God was taking care of us today in the Holy Land. I mentioned in a previous post that our itinerary had to be adjusted because of a bicycle race today around the Sea of Galilee that closed most of the major roads. We had planned to spend the day in Galilee but away from the Sea, beginning with an 8 am Mass in Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast. Our hotel had told us that we would be able to get the bus out of the parking lot and across the bicycle course at 7:30 am, but the police had other instructions and did not let our bus through until almost 8:30 – long past the time Mass was supposed to start in a city 20 minutes away. Our guide called the Church in Cana to see if we could still have Mass there, but they were booked solid all day and would only be able to accommodate us if another group didn’t show up. So we instead headed first to Mt. Tabor, where Jesus was transfigured. Our guide called and arranged a last-minute Mass in the Chapel of Elijah.
When we arrived at Mt. Tabor, we found out that this afternoon a large Jewish group was going to be coming to the mountain and that it would be closed after noon to everyone else – and according to our original plan for the day, we would have been there in the afternoon. But because the hotel had given us bad information about when we could get through the bicycle course, delaying our morning departure, we had to change our plans and go first to Mt. Tabor – if all of that had not happened, we would not have been able to visit the site of the Transfiguration. Random sequence of events, or God’s design?
I was personally very grateful to be able to celebrate Mass on Mt. Tabor both because the Transfiguration has always held special meaning for me and because it became an opportunity to reflect on the strong connections between that event and the Eucharist. Our Mass was in a tiny chapel dedicated to Elijah – even though the disciples could not build tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, the Church that is on the mountain today is something like a large stone tent for Jesus and two small stone chapels, at the base of the bell towers, for Moses and Elijah. It was very moving to be able to sing the traditional Transfiguration hymn ‘Tis Good Lord To Be Here when we were literally standing on the here of the hymn text.
From Mt. Tabor we journeyed to Nazareth where we had a great shwarma lunch in the shadow of the Basilica of the Annunciation. Shortly before our food arrived, the bells of the Basilica began to ring the noon Angelus, and so we prayer this prayer in honor of the Annunciation and Incarnation – again in the place where it happened! After lunch, we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation as a group, including prayer at the grotto traditionally believed to be Mary’s home where Gabriel appeared to her. The inscription below the altar reads Verbum Caro Hic Factum Est, Here the Word was Made Flesh. The Hic – here – acknowledges that this place is where human history changed forever as God became man in Mary’s womb.
We also visited the Church of St. Joseph as a group and then had an hour to spend time in personal prayer and reflection in Nazareth. Many of us read from Luke and Matthew the passages that took place in this town. From Nazareth, we finally made our way to Cana and the Church that commemorates the wedding miracle. The seven married couples in our group renewed their marriage vows amid great festivity and joy – complete with flowers, a procession, pictures, video, and a few tears! These seven couples have a combined 246 years of marriage! We are now back at the hotel preparing for dinner. Tomorrow, we will celebrate Sunday Mass on the Mt. of Beatitudes, then visit the ancient towns of Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Caesarea Philippi.