Wow, has it only been four days? It feels like it has been at least a week! These past three days were spent in Nazareth… or at least, we spent the evenings there! We drove from Bethlehem up to Nazareth and stayed with a group of sisters at their convent-turned-retreat-center. It is right across from the Basilica of the Annunciation. It has an amazing view from the terrace of the city and the dome of the basilica.
We spent the three days going from place to place. Jericho (seven times around the city, then blow your horns and the city will fall…), the Mount of Temptation (where Jesus was tempted by Satan), Mount Carmel (where Mary showed the scapular to Saint Simon Stock) and the Mount of the Transfiguration. And thats not all of the places… I just can’t go through each one here!
We follow a traditional pattern of pilgrimage. At every site, a seminarian has volunteered to prepare a reading, reflection and prayer. So when we arrive at the place, we come together and pray. From there, Peter (our truly wonderful tour guide – and he’s Catholic!) offers us historical and theological points of interest about each place. Many times we are able to celebrate Mass at a place, and when we can, we do.
The best times are when we are able to explore a site (such as Masada, the mountain stronghold where rebel Jews held off the Romans before killing themselves in a legendary show of independence) or are able to pray for a time at a place of Biblical significance. My favorite place, thus far, has been Mount Tabor, the mountain where Jesus was transfigured. I have found that the sites I visit do not evoke some overpowering emotion or experience (not that I wouldn’t welcome that), but a call for reflection and a sense of the Lord’s presence. Mount Tabor is perhaps the best in this regard and I would have loved to set up camp there and stay for a while.
The second best place that we have visited, aside from the Church of the Nativity, is the Basilica of the Annunciation. It is a grand place – literally and figuratively. It has two levels, one which preserves the original cave where tradition tells us Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel (my youngest brother is name Gabriel…). The upper level is a grand basilica in its own right and the place where most liturgies are celebrated (or at least, so I imagine).
One thing that is very neat about the basilica is that they have tried to have every nation include some devotional to Mary on the site. So both within and outside the walls you will find mosaics of Mary from each country. My favorite, thus far (I haven’t seen them all) is the contribution of Ireland. I’m afraid the United States’ contribution doesn’t match the art that has been cultivated and contributed by so many other countries (visit my photo site to see these).
I think I’m going to sign off for now. I have an apology to offer. If you visit the photo site, you’ll see that there is (still) only one picture! This is because I’ve spent this morning uploading photos to the a href=seminary photo site. Indeed, some of these photos were taken by me (I’m in the photo-taking group), but this is a group effort. We’ve been far, far (oh-so-far) behind in getting these up and out there, so my first responsibility has been to that.
Too boot, I haven’t organized some of the pictures yet.
Not to fear, however, I will upload some, if not all (there are a lot) tomorrow evening. Trust me (despite the failure to fulfill my promise of Friday…). In the meantime, enjoy the photos that are on the Mundelein photo blog. If you’re interested, there is also a journal that we keep, which is daily. It is updated up to the end of last week, so there’s plenty to read! Explore it by clicking here (yes, here).
Peace and prayers from the Holy Land,