The last couple days have been incredible in our travels throughout the Holy Land. We had the great privilege of visiting Mount Tabor, Cana, and Nazareth, as we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany. It was fitting that this wonderful feast occurred during our travels to these places, for we were able to witness how the Lord manifested himself 2000 years ago, and were able to meditate on how the Lord continues to manifest himself today.
Mount Tabor is where the Transfiguration occurred. Jesus was transfigured in the presence of Peter, James, and John, and with Moses and Elijah to his right and left. After taking a shuttle all the way to the top, we celebrated Mass with Fr. Taphorn, and had some time to meditate. I was particularly amazed at the breathtaking view of looking out from the top of Mount Tabor (the photo at the very top). This was a wonderful place to visit, and in the words of St. Peter as he witnessed the Transfiguration: “Lord, it is good that we are here” (Matthew 17:4).
The first miracle of Jesus occurred at the wedding feast at Cana, a small town only a short distance from Nazareth. Jesus turned the water into wine at the request of Mary, who told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). The Church of Cana is quite small and simple, yet beautiful nonetheless. Below the church was a stone jar, similar to the ones that Christ would have used in the miracle (see above). They are quite large! This place was special for me, because I had the opportunity to pray for several couples from back at home who are preparing for marriage.
Of all the places that we visited, I was most moved by our visit to Nazareth. Nazareth is where it all began… where the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us at the Annunciation. This is also the place where the Holy Family lived. In our visit to the Basilica of the Annunciation in the small city of Nazareth, we were able to see Mary’s house, the place where she said “yes,” where she made her “Fiat” in response to the Archangel Gabriel. What struck me the most was the simplicity of the scene: a small, quiet cave. It is hard to describe the beauty of this experience, so I’ll close with a quote by St. Bernard of Clairvaux:
“You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us… Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.”
Thanks be to God for the gift of Mary’s “yes” and for the wonderful gift of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.