Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Sea of Galilee

Thanks to the hospitality of the Benedictine sisters in Tabgha, I was able to spend three days by the Sea of Galilee. Some things are obviously different from when Jesus walked around (and on) that lake - such as the banana and mango plantations - but the landscape and climate is otherwise much the same. It was considerably warmer than Jerusalem, being about 1000m lower, and the rains of winter made it much greener than my previous imaginings. In many ways it was reminiscent of Wales or the Lake District in summertime. Apart from the palm trees, etc.

The main purpose, of course, was to visit the sites of the Gospel stories. It was fascinating to be in places where I know that Jesus and His disciples walked, talked, and ate. They've even built a church on top of one of their breakfast tables, as well as building another one over St Peter's house.

This is the aforementioned breakfast table,
where Jesus and the disciples ate some fish and bread (John 21:9-14)
The view outside the church (the water used to come up to the rocks,
but years of low rainfall and increasing use of water mean that the level has dropped significantly)

The church over St Peter's house in Capernaum

This rock marks the place where Jesus fed 5000 with five loaves and two fish (Mark 6:35-44)

Not everything had a church built over it: this is the view from the Eremos,
a small cave where Jesus sometimes prayed

This is one possible site of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)

No particular connection to Jesus; but this rock hyrax (Proverbs 30:26)
seemed to be posing for a photo, so I duly obliged

Monday, 19 February 2018

J.R.R. Tolkien sings

Not very well, admittedly. But this example of his singing Galadriel's Lament (Namarie) is of geeky interest for something other than its quality.

The other week we had a dinner guest, Fr Guglielmo Spirito OFMConv., who is part of a research project looking at the influence and role of music in Tolkien's work. He has acquired the music sheets used at the various churches in Oxford that Professor Tolkien attended, and was pleased to discover that in this recording he is singing Galadriel's words to the same tune that the Dominicans in Blackfriars used to sing 'The Lamentations of Jeremiah'.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Praying for rain

In Britain we often moan about the rain. We little appreciate the blessing that is frequent and abundant rain. Those few of us who are farmers and gardeners probably appreciate it more, and we would certainly appreciate it more if we ran out of water, as is happening in Cape Town, for example. Here in the Holy Land water is a constant concern, especially for the Palestinians, who usually get less of the water supply than the Israelis.

One recurring theme of my prayers here has therefore been to ask for more rain. But as I have told the brothers, I don't go to the lengths of Honi 'the Circle-Drawer', a first-century-B.C. charismatic Jewish scholar:

Once they said to Honi the Circle-Drawer, "Pray that rain may fall."
    He answered, "Go out and bring in the Passover ovens [made of clay] that they be not softened."
    He prayed, but the rain did not fall. What did he do? He drew a circle and stood within it and said before God, "O Lord of the world, your children have turned their faces to me, for I am like a son of the house before you. I swear by your great name that I will not stir from here until you have pity on your children."
    Rain began falling drop by drop. He said, "Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill the cisterns, pits, and caverns."
    It began to rain with violence. He said, "Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of goodwill, blessing, and graciousness."
    Then it rained in moderation, until the Israelites had to go up from Jerusalem to the Temple Mount because of the rain. They went to him and said, "Just as you prayed for the rain to come, so pray that it may go away!"
    (Mishnah Taanit 3:8)

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Birds of Jerusalem

I'm very much a low-skilled bird-watcher, despite the best efforts of some of my family to educate me in that noble pastime. But at least they've managed to instil in me some awareness of our avian friends and ensured that I can recognise some of the more common species and make good guesses about others.

So here are the bird species I've managed to notice and identify here in Jerusalem and its environs (please note that only one of the photos is mine). I saw a number of other species on my recent trip to Galilee; but this post would become too big if I included them as well.

Palestinian sunbird
(the national bird of Palestine and my personal favourite)
Yellow-vented bulbul

Syrian woodpecker

Laughing dove
(I thought these birds, a common sight, would be turtle doves, which are
frequently mentioned in the Bible. But no. I have yet to spot a turtle dove.)

But I have seen this more classical-looking white dove,
which is apparently a breed of the ringneck dove
(NB. This is the only photo taken by me, appropriately enough close to the place of Jesus' baptism)
Plenty of ordinary feral pigeons
(you get these in London as well)
Hooded crow
Eurasian jay
Pied wagtail
(I haven't seen any in Jerusalem itself, but saw one on the way to Bethlehem)
Last, but not least, the humble sparrow - to be seen in numbers everywhere, they are a reminder of the Father's love (Matthew 10:29)

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Keeping the LENT in VaLENTine's Day

The coincidence of Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day called for some Catholic creativity, and Jason Bach has duly obliged with these penitential Valentine's cards.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Allāh our Abba

One of the cutest things I've experienced here, on a couple of occasions while out and about, has been hearing a little girl getting the attention of her father by calling, "Abba!"

For those who don't understand the significance, in the Bible we're told how the Holy Spirit inspires us to call God "Abba" - the Hebrew for "Dad" (e.g. Galatians 4:6). So it helps me to more deeply feel the meaning of the word when I hear it used in its everyday context like that.

The language I'm most likely to hear on the street, in our immediate neighbourhood at least, is Hebrew; but when I go to one of the churches here in Jerusalem, the most likely language I'll hear is Arabic, because most of the local Christians are Arabs. And that means that in church, at Mass and at other times of prayer, you hear the word "Allah" a lot.

That might surprise some people, because the impression is often that "Allah" is a Muslim term for God; but in fact the use of the name for the one true God pre-dates Mohammed, and it was used by Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians before ever Islam was thought of.

So it's quite legit, even if something of a mish-mash of languages, to refer to "Allah our Abba".

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Jeru and Salem

In a brief follow-up to my last post about different Jerusalems, there is this one-minute Facebook video from Nas (of Nas Daily). His other stuff is good as well - check out his website if you don't have access to Facebook.