"Let There Be Light" - A place for conversation with the Rector of St. Paul's Memorial Church, 1700 University Avenue, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22903
Friday, August 19, 2011
Holy Land Journal: Walking by the Sea of Galilee
THE SEA OF GALILEE -- I have long pictured this place in my prayers.
Today I got put my feet in the warm waters of the Sea of Galilee. And, yes, it was something like what I had imagined.
And I began to feel for the first time that we were on ground where Jesus walked.
On our fourth day of our Holy Land pilgrimage, we toured Roman ruins on the Mediterranean, and drove inland to the northern mountainous region of Israel. We ate lunch in Nazareth, once the tiny village where Jesus grew up and now the most populous Arab city in Israel. Then we crossed another mountain range and descended into the great rift valley.
We are spending the next two nights at a German monastery on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The biblical accounts of Jesus mention this place many times. It is here where Jesus taught, preached, prayed, healed and recruited his first followers. He retreated to here from all the attention, and sometimes walked into the rocky hills nearby to pray alone.
It is in this inland "sea" (a lake, really) where Jesus fished with Peter. He and his followers crossed this choppy body of water in a boat more than once. The Biblical accounts say that Jesus even walked on water here. And as the Gospel of John says, Jesus was seen here by his followers after he died, and cooked them breakfast on a beach.
This is a calm place, and an enormous contrast from the chaos and tension of Jerusalem. I can see why Jesus spent so much time here, time away from the religious politics of the capital city, time away from sects and arguments and fanaticism. Olive groves dot the shoreline, and I can picture Jesus sitting beside a tree and talking with his followers, or simply walking silently down a road with them, or gazing at night into the clear starry sky.
Tonight Lori, Anne and I walked down a short road in the twilight to a simple stone church in the groves, and we joined a dozen German monks as they chanted Compline (night prayers) in their native language. They didn't look particularly monkish -- some wore t-shirts and shorts. But their voices were enchanting.
When we entered the church, the monks moved over on their benches so we could sit, and opened the German prayer books for us so we could follow along. I hummed a few bars, and I have no idea what we were chanting, but I felt a great holiness and happiness in this place. That was such a contrast from the sectarian strife ridden shrines near Jerusalem we saw the previous day. I collected a few pebbles from the shortline to bring home.
Tomorrow I have been asked to celebrate the Holy Eucharist for our pilgrim group along the shoreline. I expect it will be one of the most holy experiences of my life. Blessings to all this night.