Wednesday - Day 8: Mount of the Beatitudes, Capernaeum, Communion beside Galilee, Boat across the Lake
A glorious start to the day with stunning views across Galilee as we head for the North-western shore, known as The Believers' Seashore with Chorazin, Magdala and Capernaeum all nestled on the shore though we will only visit the last of these. But we are first headed to The Mount of the Beatitudes -a very beautiful site overlooking the Lake. The church has been deliberately designed to encourage visitors to spend time in the gardens - recognising the importance of the outdoors in Jesus' ministry
There is something in this experience which prompts me to pose a question to Bishop Stephen and Maureen: whether they think that regular pilgrimages for Readers/ LLMs and their spouses, led by a series of Bishops, might be beneficial. Both warm to the idea immediately on the basis that it is bound to have a beneficial effect on some after-pilgrimage preaching/teaching and would also be a considerable affirmation of Reader/LLM ministry. It felt as if an inspiration in that beautiful place might be leading to something creative. I am minded to think of the idea being linked with my Prayer for Creativity which will be found in the A-Z index in the right hand column.
In Magdala, currently being excavated and therefore not accessible to us, are two new initiatives;a Visitors' Centre and inspirationally, a multi-faith Women's Centre.
It is this area of the Believers'Shore that Jesus chose to be the principal base for his ministry. We go to see the excavations at Capernaeum, a place of much activity for Jesus. Here he healed the centurion's slave, Peter's mother-in-Law and the disabled man let in through the roof to gain access to Him. Peter also chose to live with his Mother-in-Law at Caepernaeum, perhaps rather than pay taxes to fish and sell his fish that he would have to pay if he had remained in his home in Bethsaida. We celebrate the gift of in-Laws in prayer. We sat gratefully in the shade in the Synagogue that dates from Byzantine times, possibly as an early day visitor centre. The site is entirely open to the elements now but the Galeria for women and children is evidenced by a high course of differential stone to the rest of the walling .
A house footing in Capernaum with interlocked rooms, probably a family residence
The ruins are impressive and would have borne more investigation but we must move on to thelakeside chapel of Mensa Christi where the rock on which Jesus is said to have prepared breakfast for his disciples after the Resurrection stands at the front of the sanctuary. Outside a peaceful small cove where the shoreline is several feet higher than usual after the heavy but welcome winter rains.
After the most frenetic lunch of the whole pilgrimage, we go to Taghba, another of the lakeside communities where we make our way to an exquisitely quiet lakeside area with its own little lagoon for our last day Celebration of Communion. A large rock forms the altar piece. We are joined by cormorant, kingfishers and herons as Maureen celebrates for us as we all look out directly on to the Lake. The Peace is a joyous exchange tinged with a little sadness that some are leaving us tomorrow. we are, during the celebration to be silent and enjoy the peacefulness of the place. at that moment, there was, for me a realisation that Jesus would have been accompanied by birds and perhaps other creatures whenever he sought quietness in the hills.
Then a brief visit to the church in whose grounds we have been celebrating before heading off for a boat ride on Galilee itself. After the quiet and the peace, which also is part of the boat experience, everyone is ready for a little relaxing fun - but not before the captain (I think) of the boat gave an excellent demonstration of net casting in the manner that would have been exercised in Jesus' time. Then the fun - culminating in singing and dancing to Hava Ngila.