Thursday, February 11, 2016
Fat Tuesday was indeed a very beautiful day for us here in the Holy Land with temperatures as low as 42 and as high as 62 degrees. Our day started with a celebration of Mass at the Basilica of the Annunciation; it is the site where the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah. Behold you will conceive and give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus. (Luke 1:31) After breakfast we had a tour of this two-story church which has a spire that towers high over the city. It is a site you would never miss when you arrive at the town of Nazareth. The interior is decorated with wall paintings that portray scenes in the life of Jesus during his formative years in Nazareth as well as mosaic murals of Our Blessed Mother from the different countries of the world. Next to the church of the Annunciation is a Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel which claims that its church is built on Mary’s Spring which, according to this tradition, was the spot where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. A couple of feet away is the Church of St. Joseph’s built over St. Joseph’s home and workshop in Nazareth. This area is said to be the area where the boy Jesus worked with his father Joseph.
Our visit at the Mount of Precipice was phenomenal! Tradition has it that this was the steep cliff from which the people of Nazareth tried to push Jesus to his death. Because this mountain is very high and because it was a very clear day, we were able to see the Mount Carmel mountain range to the west, the Jezreel valley to the south and the Sea of Galilee to the east. This marked the end of our morning.
After lunch we visited Megiddo, a city which existed at least 1,500 years before the Israelites entered the land of Canaan. It is also known by the name of Armageddon. We saw a scale model of the city showing its double gate system and its massive defense walls with towers all built on a 100 foot high hill for maximum protection against the enemy. Megiddo is often mentioned in the bible, for example, when Joshua defeated the king of Megiddo and allotted the city to the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 12:21, 17:11), Solomon turned it into the headquarters for his chariot corps (1Kings 9:15, 10:26-29) and King Josiah was killed at Megiddo in a battle with the Egyptians (2 Kings 23:29). One of the highlights of our trip to Megiddo was a trip down 183 stone steps that leads to a hidden spring, which to this day is still active.
Overall a great day and because we knew that Ash Wednesday was just a couple of hours away and we would be giving up snacking, sweets and other things we love. Some of us found a McDonald's restaurant where we had some nice food while others had some baklava and others some pomegranate juice. We now enter into a new phase of our pilgrimage as we begin Lent, as always thank you for your prayers and support, you are very much in our thoughts and prayers.