With apologies for the absence of posts in the last couple of days, I now reflect on my experiences of tours around the Galilee and the significant sites most associated with my faith.
It was our great joy to be shown around the Galilee by a very lucid guide who not only knew the area but had a very healthy grasp of Christian theology - and the mix was flavoursome! We passed sites and scenes that are familiar to anyone who has read parts of the Bible. We went to Nazareth, an almost solely Palestinian place in terms of population. Within it we visited the Church of the Annunciation (cf Luke Ch 1) and regarded the place where it is said that the Holy Spirit overshadowed the girl Mary. It was a special moment for me that I was able to quietly sing the Angelus at the place of its genesis, yet all the while being vexed at the lack of touristic respect for a Mass taking place elsewhere!
Later we passed Migdal (the site of the old Magdala) - evoking thought about Mary Magadalene and her 'part' in what happened. We stopped by the shores of the Sea of Galilee at the place where it is said that Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. I enjoyed a paddle, gathered some stone and shells for my daughters, and we drove on to Capernaum. This was a very special place because it was as near as we have seen of an intect footprint of the village familiar with Jesus. The Synagogue where it said that Jesus taught was a significant feature, and we left feeling very uplifted (the lack of tourists aided this).
Yesterday was a special day - we partook in the 5.30am Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem at the site near cave of the Tomb, followed by 8am Mass at St. George's Cathedral and a 10.30 service in Bethlehem with the Arab speaking Lutheran community whose hospitality was edifying. We moved on the see the Church of the Nativity where I was mauled by a woman of faith as I took my pictures of the site of the nativity! To have a spiritual encounter near these historical places was helpful to me.
This is partly an 'I did this' post and partly one of my impressions. I am in awe of these places but also oddly empty about them, all at the same time. I expected to feel differently than I did, and as I say near the place of the nativity, I think I recgonised that I half expected there to be some static-like crackling because of the fact that Jesus existed in real time and real space in those locations. As I type this, it seems foolish, but I expected those places to feel more special than other places that I know in my little world. I think I now recognise that these are not so much spiritual sites but historical sites - they are places where things happened once. As I reflect on the fact that I didn't 'get' what I had expected, part of me is starting to recognise that to feel different because a site was where God was would suggest that I know places where God isn't - and I know no such places. Bethlehem, the Golgotha, Tagbeh, the Sea of Galilee - yes, Jesus was there and that is great, but in knowing God inside myself means that they are just interesting places, not pinnacles of spiritual engagement