How does one go about seeking Jesus? This is a story that I feel must be shared because at one time or another, I believe, all Christians seek truth, seek Jesus. Bill and I had some choices to make in June prior to having our entire family visit us. We had selected either a Mexico City tour of the museums or Washington DC to be at the opening of the ‘Art of Engagement’ Exhibit where one of my images was going to be on display.
It was an unexpected chance. A friend of many years, Mary Jane Fox, announced on Facebook that there were only three spots left on the Pilgrim Center of Hope pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was not going to be a sightseeing tour; no it was going to be a pilgrimage. We were to attend Mass every day and read scripture at each holy site.
It was an epiphany (an experience of sudden and striking realization)….we knew instantly that this was where we needed to go, where we needed to be. No hesitation, no discussion just a strong awareness of knowing that this was what we had to do – Seek Jesus.
It was a journey of a lifetime. The plane ride was turbulent flying into Tel Aviv to say the least but we endured. We arrived in Nazareth by motor coach for our first night’s stay. The next morning’s light shining on Nazareth was stunning. I was fortunate to photograph the city from a vantage point overlooking the city of Jesus, giving me a lasting memory of this beautiful place.
We visited many holy sites, but I will focus on those holy places that moved me, that confirmed that being a cradle Roman Catholic was my gift from my parents. The Roman Catholics and the Greek Catholics are the two main groups of Christians in the Holy Land. What surprised me was how few Christians live in Israel. Approximately 1.5% of the people who live in the Holy Land are Christians.
On this pilgrimage I learned that the Catholic Church is the vital force in caring for and maintaining the holy churches, be they from Germany, France, Belgium or Mexico. If Washington DC is the center of politics then Israel is the world epicenter for religion, for this is where the Western Wall stands for the Jewish people and where Christianity began, Bethlehem where Christ was born, and Calvary, Jerusalem, where Christ was crucified.
We visited the Basilica of the Annunciation which is built over ancient Nazareth. It was overwhelming to see the dwelling where the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to a child named Jesus. The image I took is the place where the angel appeared to Mary. As you can see an altar has been added for the purpose of Mass and for the Angelus to be said. We were fortunate to see and hear the Angelus in Latin while we were there.
Before I go any further, it never, ever occurred to me that caves were the homes of the Holy Family, the apostles, and many of the people living in Nazareth and throughout the area during the time when Christ walked this ancient land. Today these caves are called grottos.
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, May it be done to be according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
The gospels mention Capernaum many times and I often wondered about this particular place. Where is Capernaum and why is it so relevant? Capernaum became a real place for us, not just a place written in the bible. It is the town of Jesus because his own people in Nazareth did not accept him. He settled in Capernaum with Simon Peter, his apostle, in Simon’s mother-in-law’s house. The new church, St Peter’s House, is built over the ruins of this house where Christ stayed.
Near St Peter’s House we visited the ruins of the Synagogue where Christ preached and taught his messianic views. In this image you can see Deacon Tom Fox from the Pilgrim Center of Hope reading scripture to us – Matthew 8:14-15.
We next sailed the Sea of Galilee in a wooden boat. The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake, 8 miles by 17 miles and is 120 feet deep. The sea is clear blue and glistens in the sun light. We were reminded of the calming of the storm at sea in Matthew 8:23-27. The sea had a relaxing effect on me as I was able to photograph the Sea of Galilee with the Valley of the Winds in the background where Christ walked from town to town, Cana, Capernaum and Nazareth. Not only was this a magnificent photographic visual but also so much to mentally absorb.
Our lunch at a local restaurant was “St Peter’s fish” served whole. It was totally delicious and was my number one meal because of the significance, taste and presentation. All the food was Middle Eastern and at first I did try many of the salads but as the days went I stayed with the main course which was usually chicken prepared in different ways.
We then traveled to the Church of the Primacy of Peter located a few feet from the Sea of Galilee. Upon entering the church, the Mensa Christi, a huge rock, the table of the Lord is located just before the altar. It is this precise place that Christ, after His resurrection, met with Peter and the others and cooked breakfast for them, consisting of fish. This is a moment that can give you so much to think about. Christ preparing breakfast for Peter who had earlier denied him three times and other followers…..John 21:1-19 John 21:17 “Do you love me?”
[Mrs. Sonja Harris is a well-known, conservative writer for her popular blog, Conservatives in Action. She is also a talented photographer whose pictures have appeared in local art shows.]