As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. MK 1:16-18
Jesus spent most of his short ministry on earth in rural Galilee. It was only at the very end of his time that he went to Jerusalem. Hence it was very fitting that we spent about half of our time (5 days+) touring Galilee visiting the pilgrimage sites associated with Jesus on our recent pilgrimage.
The principal sites we visited were:
- The Basilica of the Annunciation (in Nazareth which we have already reported on)
- Sea of Galilee
- Tabgha (Multiplication of the Loaves)
- Capernaum (where Jesus lived)
- Mt. Tabor (His Transfiguration)
Galilee is a geographical region in north-eastern Israel that has existed since ancient times. It is generally rocky terrain. In Jesus time, there were many small towns and villages encircling the Sea of Galilee. The lake contained many edible fish and was surrounded by fertile land. It is a medium-sized by our standards, is the lowest freshwater lake in the world and 2nd lowest lake anywhere after the Dead Sea further south. When we were there in November, the daily temperature was about 20 deg C and the birds were singing. As of 2006, there were 1.2 million residents in Galilee, 47% of which were Jewish.
We celebrated Mass on the Sea of Galilee in a small covered boat that was larger and more comfortable than the simple open fishing boats of Jesus time. It was the most unique place we have ever celebrated the Eucharist. The water was calm as we drifted around among some other boats. The sun came out after a few light showers. We could hear others singing on their boats. I think our chaplains enjoyed themselves too as after Mass we all danced together and sang the Havah Nagilah, (“Let us rejoice”) the traditional folk song at Jewish celebrations. It was exhilarating and Maria recorded a video of it all – click here (message me if you can’t access)
Heptapegon means Seven Springs in Greek and is shortened to Tabgha in Arabic. It is identified as the site where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed the thousands. This area is also associated with the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’s resurrection appearance where he rehabilitated Peter (John 21). Each of these locations has a separate church (clockwise below from upper left):
- Church of the Multiplication of Loaves
- Church of the Beatitudes
- Church of the Primacy of Peter
We enjoyed exploring Capernaum on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee. It served as Jesus base during his Galilean ministry probable because his first disciples lived there. The remains of a synagogue where Jesus taught and of Peter’s house are all there. An octagonal church built over the house represents the 6 days of creation, rest on the 7th and the completion of creation on the 8th day. We could see the inner layout of many ancient houses that have been excavated. We posed for a group picture.
Mount Tabor is a steep conical shaped hill visible for miles around and the site of the Transfiguration. We celebrated Mass in the Basilica of the Transfiguration and then explored the beautiful gardens. Dave took a selfie in which he appears to be transfigured (not planned, this is the way it came out).
There is so much more to see in Israel and the Holy Land than Jerusalem. We felt closer to Jesus spirit while visiting this beautiful quiet natural region of Galilee where Jesus chose to minister, teach and perform many miracles.