A Memorable Journey of a Lifetime- the ‘HOLY LAND EXPERIENCE 2019’ in Cana – Part 4
On the 5th day of our tour we had visited Mt Tabor, the Church of the Transfiguration – Cana in Galilee – Wedding Church in Cana – Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter – Capernaum synagogue – Mount of Beatitudes – St Peter’s restaurant in Mifratz Amnun – Mensa Christi Church and had gone on a boat ride in Sea of Galilee.
On the 5th day of our tour, after breakfast, we proceeded towards Mt Tabor and visited the Church of the Transfiguration. It is a Franciscan church located on Mount Tabor which is at a height of 575 meters from the flat surroundings. This is believed to be the site of the transfiguration of Jesus. Mount Tabor is shaped like a half-sphere and rises from the plateau at a height of 575 meters. At the top of the mountain, there are two monasteries – one being a Roman Catholic on the southwest side and the other, a Greek Orthodox on the northeast side. The Roman Catholic church is visible from a distance as it is at the top. On Sunday’s most of the sites are closed by 4:45 p.m.
The present church of the Transfiguration is part of the Franciscan monastery complex. The monastery was built on the ruins of an ancient Byzantine church, with the construction being completed in 1924, by architect Antonio Barluzzi. As Mount Tabor is closer to the centre of Jesus Christ’s activities, in the year 348, the then Bishop of Jerusalem Bishop Cyril preferred Mount Tabor as the site of the transfiguration of Jesus. Thus Mount Tabor was accepted as the site of Transfiguration. At the top part of the church, there is a mosaic on a gold ground representing the Transfiguration.
We continued towards Cana in Galilee where Jesus’ performed the first miracle of turning water into wine. The proper location where the miracle was done is not known but is traditionally fixed at about 5 km from northeast Nazareth called Kfar Cana on the road of Tiberias. Cana is the actual place where the first two public miracles in Galilee were performed by Jesus. On the first occasion, Jesus and his disciples were attending a wedding of a close relative of Mother Mary. When there was a shortage of wine for the guests, Mary requested her son Jesus for help and Jesus turned six jars of water into wine. We visited the wine shop in Cana and the shop owner offered wine to all.
Later, we proceeded to the Wedding Church in Cana, also called the Franciscan Wedding Church, which is located in Lower Galilee in Northern Israel. This church is specially dedicated to weddings. A special mass is offered for couples who visit this church during the Holy land tour. Some couples exchange rings in this church. The current facade was built in 1901 and in 1906, in the month of September, the altar was consecrated by Bishop Angelo Roncalli.
The Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter was the next stop. It is a Franciscan church located in Tabgha on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee which marks the spot of Jesus’ reinstatement of Peter as chief among the Apostles. The modern structure of the Church of Primacy of St Peter was built in the year 1933. The foundations of the 4th-century church can be seen visibly at the base of its walls, opposite to the main altar. It was referred to as the place of the Coals in the 9th century. The church was destroyed in the year 1236, and the present church was built in the year 1933.
Our next destination was the Capernaum synagogue. Our guide Freddy said, “It was a fishing village located on the Northern Shore of the Sea of Galilee and was established at the time of the Hasmoneans. According to the archaeological excavations, it is revealed that there were two ancient synagogues built one over the other. Many houses built in the first century BC were still in use until the 4th century. There are limestones at these sites that were the remains of the synagogue during the time of Jesus. The remains of St Peter’s house, that was used as a small Christian chapel was also found. In the fourth century, the Byzantines built a church over the house. A church was then built by the Franciscan fathers in 1986 over the house of St Peter. The excavators concluded that one house in the village was venerated as the house of Peter the fisherman as early as the mid-1st century, with two churches having been constructed over it”.
Freddy further said, “The 5th-century church consists of a central octagon with eight pillars, an exterior octagon with thresholds still in Situ, and a gallery or portico that leads both into the interior of the church as well as into a complex of associated buildings to the east, a linkage achieved via a short passageway. In the portico, the pattern of the mosaic was purely geometric, with four rows of contiguous circles and small crosses. In the zone of the external octagon, the mosaics represented plants and animals in a style similar to that found in the Basilica of the ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’, in Tabgha. In the central octagon, the mosaic was composed of a strip of calcified flowers, of a field of schools of fish with small flowers, and of a great circle with a peacock in the center”.
We then proceeded towards the Mount of Beatitudes which is on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, between Capernaum and the archaeological site of Gennesaret on the southern slopes of the Korazim Plateau. Its negative altitude is nearly 25 meters below sea level and nearly 200 meters above the sea of Galilee.
After visiting all the above places, we proceeded towards St Peter’s restaurant in Mifratz Amnun located on the banks of the sea of Galilee for lunch. The restaurant has been built with glass walls all around so that tourists can see the stunning view of the sea while having delicious food at the restaurant. St Peter’s restaurant specializes in serving food for tourists and welcomes any number of tourists in a group or individuals any time with great service. The ambience and the presentation of the food was awesome. The speciality of this restaurant is the traditional food from the area where Jesus performed most of his miracles. For lunch, the main course is whole fried St Peter’s fish with rice, or St Peter’s fish fillet in the oven or chicken breast on the grill or shish kebab of the grill with a salad buffet including hummus and a variety of salads. After lunch, fresh dates and Arabic coffee is served.
After having lunch, we proceeded towards the Church “Mensa Christi”, which is called “Table of Christ” in Latin for mass. This church has a projection of limestone rock in front of the present altar which is venerated as a “Mensa Christi”. According to tradition, it is believed that Jesus is said to have laid out a breakfast of bread and fish for the apostles and told Peter to “feed my sheep” after the miraculous catch, the third time he appeared to them after his resurrection. After the mass, the Holy articles were blessed with Holy water by the priests who accompanied us.
The evening was great and we all proceeded towards a much-awaited boat ride across the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on the water. As soon as all the 93 members boarded the boat, the captain welcomed us.
It was a proud moment for all of us in Israel, at the Sea of Galilee to see our Indian flag along with the Isreali flag hoisted and we all sang Jana Gana Mana on Israeli waters. It was fun throughout the ride as most of the members danced to the tune of the music and also captured some beautiful memories in the Sea of Galilee. The group then proceeded towards Hotel Plaza, Nazareth for overnight stay.