Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kansas City Pilgrimage to the Holy Land – Jerash and Mount Tabor

Here’s the latest dispatch from Kansas City – St. Joseph Vice-Chancellor Dr. Claude Sasso on the Kansas City pilgrimage to the Holy Land being led by Bishop Robert W. Finn:

Jerashstreet We set out today from Amman, Jordan and drove by bus 30 miles to our first stop in Jerash, a town of 42,000 today,  but also the site of the largest Roman city yet restored, the Gerasa of antiquity.  In AD 90, Jerash was absorbed into the Roman province of Arabia, which included the city of Philadelphia (modern day Amman). Upon entering the site we observed the imposing arch known as Hadrian's arch, which was built to commemorate the visit of the Emperor Hadrian in 130 A.D. It was a part of the so-called Decapolis of ten cities. In 324 A.D. Emperor Constantine  and the people here became Christians until about 700 A.D. when the area was conquered and Islam became the religion. 

We next encountered the Hippodrome, where 17,000 spectators could observe Roman games. It was surrounded by shops at that time. Ten countries in modern times cooperated to restore the ruins, although much remains to be done.

Departing from Jerash the pilgrimage drove to the border of Israel where after clearing customs for both countries, we said goodbye to our Jordanian tour guide and bus and hello once again to our Israeli tour guide and bus. We then drove to the Mount believed to be site of the Transfiguration, according to the unanimous testimony of the Church Fathers. This is Mt. Tabor, located 11 miles west of the sea of Galilee on imposing terrain. 

MtTaborfromWest The mountain was mentioned in the Old Testament books of Joshua and Judges. Unfortunately when we got to the Mountain, the crowds were tremendous and rather than wait for the special taxis to take us to the top, where we had planned to celebrate Mass in the Basilica of the Transfiguration, we decided to return on Sunday instead. So we drove into Tiberias, the city built by Herod Antipas, where according to tradition, Jesus performed several miracles.

We celebrated Mass in the Church of St. Peter, another church under Franciscan care, on the Sea of Galilee.  In his homily Bishop Finn said that the Transfiguration was a moment of grace given that the Apostles Peter, John and James might come to realize in a deeper way who Jesus was and to be strengthened when the Cross came.  Likewise he said we should pray that our faith be increased that we might come to serve the Lord Jesus Christ more fully and faithfully.

(pics – Top, a street in Jerash. Below, Mount Tabor.)