We got up today and got a quick “official” tour of the Church of the Annunciation. We’ll be back again in January, so this was just a brief introduction. While standing outside the church, our guide had me read a little reflection. I was reading loudly so that everyone could hear. In the middle, the reading brought words to my mouth which referred to Nazareth as a “backwater place filled with hicks”. I kind of had to stop for a second hoping that no one living in Nazareth heard was I just said.
We then loaded up the bus, bid goodbye to Nazareth for a few weeks, and headed south for Jericho. Unfortunately, the site of the ruins of the city of Jericho was closed because the workers are on strike. We did, however, get to take cable cars to the top of the Mt. of Temptation. This is the traditional site where Jesus was in the desert for 40 days and was tempted by the devil. There is a monastery up there that I found very beautiful with many wonderful icons and an exquisite dome over the chapel. There’s one monk that lives up there and we were lucky that he was home. On our way out of Jericho we stopped by what is supposed to be the tree that Zacchaeus climbed in order to see Jesus (Luke 19:1-10). As ridiculous as that may sound, it turns out that the tree is indeed likely to be 2000 years old. There are however, other historical problems that seem to say that this is not the tree.
Our final stop was at another monastery out in the desert like Mar Saba that we visited earlier. This one is dedicated to St. George and is in a truly incredible place. It’s in the middle of the desert on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho (the Good Samaritan went this way) in a big gorge by a river. This location is said to be where St. Joachim received the revelation that his wife Anne, who was sterile, would conceive. The child was of course Mary. So, you could say that the annunciation of the Immaculate Conception took place here. This final stop concluded our 3 day tour and we headed back to Bethlehem to continue our Advent preparation. I find that I have much to aid my meditation thanks to this wonderful trip so connected with the Holy Family.