Our first stop today was the city of Cana. It is actually very close to Nazareth and only took us about 15 minutes to get there. Here we visited the “Wedding Church” which commemorates the story told in John’s gospel where Jesus changed the water into wine (John 2:1-11). Many couples come here to be married or to renew their wedding vows. Our guide had in fact been married here. One of the more interesting things to see here is an ancient stone water jar from the 1st century that was found here. It’s a lot bigger than you might envision and would have indeed held a lot of wine. Speaking of wine, they do in fact sell quite a bit of “Cana Wedding Wine” here. I tried some, but found it a little too sweet for my taste. I’m sure the wine Jesus made was better.
From Cana we headed to Mt. Tabor and the Church of the Transfiguration. It was here on Mt. Tabor that Jesus took Peter, James, and John and was transfigured before them (Matt 17:1-8). Fortunately we had a couple hours to spend here, including having Mass. Mt. Tabor is basically a big hill that is all by itself with plains below on all sides. To get to the top you have to take special taxis because it’s too steep for the busses. As we were going up I couldn’t help but think that Jesus obviously had something pretty important in mind to take the apostles all the way up to the top of this mountain. It’s not the kind of place you would just go for the heck of it. It’s difficult enough to get there in a taxi, yet alone to walk up. When you’re on top it is in fact a wonderful place to pray. We had a beautiful day and I enjoyed praying the luminous mysteries of the rosary, meditating with new insight on the mysteries of the Wedding at Cana and the Transfiguration.
Much like St. Peter I felt “It is good to be here” and did not want to leave. However, after lunch we reluctantly said goodbye to Mt. Tabor and headed on to our next stop. We made a brief stop in the city of Nain where Jesus raised the widow’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11-17) and then headed on to Megiddo. This is the famous Armageddon of Rev 16:16 (Har Megiddo = Hill of Megiddo). This city is in ruins now and has been the site of countless battles in history. The bible is full of references. Megiddo is what is known as a “tell,” meaning that one city has been built on top of the previous so many times as to make an artificial hill. Archeologists have determined that the tell of Megiddo has the ruins of 25 distinct rebuildings of the city. We saw an ancient pagan altar that was 7000 years old. King Solomon is responsible for one of the sets of walls around the town. I didn’t get any great religious insights at the place, but it was interesting to be there in such a famous and ancient place. Since the world did not end while we were at Megiddo we headed back to Nazareth for the night.
After dinner, the Mother Superior of the convent invited us to tour the excavations that were taking place under their convent. We thought we’d find some pottery shards or something small and insignificant. Instead, we found some of the most incredible ruins from the Crusaders, the Byzantines, and even the first century. The most amazing thing by far was the rock cut tomb from the first century complete with the stone that rolls across it. There are ancient documents that even mention things that would seem to refer to this site under the convent. Archeologists come each year and it will be interesting to see what they continue to find. Before bed a number of us went back to the Church of the Annunciation and prayed a rosary in Mary’s house. I was again overwhelmed. There I was saying the words “Hail Mary” in the very place where Gabriel first uttered this prayer. This is just an amazing place. I also bought a special icon of the Holy Family here tonight that is all the more meaningful having come from this city so close to the Holy Family.