A relative slow and relaxed half-day of travel. After breakfast, we headed directly to Cana, site of the first miracle of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John (chapter 2), about 30 minutes from our hotel in Tiberius. Upon arrival, we milled in the courtyard before the small parish church. Local buzz was all about the approaching visit of Pope Francis (May 25-26), as the poster above indicates. Inside the church, a group of pilgrims from Argentina were celebrating Eucharist. Our group settled down in the Divine Mercy chapel nearby.
Undoubtedly inspired by the location, we sat in the small room as each couple, one after the other, came forward to renew their marriage vows. It was short, quite sweet, and quite moving. Couples who have been together for up to 55 years still had that wonderful sparkle of genuine affection, loving regard for each other. Some had more than a touch of mischief in their eyes still. At the conclusion of the brief prayer service, Fr. Larry invited couples whose spouses were at home, or who had died, to come forward for a blessing as well.
From Cana, we made our way to Mount Tabor, site of the Transfiguration of the Lord, an event recorded in the Synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The Mount , a geological anomaly called a monadnock, rises some 1600 feet above the sea-level plain below. It was a steep climb; consequently, we transferred from our large touring bus to smaller vans for the final approach. After negotiating a dozen sharp, hair-raising turns, we arrived at the Mount. It was well worth the minor inconvenience.
The hilltop ‘campus’ of the Mount includes an exceptionally beautiful church, circa 1924, designed by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzi. Nearby excavations give evidence of the multiple settlements over the past millennium. The Franciscan friars have ‘custody’ of the shrine and live in a convento on site, sharing space with Mondo X, a faith-based recovery program originating in Italy.
With the kind assistance of Fray Gustavo, our sacristan, Frs. Larry, Cesar, and I—along with Deacon Falk Gosdschan donned our albs and beautiful gold vestments for the Feast of the Transfiguration. This particular feast is actually celebrated twice a year— August 6, as well as the Second Sunday in Lent—a fact underscoring its significance as the manifestation of the Lord in His Glory at the end of time.
Our entire group was able to sit in the sanctuary, which added to the intimacy of the event for us. Mount Tabor does not receive the volume of pilgrims that other, more celebrated shrines do, so we essentially had the place to ourselves. Fr. Larry presided and I got to preach, following Deacon Falk’s proclamation from Matthew 9.
I essentially spoke about our responsibility to allow God to love us by lowering our defenses in order to enable the Lord to enter our hearts and lives more deeply and completely.
After Eucharist, we strolled toward the parking area, but only with the greatest reluctance. There was something so wonderfully appealing about the shrine. A feeling of tremendous peace and calm—in the midst of a country which appears to be constantly on the alert for terrorist actions or military intervention from abroad.
Lunch was at Kareem’s, a local restaurant in Cana. While the shwarma and falafel were delicious, there was no question about the wine. No alcoholic beverages served.
The rest of the day we were free—to rest, swim in the Sea of Galilee right outside our door, or else catch up on sleep.