Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Would that you had known the things that make for peace

The briefest of blogs at the end of a long, long day.

Following the awfulness of all we shared yesterday morning, today was quite different. It began at 6-30 with Mass and another reading from John 6. And then we went to Bethany. The bus took us past the wall that has cut off the main street to Bethany. On Sunday our prayers had been for a proposed birthing clinic and midwifery support for expectant mothers who now because of the wall are cut off from easy access to hospital facilities. To see how close Bethany or Bethphage is to Jerusalem and to see a wall separating one part of its Palestinian community from another was disturbing.

We visited a church associated traditionally with the Ascension for Christians, with Hulda, the prophet's, burial place for Jews and equally important for Muslims.

We also went to the church of the Our Father where the Lord's prayer was in many world languages, not least Welsh! And Polish too! Another timely prayer thinking of Jan, and a candle to light by St Therese of Liesieux which I think he would appreciate.

Following in the footsteps of Jesus into Jerusalem

And then we walked up the hill from Bethany on the route Jesus took on Palm Sunday, turned round a bend, came down on the other side and there, across the valley was the city of Jerusalem, now with the Dome of the Rock in all its splendour, in Jesus' day with the Temple.

We paused at the spot where tradition has it Jesus wept over Jerusalem. We shared his tears. Would that you had known the things that make for peace!! Those words resonate so today. The church there was built in the shape of a tear drop by a 20th Century architect.

On to the House of Caiaphas and into the City for one last time

On to the Garden of Gethsemane, and the most moving sense of being among Olive trees stretching back so far. A beautiful garden with wonderful flowers now – I couldn't help but think of all those wonderful Easter gardens our flower arrangers have done for us over the years.
Then it was to the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu, the Church of the Cockerel. Once again, I was a bit skeptical. Another 'traditional' place. But behind and beneath the church a dungeon and the remains of a splendid house worthy of a High Priest, and steps going up leading towards the Temple that would have been visible in the distance. And all those archaeological remains dating back to the time of Christ. It made you think. And it was one of those moving moments. Places do something to you!

And then into the city. More places to visit, another visit to the Garden Tomb. A visit to the Bethsaida Pools from John 5 and a sense of the place where again in all likelihood the lame man was healed.

Home on the 124 bus again and with not a minute to spare into a time of prayer that touched me out of my tradition. I had been longing to arrange the chairs in a circle (those who know me well, won't be surprised) and to sit around a simple table. The table had a candle, a broken loaf of bread and a jug of water. It was a time of peace as again we visited John 6.

And so to Galilee!

And then straight into our next lecture from Henry Carse.

A wonderful lecturer from St George's college – I couldn't help but think what a wonderful time one of our students on the course I teach on, Frank Wroe must have had in St George's on the CWM face to face programme.

He was preparing us for our journey to Galilee.

I had supposed it would be to the tranquility of a peaceful place for us to unwind by the sea.

Not a bit of it! Well, we would experience some sense of tranquility we were assured.

But he whetted our appetite for a wonderfully rich world of Galilee that we would actually be entering. A world of a major ancient highway, the Way of the Sea, a world where languages and cultures met, a land of commerce, a land of upheaval.

Then came the most wonderful bit of all. Not only would we be touching on the history, the politics, the language, the culture, the theology of Galilee but we would also be immersed in the thing that made sense of it all!

Those who again know me well at Highbury may already have guessed!

The Geology!!!

Absolutley wonderful, and not a little unexpected.

From the beautiful limestone landscape of Judaea, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and all its caves to the volcanic, black basalt of Galilee. A lush, fertile landscape. But also a landscape on one of the world's greatest rifts. The Great Rift Valley. Stretching from north of Galilee right through Kenya to Madagascar it is one of those places where tectonic plates move against one another. Once, long ago volcanoes … now earthquakes. A place of turbulence which tomorrow we shall be exploring.

But if our 6-30 start was early today, tomorrow it's even earlier, with a 6-00 breakfast and on to the coach by 7-00. Lectures will begin on the coach and we head for Mount Carmel, and then on to The Sea of Galilee where we shall be staying for two nights.

That session over we went into the most valuable of all the session so far.

Drawing the threads together

In his own gentle way, Michael McGarry presided over a session pulling all the threads together of our stay in Tantur.

There's too much to share for this evening … but something to come back to later.

The day began at 6-30 with prayers, it is ending now at 9-55 and I still have my packing to do before a 6-00 breakfast tomorrow!

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