Day 1

The first full day of our pilgrimage (Wednesday) began by our visiting the city of Caesarea. Built by King Herod the Great, this was once a thriving port city on the Mediterranean Sea. We visited the amphitheater, the site of King Herod’s palace and the hippodrome which was used for horse and chariot races (think the movie “Ben Hur”). Most importantly for us as pilgrims, it was in Caesarea that Saint Peter first preached the Gospel to Cornelius, a Roman centurion and Gentile who was said to be known for his charity. Peter baptized Cornelius here, marking a significant moment in the Gospel being accepted beyond Judaism.
By mid-day we were in Nazareth, the place of the Annunciation and where Jesus grew up in the home of Joseph and Mary. In the days of the Lord, Nazareth was a very small town with perhaps only 200 residents. Today it is a growing city. We visited the Basilica of the Annunciation, which was rebuilt in 1969 at the directive of Pope Saint Paul VI and is the largest Christian church in the Middle East. The pilgrims were at the site of Mary’s house in the lower church at noon. After reading the story of the Annunciation, Msgr. Souckar led all in praying the Angelus. We also visited the site which tradition says was the carpenter’s workshop of Saint Joseph.
Mass today was celebrated in Canna, where Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding celebration. Several couples renewed their marriage commitment and received a special blessing. We also sampled some of the local wine.
Finally, the pilgrims arrived around sunset at Tiberias along the shores of the Sea of Galilee where we enjoyed a delicious meal together.