PHOTO: Atlantic Highlands couple Mick and Carin Burke renewed their wedding vows at Cana.
Still in the Galilee region before heading off to Jerusalem and visiting the sites which are particularly meaningful this week, our group from Our Lady of Perpetual-St. Agnes parish spend a morning in Cana and an afternoon at Mount Tabor, visiting two Biblical sites with special meaning to all Christians.
Cana is regarded as the town wherein Christ performed His first miracle at the bidding of His mother, changing water into wine so the hosts of a wedding reception would not be embarrassed when their own supply ran out. Once an Arab village, at the time of Christ a town with a heavy Jewish population and today a village with many Muslim residents, Cana has been recognized by the Catholic Church for 400 years or so as one of the Holy Places mentioned in the Bible.
Visitors get to see the remains of burial caves and ancient buildings, but the St. Joseph Church built by Franciscans, the Cana Wedding Church, is the main focus of attention, and more than a couple from our group took advantage of the site to renew their wedding vows in solemn, emotional ceremonies. Purchasing Cana wine is also a grand tradition here and a toast of wine and baklava is an unforgettable experience.
A Greek Orthodox Church nearby the catholic church, one built in the 19th century, also houses two stone jars followers believe are the ones in which Christ performed the miracle.
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Back on the bus, and traveling to Mount Tabor meant a ride up the side of a very tall mountain, one that looks dome-shaped over the Plain of Jesreel, and the spot where tradition believes Jesus was transformed in front of Apostles Peter, James and John. It was the site where it is believe Christ’s face shone like the sun, His clothes were as white as light, and He appeared with Moses and Elijah, telling the Apostles to build three shelters on the site.
PHOTO: Friends Msgr. Cajetan Salemi,(second from left) Bart and Donna Brenner of Rumson and Muriel Smith at Mount Tabor.
Once an important fortress in Roman times because of its strategic location high up and on the main road, Mount Tabor is not far from Nazareth and visible from throughout the area, easily recognizable for the roundness of its dome at the top of the steep hill. Close to the top of the hill, it’s necessary to switch from busses to locally provided small vans to navigate the narrow winding road that leads to the Church of the Transfiguration, a magnificent Franciscan church built in the 20th century at the very top of Mt. Tabor. Like many other churches, the 20th century edifice was built on the ruins of an ancient Byzantine church, which was built on the ruins of a 12th century church; archeologists have uncovered troves of information in this ancient land.
The Church itself has three separate grottos, representing the three huts the Apostles were told to build; one is down steps to a lower level, and the other two in each of the two towers of the Church.
Back at the hotel in Tiberius, it was time for another delightful dinner, some relaxing time in the spring night sipping wine with friends overlooking the city, some last minute shopping for olive wood creations and icons, then packing for the next day’s trip away from Tiberius and entering into Bethlehem and visiting Jerusalem and all the scenes best known during Holy Week. As joyful and happy as the group was, it was obvious the ‘vacation’ also held all the bearing of a pilgrimage and there was a special aura around a very dedicated group of Christians who were obviously appreciative of the opportunity to visit the Holy Land.