Fr. Laurence Freeman, OSB
February 16, 2019
Nazareth, or Natsrat as its name is pronounced in Hebrew, is the cradle of Christianity, the city where, according to tradition, the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the place where Jesus spent his childhood and youth. Nazareth, in the lower Galilee, is located in the heart of a valley surrounded by mountains that embrace several of the most important Christian sites in the world. This is a city of religion and faith, of spirituality and holiness, but also a city with a rich history, fascinating archaeology, modern culture and Middle Eastern charm.
Located on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee (or Lake Kinneret), Tiberias is Israel’s lowest city at 200 meters below sea level. It was named in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius.
Tiberius is one of the four Jewish Holy cities, and the capital of Galilee. It has a long history since it was established in the early Roman period. It was the Jewish people’s political and religious hub as well as the center of Jewish spiritual creativity. Tiberius has historically been known for its hot springs, believed to cure skin and other ailments, for thousands of years.
Mount Tabor rises 575 meters above sea level in the eastern edge of the Jezreel Valley. Also known as the Mount of Transfiguration, it is the traditional site of the Transfiguration described in the Synoptic Gospels, when Jesus became radiant, spoke with Moses and Elijah, and was called “Son” by God (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:1-8, Luke 9:28-36.). Two churches on top of the mountain commemorate the Transfiguration– an impressive Franciscan church built on the ruins of Byzantine and Crusaders churches, and a modest Greek Orthodox church named for the prophet Elijah.
Capernaum is an ancient fishing village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. It is home to a celebrated Byzantine-era synagogue as well as the house where Jesus healed a paralytic and St. Peter’s mother-in-law.
Capernaum is frequently mentioned in the Gospels and was Jesus’ main base during his Galilean ministry. It is referred to as Jesus’ “own city” (Mt 9:1; Mk 2:1) and a place where he lived (Mt 1:13). He probably chose it simply because it was the home of his first converts, Peter and Andrew (Mk 1:21, 29).
The Sea of Galilee lies roughly 650 feet below sea level and is 14 miles long and 7 1/2 miles wide at its widest point. The Sea is the major source of fresh water for the entire country. The Sea, really a lake, lies on the ancient “Via Maris,” a route that linked Egypt and Mesopotamia.
It was by the Sea of Galilee that Jesus chose his first disciples – Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, and it was here that he performed many miracles. It was in the hills surrounding the Lake that Jesus fed the five thousand from the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and it was on this Lake that he stilled the storm and walked on the water to his disciples.
Cana is the traditional site of the wedding feast where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). It is also mentioned later in John as a place where Jesus heals a royal official’s son (John 4:46) and the hometown of disciple Nathaneal (also called Bartholomew) (John 21:2).
The Franciscan Wedding Church was built in 1879 on the traditional site of the wedding feast where ancient stone jars were discovered. It is possible for couples to renew their wedding vows here, with a certificate available in a variety of languages.
Located on a small hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee near Tabgha, the Mount of Beatitudes is the traditional site of Jesus’ delivery of the Sermon on the Mount, probably the most famous sermon of all time. Pilgrims have been drawn to this scenic place since at least the 4th century.Designed by the architect A. Barluzzi, the Catholic Church on the Mount of Beatitudes is Byzantine in style. Its octagonal shape represents the eight beatitudes.
The chief attraction here, though, is the setting. The cool and quiet gardens overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the landscape where Jesus conducted his ministry make an excellent place to contemplate some of the best-known Christian teachings.
In the region of Tabgha, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, lies the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, the traditional site of the food multiplication story found in all four gospels (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:5-15) It is also where Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection (John 21:1-17).
Besides its sacred importance as the place of a miracle of Jesus, the main highlight of the Church of the Loaves and Fishes is the beautiful 5th-century figurative mosaic floor. It is the earliest known example of a figured pavement in Palestinian Christian art.
The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter, north of the Church of the Multiplication, was built on rocks at the shore of the Sea of Galilee, traditionally considered to be the place where Jesus appeared the fourth time after his resurrection (John 21:1-24), during which Jesus again conferred primacy to Simon Peter.
The Jordan River, in which John the Baptist baptized his cousin Jesus of Nazareth, is a river which flows into the Dead Sea. It is considered to be one of the world’s most sacred rivers.
It originates approximately 200 meters above sea level on the slopes of Mt. Hermon, Israel. It ends its course at the lowest spot in the world, the Dead Sea, at 420 meters below sea level.
John the Baptist prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah when he baptized them in the waters of the Jordan River (Matt 3:5 ff; Mk 1:5 ff).
Jesus Himself was also baptized by John in the Jordan River near Bethany (John 1:28-33).
The city of Bethlehem, located about six miles, southwest of Jerusalem, is the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Meaning “house of bread,” Bethlehem was also the renowned City of David. It was there in young David’s hometown that the prophet Samuel anointed him to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 16: 1-13)
And in Micah 5, the prophet foretold that Messiah would come from the small and seemingly insignificant town of Bethlehem.
Bethlehem is home to one of the most sacred Christian sites in the world. Built by Constantine the Great (circa 330 AD), the Church of the Nativity still stands over a cave believed to be the very spot where Jesus was born. The place of the manger is marked by a 14-pointed silver star, called the Star of Bethlehem.
At Jerusalem’s heart is the Old City, which is surrounded by a wall and divided into four quarters – Jewish, Armenian, Christian, and Muslim. Inside the walls are the important holy sites of the three major religions: the Western Wall, which is holy to the Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.
Jerusalem is also very important to Christianity, as Jesus Christ lived and died here. One of the most prominent and important sites in the Christian quarter is the Via Dolorosa, the “Way of Sorrows,” Jesus’ final path, where he was crucified and buried.
Picturesque Ein Karem is one of Jerusalem’s most charming neighborhoods. According to Christian tradition, this is where Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, miraculously became pregnant. This is also where he was born. Tradition teaches that during her pregnancy, Elizabeth was visited by a family relative – Mary, who was also pregnant, with Jesus.
The Church of the Visitation, said to be built over the home of John the Baptist’s parents, commemorates this event. In the church courtyard, one wall is covered with ceramic tiles bearing the words of the Magnificat in 42 languages.
Emmaus was the setting for one of Christ’s post Resurrection appearances.
The village of Emmaus was the setting for one of the most touching of Christ’s post- Resurrection appearances.
The Emmaus story is well-known: Two disciples downcast by the death of Jesus, and confused by reports that his body is missing, are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They encounter a stranger who listens to their concerns, then gives them a Scripture lesson that makes their “hearts burn within them”.
Finally, as they share the evening meal, he breaks bread and they recognized him. By then the risen Christ has disappeared from their sight, and they immediately hurry back to Jerusalem (Luke 24:13-35).
Couples renew their marriage vows at the Wedding Church in Cana.
Here, Christians remembered Jesus’ first miracle, when He turned water into wine. (John 2:1-10) The modern church is built upon an ancient church ruin where Christians believed Jesus performed the miracle at a wedding in Cana.
After the renewal of vows, the married couples bring home with them a marriage certificate from the Holy Land.
Pilgrims renew their baptismal vows at the Jordan River.
It was at the Jordan River where St. John, the cousin of Jesus, baptized Jesus. (Mark 1:9-11)
After the baptismal vows, pilgrims will receive a baptismal certificate signed by their pilgrimage chaplain.
The ancient path of the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) is the road that Jesus took on the way to his crucifixion.
The Way of the Cross is prayed at the Via Dolorosa where pilgrims stop at significant places to recall the sufferings of Jesus for mankind. The route ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (which commemorates 5 stations inside the church). The Church of the Holy Sepulchre contains the site where Jesus was crucified, at a place known as “Calvary” or “Golgotha,” and Jesus’ empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected.
In meditation you could say we go from the mind to the heart, from thought into silence, from words and images and planning and problem and analyzing–all the things that we do all the day in our active minds. We go deeper than the mind. We go into that place of the heart.
~ Fr. Laurence Freeman, OSB, Director of The World Community for Christian Meditation
Meditate and pray in the land of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection. Join Fr. Laurence Freeman, OSB on an 8-day Contemplative Journey to the Holy Land beginning on February 16, 2019.
Note: This contemplative pilgrimage is open to pilgrims from all over the world who would like to experience this unique, meditative journey. We will assist you in getting the right flight for the journey.
Your pilgrimage begins in Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Celebrate Mass at the grandiose Church of the Annunciation, which stands over the cave where the Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she would become the Mother of the Son of God. Next stop is Capernaum, described as Jesus “own city” and a place where He lived. Visit the Church of the St. Peter, built over the ruins of the house of St. Peter. Head off to Mount Tabor, which is believed to be the site where Jesus was transfigured before his disciples and spoke with Moses and Elijah. See the impressive mosaic painting on the high ceiling that depicts the transfiguration of Jesus before Peter, James and John.
Renew your baptismal vows at the Jordan River and your marriage vows in Cana, the site of the first miracle of Jesus. In Tabgha, visit the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish, where the miraculous meal took place. Enjoy a pleasurable boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus performed numerous miracles and walked on the water.
Head off to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. Touch the silver star that marks the place where Jesus was born at the Grotto of the Nativity. Visit Shepherd’s Field, the fields identified since ancient times with the shepherds who saw the Star of Nativity.
A high point of the pilgrimage is a visit to the Old City of Jerusalem. Here, you will relive the passion of Jesus while praying the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows), which ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Visit the Coenaculum or the Upper Room, the place where Jesus ate the Last Supper with His disciples and where the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist was instituted. This was also the same place where Pentecost happened 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus.
Proceed to Emmaus, a setting for one of the most touching of Christ’s post Resurrection appearances. There, in the breaking of the bread, the risen Jesus made himself known to two disciples with whom he had walked from Jerusalem.
Fr. Laurence Freeman, OSB is the director of The World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM), described as a “monastery without walls.” Join him on a Contemplative Journey to the Holy Land beginning on February 16, 2019. “Love,” Fr. Freeman says, “is the giving of oneself to another in (terms of) attention, which is selfless. In meditation, we practice taking the attention off ourselves. This then plays out in all aspects of our lives.”
Vir & I would like to express our gratitude for a wonderful pilgrimage we had from Sept 5-18. From checking-in last Sept 5 & all during the tour, we felt the care from a family. No words can ever describe how thankful we are. I almost cried last Sept 8, (my birthday) when we (2 of us have the same birthday) were given a surprise mini celebration when after our dinner, we were given a cake. I really felt the love of a family then. All these things made possible because of your capable coordinator Ms. Ging Igual. She's such a wonderful leader. Kudos to her. Rest assured that i will refer your company to all my friends who are planning to go on pilgrimage . Good day & may God always guide & protect all of you in the Pilgrims' Center/ Executive Resources, Inc. Cora Franca PilgrimCora and Vir Franca
Dear Pilgrims' Center: My husband Aldo & I would like to praise & commend our Pilgrim Chaplain Fr. Dante Venus & our Tour Leader Bro. Monty for the very successful & memorable pilgrimage to Italy & the Holy Land we were very fortunate to join on March 26-April 8, 2018. It was very hectic to be sure, but still they managed our time very well that we were able to visit more places than was promised in the itinerary, and we are very appreciative of that. Likewise, the solemnity of the whole pilgrimage experience was still observed despite many of us in the group, myself included, often forgetting that we were pilgrims & not tourists 😉😉, taking photos, selfies, etc. instead of, or before focusing on what the local guide was explaining or on the scripture readings. I cannot fault us pilgrims on this because for many of us seniors, and I speak for my husband & I, that trip might be our first & last time to visit those places, so we made sure they were properly documented. Nonetheless, it was a truly spiritually uplifting & life-changing experience for us. We continue to thank our Lord for making that experience of a lifetime possible. Indeed, nothing is impossible for God! Thank you very much to Fr. Dante, Bro. Monty & to each of us pilgrims in the group for the prayers, love, care & concern shown to each other. Let us continue to pray for and with each other. It is my hope that we meet each other again soon, to strengthen our bonds of friendships. Most sincerely, Leclec CabusoraLeclec Cabusora
I am honored to be included in this pilgrimage. The Pilgrims' Center has very good itineraries worth remembering. No hours wasted. They took very good care of us in spite of our big number of 47 people. The daily mass and homilies of Fr. Manny Cruz held in different shrines and churches were very inspirational and transforming. Accommodations were nice most especially the one on top of the Mountain with an awesome view built in 1909. It's like travelling back in time. I definitely would want to do it again with Pilgrim Center.Peter Joseph Mapua
The Pilgrims' Center always gives you the best. They let you feel like an Executive in terms of personal service & attention especially during pilgrimage. Their choices of pilgrimages and pilgrim chaplains are outstanding. You go back home very fulfilled and immersed...Marlene Silvestre
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