Monday, 8 December 2008

galilee (3) - on the lake

Sunrise over Galilee
Sunday 7th December. Another early start with a Eucharist by the lakeside celebrated by Brother David. The lake was perfectly calm with very little breeze and the natural sounds and atmosphere were very conducive to worship and reflection. Then we headed up a hillside to the church on the Mount of the Beatitudes which afforded some great views of the area. Our time there included a reflection on ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ by Brother Robert. There is a bit of an in joke going on because a few days ago we learnt that one of the valleys around Jerusalem is known as the Valley of the Cheesemakers. The brothers and I thought this highly amusing given the mishearing of Jesus’ words in Monty Python’s Life of Brian (let the reader understand).

Pan's grotto and the Banais source of the Jordan.
Next stop was Caesarea Philippi up in the far north next to the Lebanese and Syrian borders. The scenery is very dramatic with a narrow valley hemmed in by the Lebanese mountains and the Golan Heights. As we neared what was Caesarea Philippi there were warning signs all around because the borders had been laid with mine fields, another clear reminder of the tensions in the area. The site attributed to Peter’s Confession that Jesus is the Christ (Mark 8:29) is a place littered with the remains of pagan temples, including Pan’s grotto, and it is also where Herod’s son Philip rebuilt the city and changed the name from Paneas to Caesarea in honour of Augustus Caesar. One could visualise the impact of Peter’s declaration against the backdrop of such a place of pagan worship and political power.

The other point about this place is that it is one of the three sources of the river Jordan and so it was a very appropriate spot to renew our Baptismal Promises as Brother David sprinkled us with water from the Jordan. We then had some time to fill up our own water bottles with water from the river. It has to be said that the Jordan river is not what it was and the source was also looking rather stressed; a trickle rather than a gushing stream.

Casting the net on Galilee.
Then back on the coach and a return to Galilee for lunch of St Peter’s fish by the lakeside at Tiberius. There was a rumour that the chef sometimes puts a gold coin in one of the fish’s mouths but it didn’t happen at our tables. The highlight of the afternoon, however, was a boat ride on the lake. The water was still very calm and we had the rather strange experience of listening to a reflection on the water as a place of chaos in the gospels on what was more or less a glassy sea. One of the boatmen gave us a demonstration of the traditional way of catching fish but nothing was caught, even after he tried the other side of the boat. The boat took us across from Tiberius to a shore side museum which houses a C1st A.D. fishing boat that was discovered some eighteen years ago. This was Galilee’s very own Mary Rose and the archaeologists had their work cut out to preserve the boat. The museum now houses the boat in a purpose built section and it gives a fascinating insight into the sort of vessels Peter and his chums would have used on the lake.

This is not a Hitchcock movie.
We rounded off the day with dinner, Compline and shared reflections on our experiences before heading to the bar for a relaxing drink looking our across the lake and the lights of Tiberius.

The Glassy Sea.


1 comment:

PJ said...

Hi, Phil, I;m a friend of Carol's and I have my own blog. You've done a magnificent job here and I think it's fabulous that you went fishing! Tell Carol and the brothers that I said hello and that I featured the monastery chapter room on my blog on Sunday.