Being on the Galilee by Kitty
The Galilee is the antithesis of Jerusalem. We left the crowded city surrounded by parched hills and silvery green olive groves, drove through the checkpoint for a few hours of the bustle and vitality of Ramallah, the working capitol of Palestine. After the northern border of the West Bank, we pass another checkpoint and as we climb the rugged hills beyond the cities throb, the land gives way gradually to the brighter green of grass and crops. The landscape is no longer convoluted valleys but instead centers on a broad body of water with the heights of theGolan rising beyond.
We hopscotch from sacred site to shrine with lumbering buses full of tourists from every corner of the globe. Much of what we see are evocative ruins, remnants of ancient Christian mosaics of water birds and Roman foundations of cities that stood here in the time of Jesus.
We search to find the brief moment of quiet which allows the mind to imagine the crowd that witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. We find it in the Monastery at Tabgha where the plain open nave and the simple ancient mosaic of a small basket of loaves and two fish in remembrance of that miracle. Here is quiet and we can focus in contemplation on the Jesus who quietly spoke to the men pulling their nets from the sea. And they left the nets and their boats because he was so compelling.
We lunch on St. Peter’s fish beside the sea of Galilee, gazing over the water.
A dark storm with strong winds gathers and moves across the water churning white caps. In Jesus’ day, the water was much higher and the sea was larger. It is easy to imagine the distress his followers felt in a small boat in the middle of that large expanse of water when a storm came quickly upon them as their Lord slept.
After lunch, we walk through a quiet garden and past a small church with rough hewn stone steps into the shallow water of the sea. This is believed to be the place where Jesus appeared to his disciples after the Resurrection. Here he prepared a breakfast for them on the beach. Soon our group is alone and we wade into the waters of the Sea of Galilee and collect black basalt stones from the rocky beach.
Outside the doors to the church Susanne Allen sings a verse of a favorite St. Mark’s hymn about the disciples…(simple fishermen) and the Sea of Galilee……soon we are reconstructing the verses and we sing them once again. The words and music carry us back to the disciples’ time and yet ring true for our experiences on this pilgrimage as well.
“The peace of God, it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod. But let us pray for but one thing, the marvelous peace of God.
Late afternoon, we arrive at the Mount of Beatitudes hospice. The hilltop gardens overlooking the Sea of Galilee have individual plaques (each noting Jesus’s sayings of the blessed). Around the promontory, the sun is setting and drenching the clouds and landscape with breathtaking shifting colors.
There is a feeling of being in a sacred space set aside. That night our group celebrates compline in the sanctuary of the garden and the spoken and sung word resonate and echoes around us.
This special place feels filled with peace and close to heaven.