There is a saying about our Christian journey that we should begin with the end in mind. Perhaps today’s microcosm pilgrimage experience reflected that macrocosmic reality. Because of our busy schedule of pilgrimage visits, we started early. We boarded the bus at 8am, and departed for our first stop at Megiddo. Most people will recognize it by its more well known name of Armageddon, most often associated with the end of time. Thus, we truly began with the end in mind. This is the town that has been destroyed and rebuilt in history 25 different times. It is the place mentioned in Revelation 16, where it is referred to as the location where the final battle will take place. Because of the multitudinous levels of civilizations who built here, the layers of archeological digs provide a literal library of insight into the history of the people who lived here.
A fascinating point for the pilgrims were the many “feeding troughs” made of stone that were used as mangers in Jesus’ day. It is much more likely that the traditional manger for Jesus was more accurately something like this stone variety:
At Megiddo, there is a famous system of tunnels that provided a hidden access to the spring of water outside the walls of the city. The tunnels have been fully excavated, and lucky for this pilgrim group, the access to the tunnels was opened following the winter rains today as we arrived. Thus, the pilgrims were able to hike down to the level of spring, walk through the tunnel, see the spring, and then come up the other side. It was a fascinating adventure for all that surpassed any Disney fast pass ride.
Next, we continued on to Mount Tabor, which is the traditionally revered site of the Transfiguration of Jesus. The arrangements there require for us to employ separate vans to ascend to the top of the mountain, where there are separate chapels that commemorate Moses and Elijah, just as Peter wanted to build separate shrines for each in the Gospel story.
The main basilica church is much bigger, and after Rimon lectured on the significance of each of the chapels, there was a little free time for us to explore and to meditate, after which we went to the overlook point to see the panoramic view.
When it was time for departure from Mount Tabor on this beautiful warm and sunny day, Bob Lees commented that “This is so nice, I could stay up here all day.” There was laughter when the realization hit that he had almost quoted Peter verbatim at the Transfiguration.
We proceeded on to Nazareth, where, after a delicious sandwich break for lunch of Shawarma or Falafel sandwich served at a Christian restaurant by Maron, we continued our walk up the block to the Church of the Annunciation.
Rimon arranged for the group to have a private time with Eduardo, one of the lead guides at the museum, who opened up just for our group to see a 1st century excavated house from Nazareth that would be very similar to the house in which Mary would have been living at the time that the angel Gabriel appeared to her.
The most startling revelation to the pilgrims here is that the “no room at the inn” is actually a mistranslation. The reality is that there was no room in the front room of the house (where people slept), so that the baby had to be born in the back room of the house, where the domestic animals were kept.
Also, we were able to see the original carved stone with the graffiti inscription in the museum that gives clear evidence that the church nearby is the spot where Mary lived at the time of the Annunciation.
The pilgrims then had a little free time for prayer and/or exploration to see the basilica church built around the actual house of Mary, prior to our return to the bus for our trip to Cana. Some opted to then head towards St. Joseph’s Church, which was a short walk away from the Annunciation Church. Upon arrival at St. Joseph’s, we saw some beautiful bronze sculptures depicting St. Joseph.We were equally surprised to find a very recognizable usher welcoming people to St. Joseph’s Church:At Cana, we were able to utilize the chapel of Divine Mercy to conduct our Eucharist and renewal of marriage vows, at which Charlotte and Bob Lees celebrated 45 years of marriage, Mary Lou and John Eastham celebrated 35 years of marriage, and Dee and Marty Zlatic celebrated 22 years. After the Eucharist, we paused for a group photo with the “newly married couples” in front of the main church prior to our return to the hotel for our last night dinner in Nazareth.
At our final social gathering and dinner in Nazareth, there were toasts, stories, and laughter shared, prior to a wonderful blessing prayer by Bobbie Smith to lead us into our Sabbath dinner in the hotel. The salad buffet was endless, and since our departure tomorrow is even earlier than today, everyone retired early to pack and to sleep. We will depart Nazareth tomorrow at 7:45am for our Jerusalem hotel tomorrow, via Jericho and Bethlehem.
Please be advised special love (LLL) is sent from the spouses to those husbands who are not able to be here with their wives. We toasted you tonight and remembered you all with fondness.