My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Friday, 7 February 2014

Kafr Cana of Galilee - and our pilgrimage on The Bus called Hope

No one is certain where the first miracle of Jesus - turning water into wine at the wedding feast, as told in John Ch. 2 - actually took place. There are four places that are possible candidates - two in Lebanon, two in Israel. But in the 17th century Kafr Cana was officially recognized by the Vatican, and the pope officially confirmed that Kafr Cana is indeed that Cana of Galilee. So the village was added to the list of Christian holy places to visit on the pilgrimage route, and that is where we went.

There are half a dozen or so wineries happy to produce and sell a souvenir bottle or two for the pilgrim or tourist who comes this way. Some pilgrims visit the Greek Orthodox church next door but we give that a miss and make for the Franciscan Catholic Church of the Wedding Feast. This was built in 1879 but earlier remains from Byzantine and Crusader buildings can be seen below in the crypt. There is also a third or fourth century mosaic in Aramaic, in memory of a certain Josef, who some believe may be Joseph of Tiberias who converted to Christianity in the Constantinian period and founded many churches in Galilee.
In the crypt people throw prayer intentions over a screen onto the rocks behind - presumably for help in a troubled marriage, or in thanksgiving for a blessed one! And there is lots of very twenty first century graffiti, which is troubling. The church itself is packed with amateur photographers - or so it seems. Overall I find the town scruffy and unappealing with too much litter. Perhaps it doesn't help that it's raining! This morning is probably the lowest point for me on our pilgrimage and speaks nothing to me at all. I feel like a dissatisfied tourist rather than a pilgrim!
And this is where we lose someone. On arriving back at the coach one lady is not with us. But our guide manages to find her among the labyrinthine streets and we can journey on again, reminded of the parable of the ninety nine sheep left in the wilderness while the shepherd goes looking for the one lost sheep lost. All rejoice when the lost sheep is found and brought back to the fold.

the Greek Orthodox Church in Cana?
"I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance." Luke 15: 3-7

All safely rounded up onto the bus, we make our way on to Nazareth, where we join the Sunday Eucharist service at the Christ Church, within the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, part of the Worldwide Anglican Communion. We outnumber the resident congregation by a long way and pack out the church. The service is in Arabic and English in turns. As we sing the first hymn I feel surrounded and daunted by the most dreadful cacophony of sound and I really feel I will have to go outside. I don't think I can take it, as it cuts to the core of my raw vulnerabilities. I'm nearly in tears for quite the wrong reasons. But I persevere, as no one else around seems at all phased, so it is just me! And actually as the service progresses I find the experience strangely moving in a good way. Here we all are, divided by language but united as Christians.

There is a very good illustrated article by Duane Alexander Miller in the St Francis Magazine on the fascinating history of this church.
After the service we are given a wonderful reception with tea, coffee and plenty of home-made cakes - the congregation very much value the support of pilgrim groups such as ours, as moral support in what has become a very difficult situation for Christians in this town. More about this in the next post....

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