Ambling: God’s Incense
As we step out of our bus onto the mount where Jesus preached one of His most beloved sermons, the Sea of Galilee stuns my senses, its surrounding hills filled with: hymns of wildflowers, gentle breezes pawing the sea, pilgrims’ songs of praise, the feel of the ancient stones beneath our feet; but more than anything else, thick scents and faint tastes of blended bougainvillea, orange blossom, oleander, everlasting, and Mesopotamian iris – God’s very incense.
Outside of the Church of the Beatitudes, we read the Gospel, sing, and pray. The Catholic Church maintains this holy site magnificently. Gazing out from the Church, I am struck by the Lord’s aesthetic sense of theater: Jesus could not have chosen a more splendid spot for His sermon – St. Peter’s Basilica, in all its glory, cannot compare.
Here I discover a Saint that none of us had ever known – Saint Iosipios holding a church in his hands. He was the local nobleman who financed the construction of the original Church of the Multiplication. Kinda made me rethink the size of my contribution to the parish capital campaign!
Capernaum. City of miracles. How many times have I read or heard the city name “Capernaum” without it triggering some image or feeling? So many names of Biblical places I realize have left me bereft of imagery. Walking through Capernaum explodes past images and empty mental spaces filling them with volume, shape, texture, and dimension; filling them with stone and trees, dust and dappled light.
This is where St. Peter lived in his mother-in-law’s house, the remains of which are preserved as an archeological site beneath a Franciscan church. Jesus lived here for a couple of years, performing miracles and preaching. In the nearby photo, the white pillar inside the ringed stone walls is the remnants from her house.
The red-domed byzantine Church of the Apostles sits on the banks of the Sea: another expansion of religious imagery for me, one of many on this trip. Domes by the sea had always been blue in my mind’s eye. The iconography hallowing the walls of this church is breathtaking, especially the enormous disconcerting icon of the Apocalypse.