Pilgrimages are always somewhat penitential in nature. Just getting to the Holy Land provided lots of opportunities for patience and endurance. Even though everything went quite smoothly, it is a long trip.
Monday morning began very early, around 4:00am, as I wanted to celebrate Mass prior to leaving Cheyenne, since there would be no opportunity for Mass anywhere that day. part of our group left Cheyenne at 6:00 am for the Denver airport. There we met up with some other members as we gathered for a 10:15 flight to Newark. We landed in Newark around 4:00pm and had a 6 1/2 hour layover waiting for our flight to Tel Aviv. The rest of our group of 36 met up with us in Newark.
The time difference from Israel to the Mountain West is nine hours, so we essentially lost about half a day as we travelled east. We landed in Tel Aviv on schedule, made our way through customs, gathered up our luggage, met our tour guide and bus driver and made our way north to Mt. Carmel, in Haifa.
Mount Carmel is the sight where the great prophet Elijah took shelter from the followers of Baal after he slaughtered many of their prophets. It is where God revealed himself to Elijah in a light, silent sound. (see 1 Kings 18 – 19)
Of course, Mt. Carmel is the sight where the Carmelite Order was founded. We celebrated Mass last night in a chapel at the church Mary, Stella Maris. Today, a cloistered group of Carmelite sisters have a monastery here. We enjoyed a nice meal and our first full night in Israel.
This morning we will learn a bit more about Mt. Carmel and then make our way to Nazareth where we will celebrate the Mass of the Annunciation in the Basilica of the Annunciation. Then, later in the day we will make our way to the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. We will spend the night on the Mount of the Beatitudes.
It is interesting to note that here in the Israel, the Eastern Rite Christians are celebrating Holy Week. They still observe the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian calendar. I believe yesterday was actually their feast of the Annunciation, which we celebrated March 25th. Of course, this means that they will celebrate Easter this coming Sunday.
More to follow.