Ego sum pastor bonus, qui pasco oves meas, et pro ovibus meis pono animam meam, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, Alleluia.
The fourth century synagogue in Capernaum was built over the first century synagogue where Jesus preached.
The impressive rear wall of the synagogue.
Capernaum figured largely in Jesus’ ministry.
Under the glass floor of the modern church are the excavations of a fifth century church and also a fourth century synagogue, and under that was a first century house church, called the “House of Peter,” where there were discovered hundreds of Christian inscriptions in Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew saying Jesus, Lord, and Peter.
Today is the octave day of Christmastide, the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, in whose Incarnate Son we experience the fullness of the priest’s blessing from the book of Numbers, “The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
Virgin Mother, daughter of your Son,
humbler and loftier past creation’s measure,
the fulcrum of the everlasting plan,
You are she who ennobled human nature
so highly, that its Maker did not scorn
to make Himself the Creature of His creature.
In your womb was the flame of love reborn,
in the eternal peace of whose warm ray
this flower has sprung and is so richly grown.
~ Dante, Paradiso XXXIII, translation by Anthony Esolen
The Blessed Virgin Mary was proclaimed Theotokos, God-bearer, Mother of God at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The Empress Pulcheria (399-455) who was later designated a saint of the church was very supportive of this declaration despite the opposition of Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople.
Below is the Basilica of the Annuncation in Nazareth.
Our tainted nature’s solitary boast.
Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied;
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature’s solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven’s blue coast;
Thy Image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven the suppliant knee might bend,
As to a visible Power, in which did blend
All that was mixed and reconciled in Thee
Of mother’s love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene!
~ William Wordsworth
Saint Peter in Gallicantu, which commemorates the three time denial of Peter at Caiaphas’ palace. Notice the rooster on the dome.
And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. ~ Luke22:59-62
“I do not know him”. ~Luke 22:57
“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” ~John 21:17
The Church of All Nations on the Mount of Olives, where we commemorate the Lord’s agony in the garden.
The inscription at the base of the image is from Luke 23:43-44:
Apparuit autem illi angelus de caelo confortans eum et factus in agonia prolixius orabat et factus est sudor eius sicut guttae sanguinis decurrentis in terram.
And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground.
The windows are alabaster. From Wikipedia, “Alabaster panels dyed violet were used for the windows to evoke a mood of depression analogous to Christ’s agony, and the ceiling is painted a deep blue to simulate a night sky.”
Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how his body was laid; then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. ~Luke 23:50-56
The Church of the Nativity is one of the oldest churches in Christendom. Today through the skill of the Italians beautiful mosaics covered for centuries are being brought to light. What a treasure that has been hidden from our eyes!
Saint Ephrem the Syrian of the 4th century writes that “God reveals his truth in two books, the book of nature and the book of the Scriptures.” The past two days have borne out that truth for me in a beautiful diptych of meditation. On Day 8 we walked through beautifully cultivated vineyards heavily laden with robustly healthy grapes. Grapes so dark and beautiful that they are mirror of the sun as they await to be harvested soon for Rioja vino tinto. My mind’s eye became a veritable Scriptural mosaic of the images of grapes and wine that our Lord gives to gladden the hearts of men. More importantly the abundance of grapes reveals a mystery hidden from ages past but now revealed; that Jesus is the Messianic fulfillment of the symbol of wine in the Scriptures of ancient Israel, in that Jesus is, in the words of Saint John, the best wine reserved even until now. And he took a cup of wine and said “This is my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant.” Day 8 was so filled with the richness of a reflection that brought me such spiritual delight.
On Day 9 the terrain changed in that in the intensity of the heat of the sun was almost unbearable as we walked through beautifully cultivated land recently harvested. The rolling hills were carpeted with the remains of the harvest. Rolling hills that once were covered with wheat and hay. Once again my mind’s eye became a veritable Scriptural mosaic of the images of wheat. And the finest of wheat the Lord can provide… the bread come down from heaven to sustain us on our camino to eternity.