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 Letter from Elizabeth

Trip to the Holy Land ~ Part 8 | October 2018

Church of St Photina at Jacob’s Well

Jacob’s Well

We rose early and travelled from Nazareth to Nablus in the West Bank. We found ourselves at a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church, built above a crypt which houses Jacob’s well. The well is thirty-five meters deep and still provides the most refreshing water all these centuries later. In extreme drought the well has been known to dry up. Originally it was forty meters deep, but over the centuries stones and debris have built up

The Greek Orthodox Church above the well has some of the most beautiful Icons I have ever seen mounted on the walls and around the main shrine or sanctuary. The Church is divided into three main parts: the narthex (vestibule), the nave (the temple proper) and the sanctuary (also called the altar or holy place). 

A major difference between traditional Orthodox churches and Western churches is the absence of any pews in the nave. You may be able to make this out from the photo of the Church of St Photina which I have included. 

Before we went into the Church our group gathered outside to pray. We sang a hymn and listened to a reading from Genesis 28:10-22. I walked around the church, stopping at each Icon, trying to understand which passage of scripture it represented and offering a prayer. Everything in this church has meaning, from the Icon of Our Lady, set on a stand in the vestibule, to the mosaics on the floor and walls. Strangely enough I did not take many photos, probably because I was more in a spirit of prayer than that of a tourist visiting yet another church!!

When the moment came to visit Jacob’s Well I wasn’t sure what to expect. I walked down narrow stone steps with a low ceiling. It was like going down into an ancient crypt. Visitors descended one side, saw the well and exited by another similar stairs on the opposite side of what seemed like on underground cave or vault no bigger than twelve foot square. It was full of people. It could hold about thirty people and this did not allow for much movement.Slowly, patiently I made my way to the well. It was a very simple structure about two feet from the ground and square in shape. There was an iron pulley, as well as a rope and bucket and a stone basin around the mouth of the well. A woman was operating the pulley and dispensing water to anyone who asked for some. Some people drank the water straight away and those who had bottles filled them to take back to family and friends. I did neither. It did not seem important to me to drink this water or indeed to take a bottle of it home with me. I was happy to be in this place which is often considered the most authentic site in the Holy Land – since no one can move a well that was originally more than forty meters deep.

I stood alone in the midst of this group of people having looked at the well for some time. My mind meandered through the passage of scripture where Jesus arrived at this well with his disciples. (John 4:4–26) They all left in search of food and Jesus was left alone. 

I am sure these were precious moments of peace for Jesus, who was tired and thirsty after his long day of walking. A woman approached to collect water and Jesus simply asked her for a drink of water. We know the story so well!! On that day last November and in that place I stood as though I was that woman; standing before Jesus, hearing Him say to me ‘Elizabeth, give me a drink of water?’ Silently I drew some water and handed it to Jesus to drink. Then I sat by his side and I told him all that was in my heart. Often we get so caught up in the detail of the story that we forget that this is our story too and our journey too. In that moment I could hear Jesus say to me; ‘I am your source of living water; whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst.’ These words were a balm on the wounds of my life and I found a deep peace that I had not experienced in some time. This grace stayed with me for some time and now I often go to that place by the well and sit and talk with Jesus. At times he is silent, sometime there are words but often it is that loving look of Jesus that is enough to restore a sense of peace to my spirit.

I pray that as you read this simple reflection you too will feel invited to go and sit by the well with Jesus and tell him all that is in your heart. Know that he awaits you there and just like the Samaritan woman He knows you and loves you. Go to Him, find peace, and living water will flow into your life.

Elizabeth Foley | Tel: 01 775 8530 | Mobile: 087 230 9219 | Email: e.foley@messsenger.ie

Due to circumstances beyond our control we were unable to bring you your ‘Letter from Elizabeth’ for September 2018. We apologise for any inconvienience of disappointment caused. 

Trip to the Holy Land ~ Part 7  |  July/August 2018

View of the Sea of Galilee from Mount of the Beatitudes

am amazed at how quickly the memories of my trip to the Holy Land seem to fade. I am glad that I took so many photographs, and kept a diary each night. One of the places I most enjoyed visiting was the Sea of Galilee. Did you know that the Sea of Galilee is Israel’s largest freshwater lake? The sea is about thirteen miles long and seven miles wide but only one hundred and fifty feet deep, and it lies six hundred and fifty feet below sea level. It is a primary source of drinking water for Israel as well as a popular area for recreation and tourism. It is fed by the Jordan River, which then drains to the south and flows into the Dead Sea. Lately, a lack of rain has threatened the water level in the Sea of Galilee and prompted the proliferation of desalination plants. In the time of Jesus, the Jordan River was much wider and more powerful than it is today. The Sea of Galilee would have seen a greater abundance of small villages along its shore. 

Jesus spent a significant amount of his ministry around the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum, Tiberias and Gergesa are all on the Sea, while Bethsaida is very close. The Sea and its immediate surroundings were the setting for Jesus’ healing of the paralytic person who was lowered through the roof, the healing of the woman with an issue of blood, the healing of the centurion’s servant and the feeding of the five thousand. It’s possible the Sermon on the Mount was also preached near the Sea of Galilee. 

The Sea of Galilee played an even more significant role in Jesus’ life, however. It was the Sea of Galilee that Jesus walked on: after Jesus fed the five thousand, he sent his disciples across the sea while he withdrew from the crowd. The sea became rough, and the disciples had only rowed three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking towards them on the water. Peter asked to join him on the water but once out of the boat Peter became frightened and started sinking. Jesus saved him, and they both climbed into the boat. Instantly, the winds died down, and they were across the water to the other side. 

On another occasion, again when Jesus wanted to cross the Sea of Galilee from west to east, he was so tired that he fell asleep in the boat. A great storm rose up, and the disciples woke the Lord, afraid for their lives. Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith and then rebuked the wind and calmed the sea. The disciples were amazed that even the sea and wind obeyed him. 

The Sea of Galilee was a key place for Jesus’ disciples. Jesus called Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John to be his disciples while they were working as fishermen mending their nets. Later, Jesus found Levi (Matthew) sitting at a tax booth beside the sea and called him too. Finally, at the end of it all, after the Resurrection, Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee and found Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other disciples fishing. There on the seashore, Jesus cooked them breakfast. So much of Jesus’ life is set on or near the Sea of Galilee. 

For me though, this last story is the story I like the most. After the Resurrection Jesus met his disciples at the shore of the Sea of Galilee and made breakfast for them. John is the only gospel writer to refer to the Sea of Galilee as the Sea of Tiberias. The disciples having witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion return to what they know best: fishing, and that is exactly where Jesus goes to meet them.

As we sailed out across the Sea of Galilee a gentle breeze caressed our faces. A mist had starting to form in the distance along the coast and the sun shone brightly on the clear blue water. I could imagine the many little villages along the coast in the time of Jesus. Perhaps some small boats were just off the shore fishing. As I relaxed and just looked out over the water listening to the gentle hum of the boat’s engine, I was transported back to the time of Jesus and I could imagine a simpler life. I could see Jesus and his disciples walking along the shore from village to village, preaching. Perhaps visiting a synagogue just like the one we saw in Magdala. I could understand why Jesus would take a small boat and sail out to the middle of the lake to relax and pray as the waves gently lapped against the boat.

The heat and the movement of the boat soon had me almost asleep. My eyes were heavy with sleep and I was very relaxed but I continued to reflect on Jesus’ life and particularly that story of how Jesus met his disciples on the shore after the Resurrection. I could feel the confusion and sadness of the disciples having witnessed the crucifixion and also their anxiety at the women’s claim to have seen the risen Lord. In their confusion the disciples returned to what they knew and decided to go fishing. Jesus walked along the shore and called to them ‘cast the nets over the right side of the boat and you will find something’. They cast the net and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. And it was John whom Jesus loved who said, ‘It is the Lord’.

As we know this passage is of great importance for so many reasons but to me it has a very simple message: Jesus meets us where we are at in life. It could be cooking the dinner for your family, working in the local shop, teaching a class of teenage boys and girls, taking care of a sick mother or husband or child or any of the many occupations that go into making up our day. Jesus is saying “I am there with you. I am walking by your side every step of the way. No matter how hard the journey I am there.” It is my belief that Jesus walks with me that gives me the courage and strength to face each day. 

Elizabeth Foley | Tel: 01 775 8530 | Mobile: 087 230 9219 | Email: e.foley@messsenger.ie

Trip to the Holy Land ~ Part 6  |  June 2018

Encounter with the Chapel Mural

One of the most wonderful places I visited while in the Holy Land was a place called Magdala. This was a village situated on the Sea of Galilee a few miles from Nazareth. In the first century this was a vibrant fishing community filled with fishermen and their families, crafts people, shopkeepers and travellers on their way to Nazareth and beyond. For centuries this wonderful village lay beneath the soil, forgotten, but in 2009 excavation started and the ruins of a first century synagogue (the Migdal Synagogue) were uncovered

This is the oldest synagogue excavated in Galilee and it is believed that Jesus taught here. As I walked around the perimeter of the ruins I could clearly see the layout of the synagogue, with many of the original stones, frescoes and decorated stones preserved. 

It was strange but as I stood looking at the ruins of this synagogue, this place of prayer from the first century, I could clearly imagine Jesus going into the synagogue with his disciples and sitting down to pray. I could imagine him being invited to preach. I could see him approaching the altar, opening the scroll and reading to the congregation and then explaining the Scripture to them. I could even feel their joy, their astonishment and their desire to just listen to Jesus forever. I could imagine that they wanted Jesus to stay with them and heal them. I could imagine their desire to sit with Jesus and tell him all that was in their hearts and that is exactly how I felt at that moment. I stood there eyes closed, a gentle warm breeze caressing my face and I imagined another time and even saw myself sitting there among the villagers, listening, hoping, praying. 

I stood there for a long time, at peace, silent and happy. These stones were alive to me, whispering secrets of another time. Yet, the present was no less real. The past and present seemed to collide as we moved about two hundred yards to another building, a modern building: Duc In Altum. This chapel is considered one of the most unique spiritual centres in the Holy Land and it provides a most beautiful environment for person reflection, prayer, worship and the Eucharist.

This is a stunning building literally on the edge of Sea of Galilee. As you enter the atrium, a large circular area, you see eight pillars, seven of which represent women in the Bible who followed Jesus while the eighth honours women of faith across all time. There are two chapels off to each side of the atrium with striking mosaics depicting scenes from the life of Jesus: Walking on the Water, Fishers of Men, Daughter of Jairus and Mary Magdalene. Each chapel can accommodate about fifty people but the most astonishing place in this building is the Boat Chapel. With a spectacular view of the Sea of Galilee through clear full length glass windows behind the altar, and a unique boat shaped altar, this chapel commemorates Jesus preaching from the boat.

The place that I felt drew the whole visit together was the Encounter Chapel. Here two worlds collide: past and present, Judaism and Christianity, Jesus then and Jesus now. Located beneath the Boat Chapel, and situated on the site of the original market place of the old port, this chapel is modelled on the structure of the Magdala First Century Synagogue. It features the most magnificent mural of the encounter between Jesus and the woman with a haemorrhage (Mk.5:25). 

For me this mural cries out the need for faith. It speaks to me about the mission of Jesus. In a world fractured by war, famine, disease, greed and inequality, the message of Jesus: that we believe in him and his love, is the same message that he preached two thousand years ago. It is even more relevant today where faith is challenged and the very existence of God denied. I found myself wanting to stay in the Encounter Chapel and pray that people the world over would meet Jesus in a personal way, and that they too would experience that same moment as the woman with a haemorrhage, and with faith reach out to Jesus for the gift of life.

Elizabeth Foley | Tel: 01 775 8530 | Mobile: 087 230 9219 | Email: e.foley@messsenger.ie

Trip to the Holy Land ~ Part 5  |  May 2018

Nazareth Village: A reconstruction of a first-century Galilean village.

 

Day five of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land began with a visit to Mount Carmel where Elijah challenged the people of Israel to worship the true God. The view from the mountain is just extraordinary, with miles and miles of fertile land stretching away into the distance. 

On the top of Mount Carmel is a splendid little church where I stopped to pray and light a candle. This was a quiet oasis in a very busy place, with groups from all over the world looking for somewhere to pray. Hearing all the voices praying in so many different languages was a deeply spiritual experience for me. 

Our journey continued to the third largest city in Israel, Haifa, where we met Revd Hatem Shehadeh, a Palestinian Christian and an Anglican priest. He spoke to our group with great courage and simplicity about what it is like to be a Christian in Israel. He talked of ‘living stones’. I could immediately understand what he meant as I was beginning to realise that my visit to the Holy Land was not about visiting ‘ruins’ or ‘dead stones’. It was really about meeting people like Hatem and the Christian community, who are ‘living stones’ in this complicated and often troubled society. Despite their dwindling numbers, and with courage rooted in the gospel, they reach out in love and peace to their brothers and sisters; Islamic and Jewish people alike. This Christian community is like a fine mesh trying to hold everyone together so that peace and understanding have a chance to make a difference in people’s lives each and every day. 

Later that evening we met Jonathan Cook, an English journalist who lives and works in Nazareth. He gave a talk about the political situation of the Palestinian people and the question of citizenship. Jonathan is married to Sally, a Palestinian, and they have two beautiful daughters. They run the café/bar where we met Jonathan. While I found it interesting and stimulating to have someone speak clearly about the political situation, I could not help feeling that we were only barely touching on a situation that has been a long time in the making. Clearly, because there has been so much violence and loss of life, it will take an even longer time to find a resolution. I came away feeling that people like Hatem and others in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic communities, who live the reality of life in the Middle East, also hold the key to real peace. The work Hatem does to reach out in the name of Jesus, bears fruit daily in the friendship and kindness that spring from these efforts. These are the little buds of hope.

Between our visits to Hatem and Jonathan we spent a couple of hours at a fascinating place called Nazareth Village. This is a reconstruction of a first-century Galilean village in its rural surroundings as it was two thousand years ago – a Jewish village under Roman occupation. It was extraordinary! The original farm has been restored with olive trees, terraces, ancient wine press, irrigation system and stone quarry. Exact replicas of first century houses, synagogue, mikveh and olive presses have been carefully built using the same methods that would have been used by Joseph the carpenter. We saw their humble dwellings and small work areas and the same type of clothing, pottery, tools and methods that Mary and Joseph would have used. They picked olives which we saw being crushed to make oil using the olive press. We saw how wine was made using feet to crush the grapes in an ancient stone wine press, and watched a woman spinning wool and weaving cloth. There was even a replica of a tomb. It was all really well done. The actors were friendly and the guide wonderful. He answered questions clearly and gave a very comprehensive explanation of what life was like then, based on archaeological finds and ancient texts. What is extraordinary is that this village is situated in the heart of Nazareth, a thriving, bustling modern city. It gives such a clear and wonderful picture of what life was like in the time of Jesus and was, for me, one of the outstanding experiences of our trip.

Elizabeth Foley | Tel: 01 775 8530 | Mobile: 087 230 9219 | Email: e.foley@messsenger.ie

Trip to the Holy Land ~ Part 4   |  April 2018

 

Outside view Basilica of the Annunciation with plaza, Nazareth

On the evening of our fourth day we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation. When we arrived a Japanese group had just started to celebrate Mass in English. I felt so blessed. I was actually in Nazareth, in the Basilica of the Annunciation, celebrating Mass in English with a Japanese group.

When Mass ended I was able to visit the rest of the Basilica. It consists of two levels. The upper level where Mass was celebrated and on the lower level the most holy place – Mary’s cave in which, according to Catholic tradition, Mary received a visit from the Archangel Gabriel. Surrounding the grotto are the ruins of a number of churches built over the centuries to protect this holy place, believed to be the home of Joseph and the Virgin Mary. The little grotto, now protected by iron gates and with an altar at the centre and a stone stairs clearly seen behind, was very peaceful. 

The first thing that caught my eye was a beautiful icon of the Annunciation with an oil lamp lit in front of it. I have placed it here at the start of this reflection because as I looked at it I felt drawn into prayer. A particular passage of Scripture about the Annunciation came to me (Lk.2:39-56) and I found myself deep in thought and aware that this was indeed a very special place.

To visit this holy place so early in our pilgrimage seemed fitting to me; I reflected on Mary on whose acceptance of the angel’s message depended the salvation of all humanity. Mary, this young woman, whose faith was nursed and encouraged by her loving parents, did not hesitate to answer ‘yes’ to the angel’s request. Mary from whom we have so few words, only the Canticle of Mary, itself a prayer of deep faith. Mary who placed all her faith in God believing that all would be well. This is the Mary whom I thought about and prayed about well into the early hours after my visit to this holy place. As I thought and prayed I began to understand how life here at that time seemed so much simpler. Travel was hazardous and a few miles could take all day. The journey Mary undertook to her cousin Elizabeth was difficult. There was the heat and dust and hazards of every kind. And Mary was with child. But all of this did not stop her from going to her cousin in need. Again Mary shows great courage, strength and faith. She calls me to go beyond myself, to challenge my beliefs and ideas about others and to step out in Faith not always knowing the answer but willing to take a risk and like Mary say ‘yes’ in faith.

On the walls of the upper Basilica there are many images of Mary. These images are from countries around the world and depict the Incarnation of Christ. They are as diverse as the cultures they come from and are very beautiful to sit and meditate on. My favourite was from Japan depicting Mary as Japanese. I was delighted to see that each artist had done the same. They had depicted Mary as a woman from their own culture – African, South American, Lebanese or European. This says to me that Mary speaks to each of us in the midst of our daily lives, no matter who we are or where we come from. Mary, the example of living faith, invites us to live lives filled with faith no matter the circumstances.

Over the coming weeks I invite you to take Mary as your example. Read this passage from Luke’s Gospel and ask Mary to help you understand the areas of your life where you find it difficult to let go and say yes to God’s will.

Elizabeth Foley | Tel: 01 775 8530 | Mobile: 087 230 9219 | Email: e.foley@messsenger.ie

 Trip to the Holy Land ~ Part 3   March 2018

 

Elizabeth at the Coffee Shop

Monday November 6 saw us leaving Jordan for Israel. We left Amman by coach for the journey into the West Bank, Palestine. Once again as we drove we were treated to the beautiful countryside of desert and hills, villages and plantations and, of course, the bright sunshine and clear blue sky. What remains with me from that day are two things: our stop in a small town for a coffee and our visit to Cana. 

From the hotel we travelled north to Tell Mar Elias, the place where it is believed the Prophet Elijah came from. From here our guide pointed out the borders with Syria and Lebanon in the distance. It was a sobering thought to think that we were only 45Km from the border with Syria. The morning was beautiful but like true westerners we craved our morning coffee and so without too much trouble we stopped in a little town. There seemed to be just one shop where we could buy a coffee or a soft drink. As we unloaded from the bus we became a bit of a spectacle with young Palestinian boys gathering to ask us where we were from in their best schoolboy English. There seemed to be mostly men standing around or sitting chatting to each other. We took some photos, bought some soft drinks or ice cream and were back on the bus fairly quickly. It was a unique and absorbing moment in our trip. It was a chance to just stop and watch as men sat and chatted, women hurried along just observing their daily routine, and schoolboys, the same the world over, were just curious to know something about these strangers who stopped in their small town. 

Next we travelled to Cana where we visited a Greet Orthodox church which is home to two stone jars believed by members of that faith to be connected to the miracle. We also visited a Catholic Church built in 1879 to mark the traditional site where the wedding feast and Our Lord’s first miracle took place. 

Here we gathered in a crypt like room where we had a very special time of prayer. We read the passage from John’s gospel (John 2:1-11) and one of our group gave a short talk. 

As with most of the shrines in the Holy Land, it was difficult to find a quiet space without people bustling about talking or taking photos. 

One thing that seemed clear to me as I visited these various places associated with the life of Christ, was that they were mostly ruins. Where the various events took place was a matter of uncertainty and some speculation. At the church in Cana, as you will see from the photos, we saw ruins – stones protected by glass and barriers – and I very quickly realised that, wherever we went, it no longer seemed important to stand on the exact spot where Jesus was baptised or where he performed his first miracle. What mattered was that I was here in this land where Jesus had lived. I could see the desert and hills where he walked. I could visit the places associated with his life, and to me that was prayer, that was an experience to just sit and savour.

When I found myself at Bethany beyond the Jordan, or standing beside the Dead Sea looking across to Jericho, or in Cana where Jesus preformed His first miracle, I just took the time to say thank you. Thank you for this wonderful gift of visiting the Holy Land and having the opportunity to pray at these very special places. 

Elizabeth Foley | Tel: 01 775 8530 | Mobile: 087 230 9219 | Email: e.foley@messsenger.ie

Trip to the Holy Land ~ Part 2 | February 2018

 

Elizabeth arrives in Jordan

 

After travelling for most of the day we arrived in Amman, the capital of Jordan, for the first leg of our journey. I was exhausted from the flights when we arrived at about one in the morning. We literally just got our room keys and luggage and went to bed.

On our first day in Jordan we woke up to beautiful bright sunshine. The sky was so blue, a deep blue, unlike anything we see here in Ireland. The city of Amman is a busy, bustling city. As our bus took us to the first location in Bethany Beyond the Jordan I was glued to the bus window looking at people, shops and buildings; fascinated by everything I saw. There seemed to be a Mosque every few hundred yards. I had woken up that first morning to the cry of the Muezzin calling people to prayer. 

As we travelled out of the city the countryside took on a very different look. Sandy, white hills and rugged valleys surrounded us on all sides. Small plantations of olive trees were dotted along the hillsides. Villages seemed to just perch on hill tops, their white walls reflecting the bright sunshine. The ancient Bedouin tribes with their herds of goats and sheep live as they have always lived, moving their tents and belongings to new pasture when and where it can be found. Life is more and more difficult for the Bedouin people as drought, caused by climate change, and the fact that water is drained from the Jordan for farming, means there is less and less vegetation for their herds. 

Yet, the reality of how these people live today seemed to speak to me of a time long ago, when Jesus too walked these hills and valleys. There were no borders, just hills, valleys, flat desert and villages and towns dotted along the Jordan river. As I sat and looked out at the scene before me I could easily imagine Jesus and his disciples walking from village to village, perhaps seeking shelter under a tree from the relentless heat of the sun.

When we arrived at the site of Jesus’ baptism I wasn’t sure what to expect. The site has been excavated but over the centuries damage has been caused by floods and earthquakes. There was a short explanation about the churches that were once built on this site by early pilgrims as memorials, just east of the Jordan river, where Jesus was baptised and Christianity started. Mostly, what we saw were stone steps that lead down into a small pool-like structure, and here a stream from the Jordan river was diverted into the pool where baptism took place and then rejoined the Jordan a little further away. As I stood looking at this place where Jesus was baptised I could imagine Jesus standing among the crowd, watching as one after another people came to John to be baptised. 

This significant event is recorded in three of the four gospels: Matthew (Mt.3:13-17), Mark (Mk.1:9-11) and Luke (Lk.3:21-22). Now is a good time to take a few moments to read these short passages and establish the scene clearly in your mind. There are a lot of things going on in the background, such as John the Baptist’s preaching and the beginning of Christ’s public life. It is not insignificant that Jesus left his home in Nazareth, to travel south to the wilderness where John ministered, to be baptised. In doing so we see that Jesus had heard of John and that he accepted John’s authority, as a prophet. 

For me the most memorable scene is that of Jesus coming up out of the water, the Spirit descending and resting on him in the form of a dove, and then the Father’s voice saying, ‘You are my son, the Beloved; my favour rests with you’ (Mk.1:11). I often wonder why Jesus joined the queue of people to be baptised. He did not need to repent, and he did not need to proclaim his belief in his Father. The baptism of Jesus came at the opening of his public ministry. Jesus was then beginning the task for which he had come into the world. It is as though his baptism was his initiation into public ministry. Jesus was beginning a new life, the most important part of his life: his mission to all the people, to bring the Father’s love and compassion to everyone.

After his baptism, while he was at prayer, Jesus was formally recognised by his Father and was missioned in his task by the Holy Spirit. At the beginning of his mission, Jesus received the assurance that his Father was pleased with him. 

  As I stood at that site in Bethany Beyond the Jordan and just took in the scene all around me I was filled with hope and wonder, peace and joy, that our pilgrimage would also be the start of a journey, a spiritual journey in this very holy place.

Elizabeth Foley | Tel: 01 775 8530 | Mobile: 087 230 9219 | Email: e.foley@messsenger.ie

 Trip to the Holy Land ~ Part 1  |  January 2018

 

Elizabeth by the Jordan river looking over into Israel

 

Two days ago I returned from a trip to the Holy Land – one of the most blessed experiences of my life. At the beginning of this year, I would never have thought that I would be in the Holy Land before its end.

I am always amazed at how these things come about. I have long wanted to see the Holy Land and visit the places where Jesus lived and ministered. In June I learned that my collegue, Ken Rue, was planning to bring a group to the Holy Land. In a moment of inspiration I asked whether there were

any places left. Ken told me that there were, and that he would be happy for me to be part of the group. The group, as it turned out, was a mixed group of both Anglican and Catholic pilgrims, something which I found to be a great blessing. We were twenty-eight in the group, and the group was made up of married couples and single people of all ages; something which again proved to be a blessing.

For me this trip was about seeing the places associated with Jesus: I wanted to walk in the footsteps of Jesus by the Jordan River where he was baptised; to visit Cana where Jesus preformed his first miracle; to walk in Nazareth where he grew up and climb to the top of the Mount of the Beautitudes; to see the sea of Galilee; to visit the Church of the Nativity; to walk the Via Dolorosa; and pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I did all of this and much more. Often I had to pinch myself and ask am I really here in the Holy Land. I became an expert at taking selfies and I wanted to photograph every place at which we stopped. Each night I wrote up my diary of where we had been that day, because I did not want to forget any of it. This for me was the trip of a life-time and I wanted to remember every second of it. There were many places where I just wanted to stop, reflect and pray. Some places will remain with me more than others and I hope to share with you over the coming months many of the photos I took, the places I visited and what they meant to me. I hope that you will enjoy this journey with me through the Holy Land where the scriptures really came alive for me. I know that I will now look at the gospel stories in a new way.

On our first day we visited Bethany beyond the Jordan, where Jesus was baptised, the Jordan river and the Dead Sea. We saw the hill believed to be where the prophet Elijah lived and went up to heaven on a chariot of fire. All around us history came alive as our guides reminded us of passages from the Old and New Testament. As my time is short to write this first reflection for 2018 I am going to share some photos with you of those first days and I hope that through them you too can experience something of the Holy Land or, as I have heard it called, the land of the Holy One.

Elizabeth Foley | Tel: 01 775 8530 | Mobile: 087 230 9219 | Email: e.foley@messsenger.ie