean, clear, and even a bit sweet.
We then walked the streets of Nazareth (you know, like you do) as Mary would have, perhaps in her day, and stopped at one of the oldest spice shops in all of The Holy Lands, the Elbabour Galilee Mill. Seriously an unreal and incredible experience. You can find them online (and they ship to the USA) at www.elbabour-shop.com
Our walk through Nazareth continued and we made our way to The Church of the Annunciation. This is the spot where Mary was visited by the angel Gabrielle. Icons of Mary from more than 100 countries line the walls and exterior of this amazing church. Inside are two massive levels, the lower of which contains a grotto (little basement) dedicated to, what we believe to be, very close to the place where God proposed to Mary.
Yes, proposed. As we heard Fr. Kamal teach us today: there are two things that can never be forced . . . faith, and love. Mary was not forced to do this. God did not make her have a child. It was a proposal. And Mary did not say “yes” to the proposal. She questioned it. She wrestled with the proposal God had made. The cultural and scriptural result of becoming pregnant before she and Joseph were married was being stoned to death and, just as bad, her family being shamed (see Deuteronomy 22). But Mary took the risk. She trusted. As Fr. Kamal said today, “Trust is about the future. We do not trust in the past. Trust means future.” For us today, the implications are as complicated as it was in Mary’s time. How can we trust God’s future? How do we live out that trust? How do we, as Mary did, take the risk and ignore the cultural or even scriptural result?
Finally, we made our way to The Sisters of Nazareth. We were treated to something that very few people who visit The Holy Lands ever get to see.
Sister Stephania lead the way down…
Beneath the convent has been found a 1st century chapel, and, more importantly, a 1st century house AND tomb. 1st century is the time of Jesus. Nazareth is where he grew up as a child. Nazareth had only about 50 – 60 families living in it at that time. In the Jewish culture, everyone knew one another, prayed together, shopped together, went to school together, etc. We can’t know, and don’t know, if this house was “THE HOUSE” where Jesus lived. But he most assuredly would have known who lived there. Perhaps he even visited some friends of his there. Whatever the case, the above photos REALLY give us a sense into what a 1st century tomb looked like. The image of a HUGE stone and big entrance is shattered. You have to, as the bible references in John 20, bend over to look into a 1st century tomb.
Our day ended with dinner and The Eucharist at our new dwelling, The Betharram Guest House in Nazareth. We are filled and satisfied and well and whole. Continue your prayers for us and, as always,
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6