Our tired, happy group arrived in Tel Aviv at 9:30am, Israel time, collected ourselves and our luggage, found our guide, Ghassan, and boarded the bus that will be our home away from our various homes away from home for the next 9 days.
We drove past small towns and rich farmland to meet up for lunch with our group members who had arrived from other places the previous day. Those people had the benefit of this lovely sunrise over the Sea of Galilee on Tuesday morning; it rained most of the day but we hope for a similar sunrise Wednesday or Thursday!
Joe McDermott contributed the rest of today’s post:
Today at the beginning of our Pilgrimage here in Israel and Palestine, we went to the top of Mount Tabor, where believers hold that the Transfiguration took place. (See: Matthew, Chapter 17) We’d had many paths to gather here in the Holy Land (I’ll take my pre-pilgrimage holiday over the diversion to Newark and 9 hour layover many shared any day!), and this was a fitting place to begin.
There are two churches at the top of a striking mount rising up out of the plains, one Franciscan and Greek Orthodox (which seems to be closed). The pictures are of the Franciscan church exterior, the nave, detail of the mosaic above the main altar, Rev Rob Rhodes (Associate Rector at St Paul’s) celebrating Mass in the Elijah side chapel, the detail of Moses above the altar in the other side chapel, and a view from the church to the valley below.
It became clear I wasn’t alone finding myself in awe to be standing for the first time in a place Jesus walked. Through our shared liturgy, we became a transformed gathering of pilgrims, shedding any tourist-identity we still had tagging along. Jesus reveals himself to us – sometimes in dazzling white – and sometimes asks us to hold that in our hearts until the time is right. I hold this experience in my heart and know that I will have the skill and insight to share it in the right way when the time is right. We as a group see ourselves differently as well, transformed by the experience. We went up the mount perhaps a group of tourists and came down a community of pilgrims. This is a fitting beginning.
Growing up Camp Filed, the former Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) summer camp and retreat where Sleeping Lady Conference Center is now outside Leavenworth, Washington, was very important to me and my family. Thus beginning at Mount Tabor was particularly poignant for me as the Chapel at Camp Field was the Chapel of the Transfiguration and I had occasion to remember dear friends in my prayers there this afternoon.
Remembering where we come from and entering into a spirit of pilgrimage, its been a good day.