This morning I did make the sunrise although it was quite cloudy and so these are not the most spectacular sunrises that I have seen over the Lake.  But they are still pretty amazing.   I hope you enjoy them and that it might be clearer tomorrow.

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So after breakfast we are on the coaches again and we set off to Nazareth.  Sunday morning is church time pretty much throughout the world and it is no exception here in the Holy Land.  We head first to the Basilica of the Annunciation to look at the church there which venerates Mary’s place in the story of salvation.   It is a huge building built over the site of what was believed to be Mary’s home and not far from the site when there is a church built to commemorate Joseph of Nazareth just above where he was also supposed to live.   They are a few minutes apart and when here, I often have a little day dream about them meeting up before they were married and before the rather surprising things that happened to them had happened!

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The Basilica of the annunciation has depictions of Mary from all over the world.   I discover new ones each time I visit and was particularly struck this time by the Austrian depiction which I do not recall seeing before.  I clearly was not the only person who was attracted by this as one of the pilgrims asked me if I had a photograph – which I did.  Here it is for you with one or two others.

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The church on the lower level is open and plain save for the stained glass windows which refract a beautiful light as I have come to expect here. I think that the stained galls is beautiful in these churches and imagine that it has something to do with the type of light that there is in this part of the world.   Even on a dull day it is different in quality to the light on a dull day in England – well, I think so at least!

In the middle of the church there is an altar and worship space in front of a gated off cavern which also has an altar within it.   As you look at the altar to the right is a set of stairs leading up from it and this space is remembered as the cave in which Mary’s family lived.  Lots of people want to file past it and take photographs but it is still very peaceful.  There are also a number of small side chapels for people to sit and meditate and high up around the worship space are rails for people to kneel at and prayer.   Somehow this church is one of those in which it really feels as if prayer has been real.

The spiral staircase to the upper church has lots of stained glass windows and the light is once again beautiful.  Photographs do not capture it in all its glory.  The higher church is something of a revelation as you step out into it.  One of our Pilgrims said that she literally said ‘Wow!’ as she stepped out into the light.   She said that she felt sure that all these depictions of Mary (which are huge) ought to be overpowering but they simply were not and we wondered why.  We concluded that it is because the church is very tall and there is lot of light and so they ‘fit’.  As the church was only finished in 1969 (it replaces a simpler church which collapsed in 1955) one can only imagine that the architect has this all in mind when designing it and if he/she did they certainly got it right.  Surprisingly today we were able to get near to the only British one I have ever found which is from Walsingham.  It is right up near the main altar of the church and so one cannot always get there if there is a service on, but they were letting people into the mass that way and some of went it to take a picture.

Others too found the depiction of Mary from their own country and as on our first day with the words of the Lord’s Prayer and the Benedictus people were really pleased to have their photograph taken in front of them.

We used the opportunity of a set of stairs for the official photo:

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From there we set off to Christ Church, Nazareth to join them for their morning service.  We pretty much packed the church and we were also joined by about 20 Pilgrims from Arizona.  It really was standing room only.   The service was a delightful cacophony of Arabic and English and American English.   The hymns were sung in unison in different languages and the sermon was delivered in English by Bishop Christopher and translated by Fr Nael Abu Rahmoun afterwards.   (I think it might be that his version was slightly précised?)

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You can find Bishop C’s sermon here.

As seems to be the custom in Anglican churches the world over there was coffee after the service and it was a good time for our Pilgrims to chat with the very welcoming congregation at Christ Church.   They are now used to receiving Anglican visitors from around the world and are very hospitable and in his welcome Fr Nael had thanked us for coming and reminded us that our visits help the dwindling but committed and proud numbers of Christians (and in this case Anglicans) in Israel and the Middle East to know that they are not forgotten.   I know that the Dean and the Bishop have regular contact with Fr Nael, even if only through Twitter but it is these personal links that help us to know that we can pray for each other and be committed to one another in the Body of Christ no matter where we are and what our situation.

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Visiting this small but committed congregation was one of the highlights for some of our Pilgrims as it was a real chance to share together with local Christians and to learn something of how they ‘do’ church and discover it is not so different from how we do it!

Coffee over and conversations concluded we made the short walk down to the Holy Land Restaurant for Sunday lunch and it is sort of a real Sunday lunch as it included beef and roast potatoes.   It was probably a good job that we had about an hour promised to us in the coach after lunch to sleep it off!

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