Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Angel Frescoes Inside the Church of the Visitation

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, in the village of Ein Karem, high up on a hill, accessible by way of 150 stairs, stands the beautiful Church of the Visitation, marking the spot where, according to tradition, Mary came to see her cousin Elizabeth, as recounted by the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:39-56). The building is full of lovely frescoes and mosaics. Since October 2 was the feast of the Guardian Angles, I thought I'd share some pictures of the angel frescoes from the Church of the Visitation in the Holy Land.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Mt. Tabor - The Site of the Transfiguration

August 6 is celebrated as the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus in the Catholic Church, commemorating the events described in Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2–8, and Luke 9:28–36. Traditionally, Christians regard Mt. Tabor in northern Israel as the site of the Transfiguration. Today, a beautiful Franciscan Church stands at the top of the mountain. To access the site, pilgrims must either hike or hire the services of Bedouin drivers, who shuttle visitors back and forth in small vans on a steep, switchback road. On a clear day, the peak of Mt. Tabor affords a good view of the surrounding verdant country side.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

In the Jordan River

In January of 2016, I led a group of 45 people on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Jordan. In Jordan, we visited the site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Due to irrigational use, the river has been substantially narrowed in this area, and today the actual site of the baptism is a little distance away from the water on the Jordanian side. The area of the river closest to the baptism site can be accessed both from Jordan and from Israel, a small marker separating the two sides in the water.

Our visit fell on January 19th, which is the Feast of the Epiphany in the Eastern rites. A large group of Iraqi Christians were visiting the site that day in honor of the feast. Over the years, millions of refugees have found shelter in the country of Jordan, especially Palestinians, Iraqis, and Syrians. Many of the refugees are Arab Christians, who trace their spiritual roots to the preaching of the first disciples of Christ.

Standing on the bank of the river, we renewed our baptismal vows as a group. Later, I went into the water and submerged myself three times. The water was very cold and very muddy, but going in was a powerful experience. Given the narrowness of the river at this spot, I also had to be careful not to cross the international border, because once I was in the water, I was standing just a few feet away from Israel.