Holy Land Pilgrimage Posts:
Part One: The Region of Galilee
This is the second post in my four-part series of posts about my Holy Land pilgrimage over Christmas break. In this post I’ll talk about the first part of our trip, The Region of Galilee. For the most part this and the next post will be more about what and where we did things. Every now and then there will be spiritual insights, but for the most part these will be saved for the conclusion post. Below are the places that we traveled to during this section:
Part One: The Region of Galilee
Tuesday December 27th
Wednesday December 28th
Check In to Domus Galilaeae
Thursday December 29th
Church of the Home of St. Joseph
Basilica of the Annunciation
Friday December 30th
Church of the Primacy of Peter
Saturday December 31st
Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes
Attempted Church of the Beatitudes
Sea of Galilee
Tuesday to Wednesday: Traveling and First Day
We started our pilgrimage with the celebration of Mass at 7:30 at the seminary, followed by breakfast. The plan was to leave at 9 in the morning, however, the bus that would take us to the airport was late and so we didn’t leave until closer to 9:30. When we arrived at Newark International Airport we were greeted by some ladies from the travel agency and we were given instructions on how to go through security. Now I don’t know what is normal for international travel, but the Israelis truly take security seriously. Right after we walked in, we queued up to be questioned before we could check our bags or get boarding passes. The questions we were asked were standard things like: where are you going, how long are you going to be there, how did you get to the airport, how did your bag get packed, and so on. Oh boy were these people professional about how they did it. Not just in a courtesy aspect, but from even simple questions it felt like they were reading a books worth of information about you. After we passed through the Israeli security screening, we then went through TSA security. Sometime around noon a couple of us were at the terminal to wait for our 3:15 flight.
The flight was about 10 hours long, and I felt every 10 hours of it. I got maybe 2-3 hours of sleep on the plane. The problem was that I got way too good of a night’s sleep the night prior. It wasn’t all bad though, the food was better than I expected. I also managed to pray all five of the hours of the Divine Office on the plane, we took off in the mid afternoon and landed in the morning so all the hours landed at some point in the flight. We landed at around 6:30 in the morning. Getting to baggage claim was easy enough. Though once there, several of us had to wait nearly 30 minutes to get our bags because even though the plane was full, everyone else was taking their time getting to baggage and so there was no room on the belts for our bags to fit.
From the airport, we went to Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean Sea and explored the ancient ruins build by Herod the Great. I also ate my first item of food in Israel there, a Jewish doughnut in celebration of Hanukkah which was going on while we were there. After visiting Caesarea, we started north to Mount Carmel where we celebrated mass at the Carmelite monastery of Stella Maris. After mass we continued northward to the place in which we were staying in Galilee, the Domus Galilaeae. When we arrived there later that evening we were greeted with joyous music and singing by the Neocats who live there and who would be our hosts. After dinner, it was so nice to be able to get a night’s sleep.
Our first full day we spent mostly in Nazareth. We started the day by celebrating mass that morning at the Church of the Home of St. Joseph. This is the place that is traditionally believed to be the home of St. Joseph. From there we went to the Basilica of the Annunciation. Inside the basilica is the grotto/room where the Angel Gabriel approached Mary announcing that she would be the mother of Jesus and Mary gave her fiat. These both are on the same property. All over the main courtyard surrounding the Basilica are images of the Blessed Virgin sent as gifts from nations all over the world. We got a tour of the basilica and then went to visit the Synagogue Church, which it is believed that Christ preached in when He was doing public ministry in Nazareth. After this we were given about an hour to go find food and have some free time. A couple of us went and found a place to eat and I try shawarma for the first time. After eating, we went back to the basilica and had time to pray in silence before the place of the Annunciation, earlier there were a lot of crowds, and then myself and another guy went to the Church of the Home of St. Joseph to pray a bit.
From Nazareth, we headed out to Sephoris which is an ancient town, now in ruins, which is a few miles outside of Nazareth that was being constructed while Joseph and Jesus were alive. The theory is that they, being carpenters, probably would’ve worked there doing construction work. Then we wrapped the day up with a trip to Cana.
Friday: Peter’s Day
We started the day by traveling further north to Caesarea Philipi, the place of Peter’s profession that Jesus is the Christ and where Simon became Peter. This is also where the Jordan waters start in the springs there. From there we traveled south towards the Sea of Galilee and stopped at the Church of the Primacy of Peter. This is the location where after the Resurrection, while Peter and the other disciples were fishing, they spotted Jesus on the shore cooking a meal upon a rock. There is now a church containing the rock in which it was believed that this occurred. After this we had lunch and then traveled the short distance to Capernaum where Peter lived and where Jesus stayed. There we celebrated mass in the Church, which is above Peter’s house. Next to his house is the synagogue of Capernaum and where the bread of life discourse in John’s gospel was delivered. Our final stop of the day was to Magdala which has a recently discovered first century synagogue and the market of ancient Magdala.
Saturday: Last Day in Galilee
On our last day in Galilee, we started by traveling to Mount Tabor, the place of the Transfiguration. To get there we first drove part of the way up the mountain. Then we got off the bus and into vans, which then took us to the very top. The road to the top, was this thin little nearly one way road winding its way up the mountain with large drops over the edge. After driving for a few minutes we get to the top of this mountain where the church is located. The church is a beautiful and imposing building. It really makes one think just how did they make it all the way up there to build. We celebrated mass in the lower chapel, which is where the banner picture for the blog is from. Then we got to see views from the terrace on the side of the church overlooking the area around the mountain. Every place that we went, we had a lesson about the place in reference to scripture or relevant history of first century Judaism or early Christianity. At Mt. Tabor, our Jewish guide pointed out during the lesson, one of the most profound things that I’ll keep with me from the trip. Just before Moses died, God allowed him to look upon the promise land from the other side of the Jordan at Mt. Nebo. Moses after leading the people out of Egypt didn’t get to enter the promise land. That is until the Transfiguration, at which Moses finally enters into the promise land, and not only does the Lord bring Moses to the promise land, but He also shows Moses the Messiah who will finally deliver the people of Israel and all people from the bondage of sin.
After Mt. Tabor, we then headed to the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, which is as the name says, the place in which Christ multiplied the Loaves and the Fishes. From there we went to the Mount of Beatitudes to go to the church there. However, because it was new years eve, the sisters responsible for the place closed early and so we weren’t able to go to the church. Instead, we had our lesson outside the gate and then moved on to our final stop of the day. We ended the day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. That night back at the Domus after dinner we did some sharing about the trip. During this I gain a great insight from the Lord about the Holy Land and my attitude towards it. But that’ll have to wait until the conclusion post at a later time. From here we entered our second part: Jerusalem. I hope to have that posted by next Sunday.