In the evening of September 15th, the day before we were leaving to Galilee, our Jerusalem communities got together to celebrate a special mass for Sister Darlene who was celebrating her 50th Jubilee in her religious life. After the mass presided by our NDS brother Carlos we enjoyed a delicious dinner.
We asked the Lord bless Sister Darlene for all her journey in Sion
On September 16th we started our first trip to Akko and Haifa, Sister Darlene and Jilvaneide joined us this beautiful experience. We left around 9:00 a.m. to visit these wonderful places.
Acre, also known as Akko, is one of the oldest cities in the world. Also, Acre changed hands several times during the Crusades. During biblical times the city was under Canaanite control and during the Roman period it was a very important harbor and trade city although it was overshadowed by Caesarea. However, Acre took on a more dominant position as the major port in the region.
We had opportunity to visit the Templars’ Tunnel and St. John’s Church in Akko.
The Templars’ Tunnel
The Templars were a military (monastic order) who in the name of the pope, helped pilgrims and the sick coming from Europe to visit the holy sites of the Land of Israel. The tunnel is 350 meters long and it extends from the Templars’ fortress in the west to the city’s port in the east. It served as a strategic underground passageway that connected the palace to the port. The tunnel would have been used by the Templars for a quick escape.
The tunnel was discovered in 1994 and was opened to the public in 1999. It was a wonderful experience since the walls of the tunnel reveal a little bit about the life in Acre during the Crusader period and the history of the Templar Order.
St. John’s Church
Saint John’s Church belongs to the community of Franciscans. It is unclear when the church was built, although several years ago, the year 1737 was found engraved in the northern wall of the building. The church was renovated in 1947 and now serves as the only church of Acre’s Latin-Catholic community.
During the time of the Crusaders, the Templars built a church on the current site of St. John and called it St. Andrew’s. The Crusader’s church existed until the 17th C at which time the Franciscans later rebuilt the church. St. Francis first established the church in 1209. A new St. Andrew’s church was constructed in the 18th C in another Templars’ location, not far away. The new church is a Greek-Orthodox church which we also had the opportunity to visit.
We had our prayer in St. John’s Church with the psalm 17 and the Readings from 1 Kings 17:5-6, 1 Kings 18:36, 38 and 1 Kings 18:41-45 about Elijah, since we were preparing ourselves to go Mt Carmel and to the Cave of Elijah.
James wrote about prayer and he found its fulfillment in the prophet Elijah. “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5,17-18)
Elijah lived an incredible life and one of deep prayer. He was fed by ravens and it was Elijah who faced down the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. He was completely dependent on God and God saw his needs (1 Kings 17, 5-6). Elijah was doing his best to walk in obedience and also he prayed in faith, humbly, persistently, definitely and successfully. He knew that his prayer would be heard by God (1 Kings 18, 41-45).
Our reflection focused on three questions:
- Does God walk with us like He did with Elijah?
- What was it about Elijah that made his prayers, his life, so powerful and effective?
- What can we learn from the life of Elijah to help our own life of prayer?
After that, we had our lunch in Akko near to the sea. It was a beautiful place and we could see a lot of birds and people fishing in the sea.
The Stella Maris Monastery
Later, we went on to Haifa to visit the Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) Monastery. As it worked out we did not have enough time to visit the Cave of Elijah, but we were on Mount Carmel for a long time and certainly saw all the beauty of the place. Mt. Carmel is referenced most often as a symbol of beauty and fertility in the bible. “It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The Glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel.” (Isa 35, 2).
Moreover, another cave associated with Elijah is located nearby under the altar of the main church of the Stella Maris Monastery. We enjoyed this place very much and we blessed God for all of creation as our eyes contemplated His love through this beautiful mountain and view.
After that we went to Nazareth. We stayed for three days in the guest house of the Sisters of Nazareth. It was so beautiful to sleep in the home town of Jesus and we could just imagine when he was a little boy and gazed up at the stars in the sky and the moon. It was a unique experience for us and we blessed God for giving us this opportunity to be in these wonderful places.
Andrea Chacón Carmona, Novice NDS
Community St. John in Montana