Posts Tagged ‘St Peter’

pilgrimage day 7 – a change does us good

December 22, 2008

Everyone was really on their toes today almost literally falling over themselves to not upset V or Frank and not lag behind. We were all on the bus before Frank even got there, walking from home since he lives in Jerusalem and had gotten to spend some time at home after being away with us in Nazareth. We started off, as usual, with prayer on the bus while driving to Mount Zion on the outskirts of Jerusalem. We visited St. Peter in Gallicantu which roughly to translates to have something to do with St. Peter and chickens singing. The church commemorates Peter denying Jesus “three times before the cock crowed” and is built over Caiaphas’ house (proven by a rock found with his name on it). This was the first stop for Jesus after being arrested and here he was held in a dungeon and questioned before being handed to Pontius Pilate. We had the very creepy priviledge of walking down into one of the dungeons and reading a passage about what happened there. As we left H, one of the older, slower and most adorable members of the group, fell trying to be the first out. The effects of V’s Faster Faster decree was taking effect already, later he tells me that he got the impression that he one of the laggers in the group and was trying to step faster. We also get to see the steps that Jesus would have walked up from the house – this is one of those sites that has been proven and is not held by tradition only.

the view up from the sacred pit where Jesus was held

the view up from the sacred pit where Jesus was held

After a short break, we are all loaded onto the bus and driven ONE WHOLE meter to the next church and told to get out – this was very weird and confusing. We waited around for a while for a monk to open the doors to a Franciscan church dedicated to the Last Supper. During this time Frank tells us that we will be having the second half to the day free which was a very welcome surprise! At the church we have a Mass during which we remember the Last Supper. After this we, fittingly, visit the traditional site of the Last Supper – The Cenacle or Upper Room, it is also the place where the disciples are believed to have received the Holy Spirit for the first time so it’s kind of big deal place (see a picture of last Pope John Paul in prayer there here). This place was also a mosque at some stage and bears some mosaic evidence of this. Currently it is in the hands of the Jewish since they believe that David’s tomb is somewhere under it, but Christian pilgrims are allowed to visit it and also celebrate Pentecost there (which is awfully nice of them). The ceilings were really high and there was a lot of echo so people didn’t notice when Frank started talking. This led to Frank getting visibly annoyed that people weren’t listening and people prodding each other to get everyone to listen. It was kind of uncomfortable, especially with the Portuguese ladies pretending to listen very attentively to the explanations they couldn’t understand properly.

remembering the Last Supper

remembering the Last Supper

the ceiling from which the Holy Spirit descended as tongues of flame

the ceiling from which the Holy Spirit descended as tongues of flame

The last place on our list to visit for the day (only four sites in a day – woo hoo!) was Dormition Abbey, dedicated to the Assupmtion of Mary alive into the Heaven. As you enter, there is a large grand church, with many huge stained glass windows. Down some stairs there is a cavernous cyprt were you will find a statue of a sleeping Mary in, what looks like, a big well hole. Above the statue is a stunning gold-coloured mosaic  of Jesus surrounded with depictions of women from the Old Testament such as Rachel and Delilah. Another notable piece in the crypt is a big fresco showing Jesus holding Mary as a baby wrapped in white cloths in Heaven. This is the only place in the world where Jesus and Mary are depicted like this. Here we are given a decent amount of time to explore and visit the souvenir shop. Most of us sat around outside resting while Frank had an animated discussion with another guide. At one stage I walked past him right as he was flinging his arms out wildly and he accidentally punched me in the eye (honestly I wasn’t surprised,  this kind thing tends to happen to me). He spun round and grabbed me apologised up a storm, it was amusing.

a shout out to the OT ladies

a shout out to the OT ladies

the only place in the world where Jesus and Mary are portrayed like this

the only place in the world where Jesus and Mary are portrayed like this

After being driven back the hotel, a group of eight of us decided to spend the rest of our free day exploring the Old City together. Walking there we got rained on unexpectedly and we discovered that if Luisa, Isabel and I had just pushed past the construction that blocked our path the day before we would have found our way to the Old City. We walked through a labyrinth of alleys bloated with shops and people. There was touristy clothing, scarves, jewelry (ranging from wooden to pure gold), bags, fruits vegetables, butcheries with whole hanging pigs, colourful spice and incense shops.

spices, colours, freedom!

spices, colours, freedom!

Eventually we reached the centre of the Old City – the Holy Sepulcher. Of all the places we visited I’m chuffed that we got to see this one twice and explore it at our leisure – it is breathtaking and fascinating. I got to find quiet corners to pray and take photos to my heart’s content. Sepulcher is basically a fancy name for ‘tomb’, so it is believed that this Greek Orthodox church is built over the place where Jesus was crucified and laid to rest. The church is kind of contentius as a number of different Christian churches share it with the Greek Orthodox’s having the lion’s share. It so happened that on this day the Greek Orthodox’ were celebrating their Feast of the Cross and there was a long procession out of the church. Once inside we discovered that there were masses of tourists wondering around, it was a bit sad to see the priests trying to maintain an air of quiet and meditation in the midst of tourists clogging up the place with loud talking and cheesy photo ops (but then we were adding to the distracting mass I guess). As you enter the church there is a large stone slab under an amazing painting of Jesus being taken off the cross and carried to the tomb. This stone is believed to be where Jesus was embalmed and people kneel at it and place objects on it for blessing. Walking further you enter a large space with the biggest dome I had seen yet above a big round structure surrounded with many candles and multiple entrances. Inside this are the rocks believed to be from Jesus’ tomb so this is actually the Sepulcher itself, later in the tour we would have Mass right inside it. Up a flight of stairs is another significant rock – where Jesus’ cross is believed to have stood. Here there is a very intricate altar and a Greek Orthodox priest controls a queue of people who kneel under the altar to touch the rock. It was very crowded up there and, at one stage, the priest got flustered and hushed everyone reminding them that this was a holy place and they should be silent and meditative. But that didn’t help much.The rest of the church was filled with more upstairs parts, downstairs parts and a number of altars, caves and passages.

Feast of the Cross procession at the Holy Sepulchre

Feast of the Cross procession at the Holy Sepulchre

Holy Sepulchre dome

Holy Sepulchre dome

praying around the Holy Sepulchre

praying around the Holy Sepulchre

cavernous

cavernous

inside the Holy Sepulchre

inside the Holy Sepulchre

After leaving the church we explored the markets again in search of food and found to sweet yummy pancakes prepared by these young boys and their father. We also entered an alley that had only butcheries and the smell eek’ed out some people.  Luisa found hand stitched pillow covers she loved; she and I managed to haggle the seller down from $80 for two to $50. Though I must admit I didn’t really realise we were haggling, Luisa is the one with the 1ee7 haggling skillz. We also tracked down a Franciscan bookstore in search of Jerusalem Bibles, but sadly they were out of stock and suggested a different store near the Jaffa Gate. I did manage to find a great book about the Holy Sites and their accompanying Gospels for only $4. We rounded off our exploration in a charming coffee shop were we drank local beers and coffee and chatted to the owner about the hardships of living in multi-religious Jerusalem. The independent exploring was totally fun and soul restoring. Back at the hotel we reunited with Mae and Tia for a fun dinner at which V was mysteriously M.I.A.

sweet pancake stall

sweet pancake stall

coffee is good

coffee is good

Tally for the day: 4 churches, 1 upper room, 1 soul restoring exploration with new friends

pilgrimage day 5 – there are a lot of churches in Galilee…

December 13, 2008

… I guess that makes sense since that is where Jesus really got going with his teaching and where he dropped his most memorable revelations on God’s kingdom and “How To’s” for Christians – Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes etc. We drove for a long time out of Nazareth, past many green and brown landscapes dotted with black basalt rocks. Eventually we reached the Mount of the Beatitudes – well not *the* mount, the Franciscans own a 3km stretch of the mountains where Jesus preached and in one particular spot built the Church of the Beatitudes:

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
4. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
6. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
8. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In the church you will find eight of lots of things to represent the eight Beatitudes: eight windows, eight pillars etc. It was a really pretty church with lots of airy whites, blues and golds and surrounded by gardens lovingly tended by the Franciscan sisters. You were not allowed into the church if you were not ‘appropriately’ dressed which meant covered shoulders and there was a basket of shawls and watchful sister at the entrance to keep the sacredness in tact. We are given a generous TEN minutes to walk around the gardens, explore the church and get back to the bus.

Church of the Beatitudes

Church of the Beatitudes

Next the bus unloaded us in Tabgha where there are two churches: the Church of the Multiplication and the Chapel of the Primacy of St. Peter. The first church is built where Jesus performed the miracle of multiplication – feeding five thousand men (and an unknown number of women of children) with 2 fish and 5 bread loaves. Here we passed by the church onto a simple basalt altar near the Sea of Galilee shore. We sat on big logs under dried banana leaf shades for Mass, where we read about the multiplication and sat in silence for the first time on the pilgrimage. It was very peaceful being on the land where Jesus taught and feeling God in the silence. At the end of the tour many people would come to describe this place as their favourite in the tour. After this we visited the Church of the Multiplication where the altar is placed over the rock on which Jesus is believed to have performed the multiplication miracle. And sticking with the fish theme, there was a nice Koi pond and animal mosaics.

Simple is good

simple is good

Multiplication altar

Multiplication altar

We got back on the bus for a short hop to the Chapel of the Primacy of St. Peter, where Jesus appeared to the disciples for the third time after he had risen and ate breakfast with them and where he gave Peter the command to “Feed my Sheep” (hence conferring the primacy of his Church to him). In memory of the latter there is a statue of Jesus blessing a genuflected Peter. Here Frank read from his heavily post-it’ed Bible and people took the opportunity to wade in the waters of the Sea of Galilee. There was also a bathroom stop here but you had to pay a couple of shekels. One mama in our tour was not impressed and declared that she was going to go in the bushes. This startled Frank such that he shoved enough shekels for two bathroom trips into her hands and gasped something along the lines of ‘No, no! Please, it’s on me!’.

me + Sea of Galilee

me + Sea of Galilee

Next we were onto church #4 at Capharnaum, where Peter lived and Jesus taught in the synagogue. This place was archaeologically interesting since there were many preserved ruins and one set of ruins used to be Peter’s house. Over these hovers a *whole* church held in place with only three or four metal bars, inside the church has a glass floor at its center so you can look down into the ruins. The other set of ruins is a synagogue that still has whole tall pillars intact. But if you look along the outer edge of it you can see a line of black basalt rock below the khaki coloured rock. The black rock is what’s left of the original temple that Jesus taught in at Capharnaum – rocks that Jesus walked on, wow.

Two layers - black basalt and other whiter rock

Two layers - black basalt and other whiter rock

After Capharnaum we were rushed off to a restaurant where we were going to have a very special lunch called Peter’s Fish. This was special because it consisted of the same kind of fish that Peter caught in the Sea of Galilee. It was so special in fact that it cost $17. In the end the older folk went for the lunch but a few of the younger folks decided to wander around outside. There wasn’t much to see besides a shop and a petrol station, but just beyond these we found a lone food stall where there was a woman making some kind of flat bread for $6.  Isabel, Luisa, A, E, the another young doctor, L, and I ordered one and watched her make it. She started by rolling out a dough, then pulling it out into a circular shape over a big cushion and then frying it on a big dome shaped gas cooker. When it was finished cooking she slathered it with creamy goat’s milk cheese, salt and herbs and then folded it up and cut it into six pieces. This was served with a bowl of olives and we ordered two breads so that was lunch for $2 each! It was a very relaxed lunch, we sat at a table the woman had set out while she played with her baby who was lying on a bed near the back of her stall. She was very shy but friendly and her and A bonded over her baby and she ended up giving us a branch full of fresh dates that she had hanging up.

over a cushion

over a cushion

lunch to share

lunch to share

After lunch we were taken for a ride in a boat which was a replica of the so-called Jesus Boat on the Sea of Galilee. There was a DJ-type set up on the boat and there was much merriment with the hoisting of the South African flag, singing of national anthems and dancing. When we got back to the shore we got to have a bathroom break in a museum where Isabel and I bought ice-cream. By this stage I was still carrying my money in an ever-disintegrating paper envelope inside a traveller’s belt strapped across my tummy. The charming guy behind the counter leaned over to me and said “You know they have this invention, is a wonderful theeng – is called a walleet’. I responded by looking up from my flakey envelope and said “What? A wallleeettt?? I must see if I can find one! What’s it called again a, a?” “-Walleet” he replied, “A- a wallleeeeettt?” I said “Thank you so much!” and then we all had a good nudge-nudge-wink-wink laugh (especially Isabel!).

singing the portuguese anthem on the Jesus Boat

singing the portuguese anthem on the Jesus Boat

in Cana

in Cana

By this stage we were all pretty pooped but we still had *another* stop in small charming and cobbled Cana, . We went to the Wedding Church built over a likely place for the wedding feast where Jesus performed his first miracle and probably a very popular place for weddings. Here people renewed wedding vows, remembered spouses that had passed and prayed over single us folk (which I tried to not to find condescending). There were also more ruins of a Jesus-era house complete with pots that wine would have been stored in. Finally we head back to Nazareth were we had a very early dinner and Luisa and I spoilt ourselves with outrageously expensive cappuccinos. While we were sipping , Frank joined us and we had a long chat. Frank turned out to be an interesting character with some kind of checkered past who is disillusioned with religion and the hypocritical priests in Jerusalem who have rich lifestyles while little money finds its way to poor Christian families. We also discovered that Frank had been mysteriously absent from our Masses because, while he loves the churches he visits deeply, he feels that he defiles them because of his past. We also learn that he is very into academic reading and theology. He also tells us that the mama in our group really shocked him when she declared that she was going to forgo the paid bathrooms at Tabgha and how he had never experienced a group whose schedule was as difficult as ours to maintain and who moved as slowly, mmmm.

Tomorrow we were to leave Nazareth and head to Jerusalem – which was fitting since Jesus left the towns near the Sea of Galilee where things were kind of cushy for him and headed for Jerusalem towards his ultimate destiny…

Tally for the day: 6 churches, 2 sets of ruins, 1 boat ride