Sunday, 3 June 2012

What a day!

As we drove away from the hotel in our coach our guide, Kahlil, said what a happy group    we were/are... Within an hour we had outpassed that in a spectacular way...

We started in the town of Cana - so maybe that gives you a hint!  We saw the huge limestone jar that had been excavated in the town that might well have been the very ones or similar to the ones that feature in the first miracle.  I have decided that it really doesn't matter whether or not that is right or wrong, true or false.  The fascinating insight today was that only priests had limestone jars because of ritual cleaning, everyone else had the usual terracotta things...  Two couples then renewed there vows and while they were doing that two of our party had snuck away to a quiet corner and Paul proposed to Katie who accepted - queue lots of cheering and even more happiness. They met two years ago on the same pilgrimage... so what next?!

There will be some celebrations tonight - I'm sure!

Kahlil is an amazing guide and I have learnt so much already.  He spoke about National Service - men have to do 3 years and women 2 years but Orthodox Jews don't have to serve at all.  That - as you might imagine - can cause some problems between those of faith and those who now consider themselves secular Jews.

We went to Mass at a local church - Christ Church - it was incredible listening to a service in Arabic.  They were prepared for English speaking visitors - copies of the BCP and English Hymnal came out and a liturgy that had English and Arabic printed alongside each other.

I've noticed before how - when I am worshipping in another country - there is a 'lilt' to the spoken words that means you can catch where you are in a familiar prayer.  The same is true for Arabic - well mostly.  There were some prayers though where I finished quite a bit earlier... so there must be some phrases in English that need a lot more explanation in Arabic.  There was a celebration for the birth of a baby (14 years in the waiting).  The people were so friendly and served us with cake and coffee.

We sat in the synagogue in Nazareth and read the piece from Luke where Jesus goes there on the Sabbath - it made the hairs on my neck stand on end.  It may not have been exactly there and the building will have been restored and rebuilt a number of times but somehow in the heat and the noise and the hustle and bustle it seems much more real.  More immediate.  More powerful.

The colours in the churches are so vivid.  We went to the Church of the Annunciation and the brightness of the glass and the paintings/wall coverings made me realise how that echoes what is all around.  The flowers we see by the wayside are all extraordinarily wonderful, nothing insipid.

We went to the top of Mount Tabor and saw the amazing church at the top there.  The roof was originally thin white alabaster so that the light could shine through - sadly it started to leak to they covered it with metal.... But apparently it will be repaired so I have to come back and see that!

I've said too much already and need to go and get ready for supper.

We sang the National Anthem yesterday - as the Union Jack was raised on the Sea of Galilee... so we've done our bit!

(Apols for the lack of photos - technical hitch!  I'll try and resolve it!)

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