Monday, 8 December 2008

galilee (1) - lakeside

Caesarea Maritima
Friday 5th December. Early start this morning as we headed north from Jerusalem to Galilee by way of a detour to the coast. The reason for this particular route was to give us the opportunity to visit the excavations at Caesarea Maritima. The site focuses on the palace of Herod the Great which he built out into the sea and the layout of the area is quite impressive; including a theatre, hippodrome and the Crusader battlements and chapel from the later period. There is a collection of artefacts from the first century including a large stone with Pilate’s name carved on it. Pilate used this area as his base and only went to Jerusalem on occasional administrative business or when there was a spot of bother to be sorted out on behalf of the empire. We recite Pilate’s name week by week in the Creed and it was interesting to connect that name with an artefact from antiquity – another example of grounding Christian tradition in historical fact and another reminder of the reality of the incarnation as an event in place and time. The other feature of the area was the exclusive golf course which we passed; I hate to think of the membership fees given the cost of watering the greens etc. and, much as I enjoy golf, I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t a modern day Herodian folly?

Capernaum with Church over Peter's House.
Driving across to Galilee I began to get a good feel for the terrain of the area, small forest areas (many with planted fir trees) and cultivated fields giving way to stony hillsides and wide valley planes. Then the descent to the Sea of Galilee and my first encounter with the area where Jesus focused much of his public ministry. We are staying in a German pilgrim’s house called Pilgerhaus, Tabgha down on the sea shore and it is a glorious setting. Bit of a blur in the afternoon as we visited several sites before settling in to our accommodation for the night. First up Capernaum and the excavations including what is claimed to be Peter’s house. Very interesting church over the site of the house – looked a bit like a space ship and many course members were not impressed but I thought it worked as a building; light and spacious with a glass central flooring area enabling one to view the excavations underneath and a good way to preserve the site. We spent some time reflecting on our understanding of synagogue in C1st A.D. in the shade under the olive trees next to what is claimed to be the site of the Capernaum synagogue.

On to two more churches. The first the Church of the Multiplication commemorating the miracle of the loaves and fishes. I think my children will be interested to know there is a church dedicated to multiplication, my maths was so bad that I was often compelled to turn to prayer. The highlight of the day was a Eucharist by the sea shore in the grounds next to the church. Led by Brother David the service brought me back to the question of the distinctions between tourist and pilgrim and I found it very moving to break bread and share wine with my companions as the sun set behind the hills. Finally a visit to St. Peter’s Primacy another church by the sea shore next to where we are staying. To be quite honest I’d had enough of churches by this point and just wanted a shower, good meal and a chance to soak in the atmosphere of the area with a cold beer in my hand. Tourist or pilgrim – well I think both at this point because I felt the rush of visiting all these places in a short space of time left me with a thirst for space to reflect and pray, which probably explains why I appreciated the shore side holy communion. The beer was also most excellent.

View across the Sea of Galilee to Tiberius at sunset.

1 comment:

Charlie Kosla said...

Great pictures mate.
When Ann was there she had the same "spaceship" impression about Peter's house. Definitely ancient and modern in one shot.