The Four Last things

3 08 2020

The Four Last things

Last month, I read about Eschatology, a Greek term that refers to the four last things in everyone’s life: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Among these, the one that we are all familiar with, because we see it often, is death.  Still, most of us, perhaps out of fear, do not consider what happens after we die.

Death

Well, according to Catechism of the Catholic Church, death is the separation of soul from body. The soul, being spiritual cannot die. The soul is immortal, self-reflective, and aware and knows.  It possesses the ability to move from one place to another, passing through walls and things like that. More important, as soon as we die, God grants our soul light to see with perfect clarity, the good or evil aspects of the choices we have made throughout our lives up until the moment before our death. Death makes these choices permanent, and the soul adheres to these choices, and can neither change nor repent any longer.  Thus, the soul of the dead perseveres in choosing or rejecting God forever.  Death irrevocably fixes the good or evil we have chosen in life and we cannot change. Put another way, death is the end of testing process, what remains is either reward or punishment.  God immediately judges and rewards the good soul with heaven, and judges and punishes the evil soul with hell. If the soul is in state of grace with some imperfections, it goes to purgatory for purification.  This immediate judgment is the particular judgment and it is differs from the general judgment at the end of the world.

Immediately after death, the soul is Judged in the Particular Judgment

At the particular judgment, the soul of the dead appears immediately before God (even as the relatives are weeping or preparing the decomposing body for burial). God grants the soul light to see the choices made while alive. If it has chosen God (good) it rushed towards God who is infinite love, beauty, happiness, joy eternal blessedness and the very source of all that is lovely. If it has chosen evil, it rushes away from God, towards hell: hatred, evil, misery, emptiness, and eternal separation from God. The truth of the particular judgment and the immediate retribution or punishment at the moment of death is borne out in sacred scripture by the words of Jesus on the cross to the good thief “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Regarding the fittingness of immediate judgment after death, it is argued that, since a dead man cannot choose good or evil anymore, there is no reason to wait until for the final judgment at the end of time, to reward the just or punish the wicked. Besides, such a “waiting” or “delay” will only punish the just, keeping them in a state of permanent anxiety, not knowing their fate, while at the same time it would be a reward for the damned soul whose punishment is put off as it where for a very long time till the end of the world.

Purgatory

If the soul is imperfect, having no mortal sin, but retaining imperfections, it goes to a place of purification we Catholics call purgatory. This is because, before a soul enters heaven, every trace of imperfection must be eliminated, and all attachment to sin or evil destroyed, and purified.

Though many people (mainly Protestants) argue that there is no purgatory, for it is not explicitly stated in the bible, and since we are saved by faith Christ in alone, we are perfectly ripe for heaven when we die. Yet, the Church teaches that purgatory is in the bible, even though it is not explicitly mentioned.  The sense of purgatory is clear from the Old testament, second book of Maccabees where Judas Maccabee took and gathered a collection of money for the sin offering for the souls of the his dead men to be released from their sins.( Mac  12:39). In the New Testament, purgatory is even clearer.  1 Corinthians 3:10–15, talks about two fires, there is one fire to examine the good or evil of men’s deeds and another fire to purify them before they are saved. Experience tells us that there are different shades of perfection, and we all can grow in perfection. Thus, purgatory answers the question, “What happens to the soul of the imperfect who dies.”

This is why the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass, during the funereal and encourages all to offer suffrages for the souls in Purgatory. The souls in purgatory by the nature of their state can no longer merit graces for themselves and are wholly dependent on the people on earth to pray for them.

Pain of loss & pain of the senses

The souls in purgatory suffer two kinds of pain. The pain of loss consists in a certain delay of seeing God. The souls in purgatory no longer desire material things; they only have one consuming desire, to see God. That delay is pain, but it is much unlike the pain of loss suffered by the damned souls, in that they have the joy of knowing that it is only a temporal delay and they are sure of seeing and uniting with love of God. In addition, there is the pain of sense that some call fire. This fire purifies them of their imperfections. This suffering is not a meritorious act because it is not performed freely but with compulsion. Yet, the souls in purgatory gladly accept this fire and impatiently await the end of their trials so that they can be with God.  The duration and intensity of their suffering is dependent on the amount of suffrages we on earth offer for them through our good acts and Eucharistic devotions. It is a duty of Charity to pray for the souls in purgatory, since they are our brothers and sisters. It is a requirement of justice, since souls can be unduly detained because of our negligence, and finally it is obligation of piety that we owe members of our supernatural and natural families who might be in purgatory.

Hell

Truly, many do not understand what hell is, if they did, they would be anxious never to go there. Strictly speaking, the Catholic Church does not talk about those in hell because they are considered to be outside of the Church. They are no longer a part of the Church. The souls of people who die in the state of opposition to God through attachment to evil go straight to hell. Hell is the ratification of the choices they freely made up until the moment of death. Death makes the opposition to God permanent and eternal. In Hell, the separation from the all-loving God is permanent, irrevocable and without end. It is a life of complete frustration and emptiness. Hel is the opposite of love; it is hatred, darkness, and eternal punishment. It is eternally living with evil, and knowing that it is forever, without end. Recalling that we are going to die and that there is an afterlife could help us keep focus

Hell involves two kinds of pains. Pain of loss and pain of sense.

The pain of loss is the most intense and in enormity, surpasses every other suffering imaginable because it is the loss of the ultimate end, happiness, and eternal bliss desired by every creature. The souls in hell experience intense remorse, but not because of repentance from their sin, but because of the enormity and the eternal duration of their punishment .They also experience the pain of the senses, which some consider to be unquenchable fire, burning sulfur. Even if they do not know it, all men are created in the image of God, to live with God forever. Every soul hungers for this union of love and happiness with God. To be eternally deprived of ever achieving this is the most terrible suffering a soul can have, a loss of all meaning and purpose and a permanent state of frightful misery

This pain of sense on the other hand is comparable to dying but never dying, hence the name “eternal death.” Apart from this two pains mentioned above, there are other pains, such as the suffering of being in the eternal company of the wicked and the damned, where all is misery and vile, the permanent company of the devil and all his demons, where hatred and evil is the only rule. We should truly pity those who do evil here on earth.

Heaven

The existence of heaven is explained in the same way that the existence of hell is explained. It is proper and fitting that those who die in the state of grace, without sin, and in union with God, having kept and obeyed his laws in this life be rewarded. That reward is the immediate and eternal possession of God who is love.

The metaphor of heaven as the dwelling place of God in the sky can be misleading, but through faith, we know that heaven is not a place but a living relationship with the Holy Trinity in Christ. Happiness of heaven is the enjoyment of all good, all love and beauty and bliss in God in a permanent eternal way without any fear of loss, forever. This eternal vision of God cannot be unless God grants the soul a light of glory that illuminates and unites with God. This light of glory called lumen Gloriae enables the creature to see and know God. Since love comes from knowledge, this act of seeing and knowing God is immediately followed by an intense love of God that produces immense joy, happiness bliss that nothing in this world can describe.

Thus, the soul participates in all joy and happiness of the blessed. Moreover it is in the blessed company of the saints, Mary and all the blessed. It is also know all creatures through the mind of God. It is able to communicate with his loved ones on earth and rejoices as they progress towards heaven. 

The final judgment

Unlike the particular judgment that comes immediately after death, the final judgment comes at the end of the world. It is the public ratification of the irrevocable sentence of the particular judgment. Moreover, is in keeping with the justice of God that just as many people do good without reward because no one sees them and many people do evil and are never caught, the final judgment will be the universal acclamation of hidden good doers and universal condemnation of hidden evildoers.

It is also the time for the resurrection of the body. The same body that participated or even aided in the good or assisted in the evil done while on earth, will resurrect and re-unit with the soul for the universal judgment of body and soul. The final judgment will show that God’s justice prevails over all the injustices perpetrated by his creatures, and that God’s love is stronger than death. Our hope does not look forward to the eternal life of the soul alone, but to the eternal life of the whole human person, body and soul. There is an eternal life of salvation, as a participation of the entire man in the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In addition, there is an eternal life of damnation, in which the separation from God becomes eternal.





Hilarious Debate: Cardinal Pell vs Richard Dawkins

26 12 2019

Debate between Cardinal George Pell and Richard Dawkins turned comic when someone asked Dawkins to explain how something can come from nothing.

The audience roared in laughter at his rambling attempts and a visibly angry Dawkins asked, “What is so funny?”  

“It is funny when you try to explain nothing” retorted the half amused Cardinal

 The debate is masterpiece for learning how to debate on difficult topics and against those who deny first principles and those who claim that two contradictory propositions can be true and false at the same time in the same manner.

A master on the art of convincing, Pell’s humor and wit create a light hearted ambiance that helped the audience connect. This debate will benefit students of literature. Watch the video below  or read the transcript her https://scrapsfromtheloft.com/2019/03/01/debate-richard-dawkins-cardinal-george-pell-transcript/





Gay Jesus funny? Netflix is stone cold crazy!

20 12 2019

Movie streaming giant, Netflix, has lost its coconuts by streaming a third rate movie that portrays Jesus as gay.

 The movie, “The First Temptation of Christ,” offends more than 2.18 billion Christians around the world, by depicting Jesus as a homosexual and Mary as a weed smoking trollop?

 According to Citizen.org, the film presents Christ as having relationships with a homosexual while the disciples are alcoholics and unruly. The Virgin Mary is presented as an adulterous woman who has sex with God the Father. Until recently, the anti-Christian works by the small Brazilian producers of the movie were published on their YouTube channel. But this year, Netflix has decided to buy their production and distribution rights in a clear agreement to the group’s blasphemous works.

Why would Netflix want to promote a film that they know offends so many of their customers? A movie based on lies and falsification of historical facts about the life of Jesus Christ? Jesus lived and died in the 6BC-33AD, there are historical records people who lived with him and no such record exist that he is a homosexual, but quite on the contrary, homosexuality is a sin against Christian norms. Not even the Pharisee who hated Jesus so much as to kill him charged him with such. So why would anyone, 2000 yrs latter wish to offend billions believers with such an obvious lie?  But it’s only a movies, they say, nothing serious, a satire, no one should get upset. Really?

Christians have lost lives and properties defending their faith, thousand have died at the guillotine; tens of thousands were thrown to the lions for not denying their lord and savior Jesus Christ. Netflix and Porta must be stone cold crazy.     And their past streaming of hundreds of genuine Christian movies doesn’t make them less culpable for pandering this false narrative, much like a man is not less culpable when he commits murder because he saved hundreds of lives.

They wouldn’t do that to Muslims though

Netflix’s recent outrage has sparked the age-old debate on how Christian can get people to respect what they believe. Muslims have successfully won a fearful respect for their sacred through violence and bloodshed. Christians on the other hand are bound by cast iron rules of non-violence, exploited by vicious men bereft of decency to trample on their feelings with impunity.  CitizenGo, a Christian advocacy group has received two million signatures condemning the movie– significant, but hardly enough. Christians must stop and contemplate Jesus holy anger, when he sees people misusing the things of his Father. What a lesson for us never to be indifferent or cowardly when others fail to treat the things of God with due respect.

Of course violence has been tried by emperors and kings in centuries gone by and it utterly betrayed the Christian faith in spite of the good intentions of the people who deployed it.

Yet a man has the right and duty to defend the honor of his mother even if it means coming to blows. Those who go about heaping scorn on the values people cherish best beware that every man has his limits and sooner or later patience wears thin and they must have themselves to blame for what happens.

If being civilized means behaving reasonably and politely, avoiding hurting other people’s feelings, then Netflix actions are barbaric  

Two sides of the same coin

A woman writing in the punch newspaper, in words couched with thinly veiled disdain for the Christian said that the uptick in false narrative about Christianity is tit for tat for century old false narratives pandered by Christian to destroy ancient pagan religions.

But that’s a muddle up understanding of history of pagan religions. Most pagan practices actually rely on of satanic powers to achieve their purpose, and not a few practice sacrifices of blood of animal or even humans. Their code of ethics is nothing but primal instincts that often strays into outright errors, even evil.  Truth does not molest falsehood when it corrects it, knowledge cannot tolerate ignorance. The Christian faith does not denigrate pagan religion, but perfects and purify them from error to lead men to truth. The Christian faith by purifying pagan rituals from twins, virgin sacrifices and cannibalism brought about civilization.

Women the world over are enjoying the fruits of the untiring of works of Christian missionaries in educate young girls and give them opportunities denied them in traditional pagan societies.

Voodoo Afro-Brazilians pagan religions are replete with fetishes and unhygienic cavorting with dead bodies that sanitary laws demand censuring such practitioners. Still it must be pointed out that Christian ethics demands that errors of paganism must be corrected with charity. To do otherwise would go against Christ’s teaching. Truth is sacrosanct, and promoting a deliberate falsification of historically verifiable facts about Jesus’ life and teaching even as a joke is being mischievous.  When art misrepresents history, it is not illuminating but confusing.

Breaking a norm of decency is not freedom and progress, but that is a caricature of true freedom. A motorist, who thinks he is freer when he breaks traffic laws, is most likely to eventually kill himself and others.  Those applauding the wholesale ditching of good manners may find out that they have ditched civilization itself.

The Christian faith never needed to resort to violence because she never needed violence. Rather, she has been a counterforce against the violence in every man, urging the imitation Jesus Christ who, like lamb that was led to the slaughter, opened not his mouth, who though being God, became man, and went lower still accepted death on the cross, in other to redeemed man.

Those who do violence in the name of the Christ know they are violating the faith they profess. Nowhere in Christ’s teaching is any form of violence toward others encouraged, rather Christ commands love of enemies and doing good to those who hate. The power of the Christ message is the only valid defense of the Christian faith. When Christians put the teachings of Christ into practice, Christians will convert the world, and today’s Christian must convert the world– by truly striving to be saints, for this world’s crisis are crises of saints.

Chinwuba Iyizoba





Stones would cry out: Kanye praises Jesus

31 10 2019

I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out!” Confound me if I am wrong, but are not these prophetic words of Jesus being fulfilled before our eyes. When so many Christians have denied their love for Jesus and embraced adulterous paganism; when christian celebrities shriek with horror when someone tries to associate them with Jesus in public for the sake of the worldly glamour, stones, men you least to expect are praising Jesus, in public and at the top of their voices. A lesson for all to see. Watch notorious Kanye West, rapper and songwriter and Chicago bad boy praising Jesus





Caught off guard, Hillary calls on Jesus Mary and Joseph

23 10 2019

If you want to know how tough someone is, put the fear of death in them. When the light fixtures at a studio where young Hillary Clinton and Bill were having a TV interview, she thought she was going to die, calling on Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

Today she is a self proclaimed atheist, denying the right of the unborn and persecuting Christians. Yet as Dolly Patton said, “I don’t see many death-bed atheist, when the time comes, they all start cramming. Death is inevitable and calls out all our pretenses because when death calls, truth answers.  The best advice is to live as you wish to die.

Watch Senator Ted Cruz speak on Hillary’s views on abortion below





A powerful proof of forgiveness, boy hugs officer who killed his brother

12 10 2019

A powerful proof of forgiveness, boy hugs officer who killed his brother.

“I forgive you, I love you, ” he said.

Watch this video of true forgiveness.

It was the last thing anyone was expecting.

Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger had just been sentenced to 10 years in prison for fatally shooting a black man, Botham Jean, in his own apartment.
Jean’s younger brother Brandt Jean was on the witness stand Wednesday, giving a victim-impact statement, when he turned to the judge and made a most unusual request.
“I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please?” he asked.
What happened next stunned both the courtroom and the nation. Jean stepped off the witness stand and stepped over to Guyger. The two hugged for nearly a minute.
“I forgive you. And I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you,” Jean told Guyger. “I think giving your life to Christ is the best thing Botham would want for you.”(source CNN)

Video of Amber Guyger, former cop being sentenced to 10 yrs for killing a man.





In God’s Land: The Temple of Jerusalem

26 09 2019
Second Temple of Jerusalem built by Herod

The Temple is located in Mount Moriah, over the rock on which God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22). Though he eventually sacrificed a ram instead of his son, that sacrifice created a blood bound between the Jews and God.

Solomon built the first Temple on that rock to commemorate the blood-bond, and since then, every Jew from all around the world would come here three times a year to renew that sacrifice. The Jews also believe that the rock of Moriah is the foundation of the world because God specifically wanted Isaac sacrificed on it.

There are three covenants feast days in Israel; first is the covenant on Mt. Sinai when God revealed to them the Torah; they keep this day a feast in all Israel, and they call it the Shavuot or the Feast of Pentecost.
The second is Yom Kippur, a day of atonement, and the holiest day of the year in which they recite the “Shema” (Hear oh Israel) as a way of remembering the promises and the third is the feast of Hanukkah or “the miracle of light” a remembrance of the time when the bottle of oil was refilling itself, as Judas Macabee rededicated the Temple profaned by Antiochus Epiphanies.

All the sacrifices in the Temple were done over the rock of Moriah just like Abraham did. The rock was enclosed in the chamber just before the room called Holy of Holies where the Arc of the Covenant rested

In the year 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, defeated Israel, ransacked and destroyed the first Temple and stole the Ark of the Covenant and it was lost forever.

When Herod came to power, there was already another temple, the second Temple built by Zerubabel, 520 BC. He didn’t like the fact that access to the Temple was narrow, so he began the expansion of the Temple. He used rocks from the mountain to build temple and it took him 46 years! So you could understand why people where angry when Jesus said he will rebuild the temple in 3 days.
In the Temple, the room called the Holy of Holies was oriented towards the west, which is towards sunset, while the rest of the building was oriented towards the east.

Jesus and his mother came to this Temple re-built by Herod, and it was in this Temple that Jesus went missing for three days while his mother and his father was looking for him.

Roman Emperor Vespasian and his son, Titus, to suppress the Jewish rebellion, destroyed the second Temple in 70AD, fulfilling the prophesy in Matthew 24:1-2 where Jesus prophesied that the Temple of Jerusalem would be destroyed and that its destruction would be so complete that not one stone would left on another.

Herod’s Temple wall was so big and so compact that to destroy it, the Roman soldeirs had to use explosives and the explosions were heard as far away as in Jericho 25km from Jerusalem. The Roman soldier expected to find gold when they broke into the holy of holies, but there was nothing. They left the ruins for centuries, without building anything on it, perhaps to rob salt into the wounds of the Jewish people and make it clear that they were totally defeated.

65 years after the destruction of the Temple, some remnant Jews regrouped and came back to rebuild the Temple. Led by Rabbi Simon bar Kokhba, they attacked and wiped out the 22nd legion of the Romans army stationed in Jerusalem. This is known as the Bar Kokhba revolt. They established an independent Jewish state which they ruled for three years.
In 135 AD, Roman Emperor Hadrian left Rome with a huge army to crush the revolt. He destroyed 700 villages, and killed one million Jews and sold the rest to slavery at the port city of Caesarea Maritime. It was said that there were so many Jewish slaves that the slave market collapsed. You could buy a healthy Jewish girl for a pair of sandals.

Hadrian emptied Jerusalem of the Jews and brought in all the enemies of the Jewish people to live in Jerusalem. He was the one that brought the Philistines, Palestinian, Syrians and the Edomites. That’s why you have a grand conflict here.

In the 7th century with the first Islamic expansion, the Muslims came and built a mosque over the rock of Moriah, which is today called the Dome of the Rock.

Pictures of Muslim Mosque called the Dome of the rock standing where Herod Temple once stood

We saw the quarry Herod used and the water system that the harmonium 200BC used to bring water to the temple

We went down the tunnel from the western wall all the way to the Antonio fortress viewing the original wall built by Herod. We saw the rituals bathrooms. It was custom that everyone coming into the temple had to take a rituals bath, coming from far. Then they will buy a rituals bathrobe, they would put on a white robe, change their money

Before the six days war, Israel was divided into east and west Jerusalem, with East Jerusalem belonging to Jordan. After Israel won the six day war, they unified Jerusalem under Israeli control and the walls dividing the city were torn down, they gained control and access to the Temple and made it possible for archeologist to begin excavations below the temple to discover the remains of their ancient past.
Each time the archeologists worked, though, there was a trouble with the Muslim who now occupy the temple mount are afraid that the Israelis are doing something under there that will make them fall down.

Despite the Muslim Mosque, “ Dome of the Rock” now standing where the Temple once stood, the children of Israel still believe that the presence of God is still on this mountain, on the Western wall. So they go there to pray , though they can no longer sacrifice the customary ram, the still pray and put pieces of paper .The custom of putting papers on the wall is because in those days not everyone could come to temple, they would give a prayer request to a friend to put in the wall

Pictures of Western Wall or Wailing Wall

We stood in front of where the holy of Holy temple

We saw the base of mount Moriah and we stood on a street paved by the Hasmonean Dynasty when there was no wall.

Standing at the entrance of the tunnel

Pictures under the tunnel of the Temple

We saw the system of tunnels to bring water from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. These tunnels were rebuilt by Herod to channel water to the temple. The waters are collected in cisterns. The temple needs water because of all the animals killed there. We came out directly one the Fortress of Antonio, also called Ecce homo, which is in the Muslims quarters

Lectures on Antonia Fortress

Herod built the Antonia Fortress to help the Romans keep an eye on the Temple because the Jews asked them not to enter into the temple area. Though the Roman agreed, because of fear of the huge crowd, they requested that Herod build a Fortress Antonia next to the Temple, from where they could house legions to deploy incase trouble broke out in the temple, like a rapid reaction squad. Even Pilate didn’t live in Jerusalem, but in Caesarea Maritime, yet, he would come to Jerusalem, to the Fortress, for the feast and keep an eye out for trouble.

Ecce Homo

In 1857, Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne, a French Jew and former atheist who converted to Catholicism and became a priest, decided to purchase the site and start a convent The sisters of Zion whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Muslims.

The sister of Zion, found on the pavement to an etching of a game by Roman soldiers discovered in 1864 involving the execution of a “monk king”, the flagstones of Gabbatha, which John 19:13 describes as the location where Pontius Pilate adjudged Jesus’ trial

Lithostrotos: Roman pavement, the site of Jesus’ trial at the Antonia Fortress. An etching of the game of the Kings, a game played by Roman soldiers which they throw dice until one loses is the called king; this was what they did to Jesus. According to Bill Slot, “The Kings Game:” an actual board game etched into the stones, on which the Roman soldiers played to pass the time in between guard shifts or patrol duty, tossing dice carved from sheep knuckles and moving tokens around a crown-shaped board. This game, known to historians as Basileus, has been found throughout the Roman Empire, wherever soldiers were fighting off boredom. Many Christian scholars have considered the irony of “The King’s Game” in the very place where, a century earlier, Roman soldiers had mocked Jesus, “King of the Jews,” crowning him with thorns, dressing him in royal purple and taunting him.

We celebrated Mass at the Church of Ecce Homo.

Pictures as we walked to the Church of Ecce Home after exiting the tunnels

Basilica of Ecce Homo, named for Pontius Pilate’s Ecce homo speech which is traditionally thought to have taken place on the pavement below the church.

Mass at Ecce Homo

Between 1858 and 1862, he built a basilica (the Church of Ecce Homo), which overlaps part of the gateway arch called Ecce homo. Though, the arch itself is not from the time of Pilate, still it is in this very place, in the Antonia Fortress, that that Jesus was mocked.

Jewish quarters

After destroying Jerusalem, Hadrian built a new city on the ruins and called it Aelia Capitolina and built the Cardo Maximus generally lined with shops and vendors, and served as a hub of economic life. Cardo Maximus is still visible on the Jewish Quarter Street, though the original pavement lies several meters below the modern street level. In the 7th century, when Jerusalem fell under Muslim rule, the Cardo became an Arab-style marketplace. Remains of the Byzantine Cardo were found in the Jewish Quarter excavations

Walking through the Jewish Quarter and Cardo Maximus

The Jewish Quarter is one of the four traditional quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem
The quarter is inhabited by around 2,000 residents Jews and is home to numerous yeshivas and synagogues, most notably the Hurva Synagogue, destroyed numerous times and rededicated in 2010.(source Wikipedia)

Visit to the Hurva Synagogue





In God’s Land: Nazareth and Mount of Transfiguration

21 09 2019

20th September 2019

We had early breakfast, by 6.30am to be precise, and departed for Nazareth by 7.20 am prompt. Nazareth has about 70,000 inhabitants today, but in the time of Jesus, it had just about 100 people. It is a two hour drive from the city of Jerusalem.

We took the shortest way; high way 6, because we needed to get there on time to see Nazareth and celebrate Mass is at 11 am at the Church of Annunciation.

Our mission is to visit Mary’s well; a well that ancient tradition says was frequently used by the Blessed Virgin Mary and the boy, Jesus. We also hope see the workshop of St. Joseph, and the cliff from which the people of Nazareth wanted to push Jesus down in an act that is best described as an attempted murder. After Mass we intend to visit the ancient village of Cana where Jesus turned water into wine at the insistence of his mother and finally we will end our tour with a visit to mount Tabor, the mountain where Jesus transfigured and his clothes became dazzling white, in the presence of his apostles and with apparition of Moses and Elijah. (Mark 9:3)

As you can see it’s a tight schedule for one day thus the early rising.

Nazareth

350m above sea level, Nazareth was where everything started. God took flesh in the womb of a woman, the most pure womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lk 1:26-38). On the way, we saw the Chapel of our Lady of the freight, to commemorate Mary seeing the people of Nazareth trying to cast Jesus into the cliff. (Lk 4:29)

In the time of our Jesus, there were just about 30 families living in Nazareth. Today, Nazareth is the biggest Arab town owned by Israel. Most of the inhabitants are Muslims.

We entered Nazareth using the Via Maris (the way of the see), a high way that begins in Memphis in the delta of the Nile towards the lake of Galilee. We passed through the valley of the “seed of God” also called Jezreel, very fertile plain with abundance of agriculture. From the bus we saw rows and rows of cultivated fields. Agriculture is the highest export of Israel and a huge source of income. We passed through the land of Gideon
Finally we left the plains of Jezreel up to Nazareth.

Story of two Churches and Mary’s well

In Nazareth, there are two Churches of the annunciation. One belongs to the Greek Orthodox, who claims that the first apparition of Arc Angel Gabriel to Mary took place at the well whilst she was fetching water; she took fright and ran to her house. It was at the second apparition that she was finally calm enough to listen to the Angel and thus the orthodox built a Church near the well, and to give tourist something to see, they diverted the spring that fed the original Mary’s well to the Church, so Mary’s well is no longer flowing because this.

Pictures of Mary’s well

Mary’s well
Our guide, Oliver explains why Mary’s well is dry

Sad and unfortunately, this the only spring of fresh water in Nazareth, and they are using it up all for themselves.
We stopped to look the dry well of Mary, before proceeding to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, at least to have a look at the original water of the well.

Pictures of the Visit to the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation

Pictures ate the courtyard of the Greek Orthodox church of the annuciation
Seated inside the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
Roof of the Church

The grievance between the Catholics and the Greek Orthodox goes back many century and many versions of the conflicts bear the bias of who is telling the story. Some say that the bone of contention was that the fourth crusaders sacked Byzantium, stole the true cross, crown of thorns, which led to the mutual excommunications between the two branches.

The synagogue that almost murdered Jesus

Next, we visited the 1st century synagogue where the boy Jesus and his father and mother often went to pray. It was a stone throw from Mary’s house. It was here that they wanted to throw him off the cliff after he had read the scroll. The story is told in Luke

It reads:
“Jesus returned to his hometown Nazareth, from Capernaum, and he went to the synagogue. The synagogue official gave him the scroll to read, they didn’t like his interpretation and they tried to cast him of a cliff.” Luke (4:16-29)

The Jews had a custom they called Bar mitzvah in which every boy who comes of age is given the scroll of the book of the prophet Isaiah to read and afterwards asked to explain or interpret the verse he had read for all in the synagogue. If he passes, he is included as one of the ten that can start a synagogue. Jesus was given the scroll and the people didn’t like how he interpreted it and wanted to kill him.

Church of the Annunciation


When we left the synagogue, we went straight the authentic Church of the Annunciation, which is next to the synagogue. According to an ancient tradition passed on by some Fathers of the Church, some relations of Jesus were still living in Nazareth in the 2nd century had preserved both the room in which the Angel Gabriel visited Mary, and the house of the Holy Family. There are written testimonies of pilgrims who visited the house in Nazareth in the 4th century when it was already a place venerated by Christians, complete with an altar.

Pictures of the Church of the Annunciation

Catholic Church of the Annunciation
Introduction from Saxum
Walls surrounding the Church is covered with beautiful paintings of Mary from all corner of the world
Entrance
Different depictions of Mary inside the Church
Side view of the Church
Sculptor of Mary as a young girl over the entrance

The Catholic Church of Annunciation the biggest, most magnificent church in the Middle East. It was built over the site of an earlier Byzantine-era and then Crusader-era church. Inside, the lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, the remains of the original childhood home of Mary. Scientific tests on the house in Loreto matches the one here, in Nazareth, likewise the graffito written on the walls and traces of oil found on the wall dating back to the time of Jesus are identical in both places.

On the front door of the Church, there is a depiction of the major events in Jesus’ life.

Pictures of the Front door of the Church

Inscriptions at the door
Designs on the wall
Pilgrims visiting the Church
Magnificent Image of our lady at the Annunciation from Philipines
magnificent depictions at the door ” the life of Mary”
Inside the upper floor
Church of the Annunciations is the biggest church in the middle east

We recited the Salve Regina inscribed on the wall on both sides of the main door. Above the door, there is a bronze sculptor of Mary as a young girl, looking towards Calvary, Jerusalem

Then on the arcades of the Church, there are paintings of Mary from different countries of the world; Germany, Japan, Philippines and so on.
In 1964, when the Church was being built, the Pope Paul VI wondered if it was necessary to have such a big Church, in such a small town, but today Christians of Nazareth are grateful because they didn’t know that they would become a minority

The Church consists of two floors. The ground floor is at the level of the grotto of the 1st century house where Mary lived, and the upper floor of the Church has many stained glass windows and paintings of Mary donated from every country in the world.

The altar piece is a magnificent painting of heaven with all the saints and martyrs walking towards eternal happiness with Mary depicted in an amazing representation as giving birth to the Church.

Pictures of the upper floor

Preparing for Mass at the Upper floor
dome of the Church

On the ground floor is original room that Mary was in when the Angel visited her. Its white stone wall blackened with age and behind a small stair case going to an upper floor

Pictures of ground floor and grotto of Mary’s house

Loswer floor, house of Mary 1st Century
Reaching up to take a shot
Standing in front of Mary’s house
Panoramic view of Mary’s house
Shot at the circle from which Mary’s house can be seen from upper floor

Nazareth means the of spring water. It is amazing how insignificant this little town had been before the birth of Jesus, for instance, the Old Testament never mentioned Nazareth, neither does Josephus, the Jewish historian, who is reputed to record anything important to the Jews. It is marvelous that God has chooses such a lowly place to come down to meet us. This should encourage everyone one who feels left behind, that God chooses the lowly and enfeebled things of this world to confound the rich and the powerful.

We attended Mass at the upper floor of the Church of Annunciation by 11 am

Pictures of the Mass

At exactly 12 noon, the bells of the Church of the Annunciation started ringing out melodies and the scene of the annunciation was reenacted as the Franciscans gave a benediction from inside the house of Nazareth while we stood aside and watched.

Pictures of Noon Benediction

Like we said earlier, this Church is the biggest Church in the Middle East, and it therefore the envy of all. In 2002, Muslims raised money to build a big mosque directly in front of the Church of the annunciation. The intended that mosque would be bigger and over shadow her glory.

The day the foundation, the fundamentalist Muslims were gleefully shouting in unison “Today Nazareth, tomorrow the world!”
But things quickly went out of control, and riots broke out, many Christian shops were burnt and looted causing the Israeli government intervene and cancel the project, forcing the Muslim to stop the constructions and uprooted the foundation already begun.

The city of Nazareth is run by Muslim families, thus sanitation is poor, laws are not enforced, and the town is badly run. In the ottoman where here for 400 yrs and they really didn’t care about the local population, so no hospitals where built. Thanks to foreign countries that mercifully came and built and built hospitals, there might not have been any hospitals in Nazareth today.

There’s a minaret and a mosque on the highest point in Nazareth. How it happened was that 23 yrs ago, a family asked if they could hire this highest point, and the owner said yes, the family lived there for a few months and then gradually built a mosque on top of the peak. The problem is that once a mosque is built, it’s impossible to remove it. That place becomes holy ground. That’s why the foundation of the one that they attempted to build over the Church of annunciation had to be removed. So they built the mosque by stealth.

After spending time in the Church of the annunciation, we walked over to another Church, called the Church of St. Joseph. It is said that the workshop in which Joseph the carpenter and the foster father of Jesus was located here. What we saw were ritual baths and what looked like a place for baptism. The workshop must have been converted into a church during the first century and hence the ritual baths.

Pictures of the Church of St Joseph

Ritual births in the Church of St. Joseph

Cana

We finally left Nazareth about 1 pm to go to Cana. We passed by the ancient Roman town of Sephoris. This town is not mentioned in bible but was very rich and close to Nazareth. Perhaps, some of Joseph’s clients lived there since it was just 3km from Nazareth and perhaps Jesus used to accompany his father there to make deliveries. Sephoris was rich Roman city, and Jesus must have seen luxurious life, huge balcony and opulence, in contrast to his cave like home in Nazareth.

Pictures on the road to Cana

Pilgrims who came to renew there marriage vows

When we entered the city of Cana, we saw that all the shops here advertise “the Wine of Cana,” the Miracle of Jesus in Cana. Archeologically, there is no certainty of the authenticity of this Cana and as it where, many other Canas have cropped up, with competing claims of being the authentic Cana of scriptures. Still, it was good to be here.

Pictures of Church of Cana

Underneath the Church at Cana

As we were at Church of Cana, a group of people came to renew their marriage vows.
Cana is about the superabundance of the grace of sacraments. We bought the wine of Cana, sweet wine

Mt. Tabor


When we left the Church of Cana, our next destination was Mount Tabor.
Tabor is on the outskirts of Cana and before we could leave Cana and get to the outskirts, we encountered lots of traffic because the Muslims were coming from the mosque and school children closing from school.

Pictures of the road to Mt. Tabor

Mt Tabor
Tabor and surrounding district
On the bus up Tabor
Church of Transfiguration at the back ground

We passed by the Bedouin town of Shibli is set at the foot of Mount Tabor. It consists of a single clan, and everyone has the same surname and they intermarry between themselves. This is not only a health hazard but a logistic nightmare for a postman who has to deliver parcels to them.

We had a quick lunch at the base of Mt. Tabor before boarding taxis that took us up to the peak of Mt Tabor. Tabor is 640m above sea level and this is where Jesus transfigured before three of his apostles, Peter James and John. Moses and Elijah appear during the transfiguration. This is also where in the Old Testament, Deborah fought and killed the Canaanites.

Church of Mt. Tabor

Nowhere in the gospel is the Tabor mentioned, yet Jesus chose this mount to display his glory to the apostles to strengthen them for his coming passion and death. The Byzantines have originally built a church at this peak. The crusaders also built a church here. They were all knocked down by the Muslims until the Franciscans came and bought the property and gave the contract to the same architect that built Shepherd fields, and many others churches

Pictures of Inside the Church of Mt. Tabor

Entering the Church of Transfiguration
A group of south African pilgrims having Mass
Painting of Moses on the Roof of the Church
Views from the hieght of Tabor
Church of transfiguration

On the left inside the church, is the Chapel of Moses with Ray of light.
Then the Chapel of Elijah, with his animals.
At the bottom of the Church, a beautiful image of Jesus transfiguration. On the longest day, the light shines in on this image and it shimmering and beautiful. The roof is made of alabaster, because the architecture wanted people to be transfigured.

It is said that every year, a batch of young drug addicts come here from Italy, working and praying to be transformed.

Why did the Lord choose to transfigure himself in a place that was so far from where he lived and required a strenuous physical effort over a long trail?” Blessed Alvaro gives the answer himself, saying “that it was probably so that we could see with our own eyes that to reach God, we also have to put in a human effort that is physical sometimes.”





In God’s Land: Jesus in Prison and Peter Denies

18 09 2019

Basilica of St. Peter in Gallicantu

The band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas; for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.

Peter, terrified by the servants, denied having anything to do with Jesus. “I do not know him; I do not know what you are saying; I do not know this man!”
And immediately, while he was still speaking, a cock crowed and the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” He went out and wept bitterly.
On the door of the Church of Peter in Gallicantu (Gallicantu means “cock crow”) commemorates the triple denial of Peter and the bitter tears he wept after the cook crowed.
It is located on the eastern slope of Mount Zion outside the old Jerusalem wall.

Pictures of the exterior of the Basilica of St. Peter in Gallicantu

Art work on the door of St. Peter in Gallicantu


At the entrance is a joint art work of Jews, Muslims and Christians of Jesus at supper with his discipline and telling them that one of you will betray me.

Inside the Basilica of St. Peter in Gallicantu

In inside the first floor of the Church, is the court of the Sanhedrin, with fresco of 12 Sanhedrin judging Jesus on the altar piece.
Jesus’ trial was illegal because courts do not open at night. And no trails should hold during Passover.

Jesus’ Prison

From here we went down below to the house of Caiaphas proper and the dungeon below. Prisoners arrested at night where usually thrown into the dungeon till the morning when trial could hold. The prisoners, hand tied, were dropped down through a hole and then they are fastened facing the wall with hooks. The prison was discovered accidentally when the hammer of a construction worker dropped accidentally and fell through a hole in the ground.

The hole from which Jesus bound hands and feet was let down into the dungeon

We read the psalm (88) here and touched the wall where Jesus was bound till morning. Next, we climbed back up, and looking at the purity bath, or ritual baths, or micvah which Caiaphas had in his home. This practice has been adopted by the Muslims also.

Where Peter denied Jesus

We then went to where Peter denied Christ three times, outside, at the courtyard. There was a statue of him with the two maids.

The stairs used by Jesus to go from the upper room to gethsemane


From this balcony we could see the garden of Olives and Gethsemane
We also saw the stairs that Jesus used to go to from the Cenacle across the Kidron valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. Also visible from there was the east end of the temple, said to be the spot on which King David was standing when he saw a naked woman bathing and committed adultery with her and subsequently murder.
There also he saw the angel of God standing by the dome of the rock, (rock of Moriah) ready to destroy the city of Jerusalem, and he pleaded with angel to spare the city and kill him(David) instead.
The angels said to him “Go to the Mount and make a sacrifice.”
After he had made the sacrifice, he said to the angle, “Let me build you a temple here. But the Lord said no, since his hands were stained with blood, and told him that his son, Solomon will build the temple. We left the Basilica after staying there for about an hour, pondering the deep love that God has for us, we headed to the Church of the Dormition of Mary, where we were to celebrate the Holy Mass

On our way to the Basilica of Dormition of Mary

We arrived the Church of Dormition of Mary located in the highest point on Mount Zion. The location is identified in Christian tradition as the place where the Virgin Mary died — or “fell asleep”, as the name suggests. Christian sources say that Mary was probably 50 years old when she died. There are claims that Mary died in Ephesus, Turkey, but this is not supported by the early Christians. According to St. John Damascene, “St Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon [AD 451], made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St Thomas [who arrived late], was found empty; wherefrom the apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.”

Pictures of the exterior and interior of the Basilca of the Dormition of Mary

Basilica of Dormition of Mary
Mosiac art work of Mary careing for infant Jesus on the dome
Mosiac floor of the Basilca of Dormition of Mary

On the ground floor of the Church, there is a life size statue of Mary sleeping.

Life size statue of Mary sleeping
Mosiac of six Old Testament women above the sleeping statue
Painting above the statue of Mary sleeping: Jesus caring for Mary in Heaven
Painting on the basilica dome: Mary cared for Jesus on earth

On the mosaic above the statue of our lady Dormition, there are paintings of six women in the Old Testament.

We said the Hail Mary Six times besides the statue of sleeping Mary.
There were more details we could have missed. The painting on the dome in the basilica proper was Mary caring for Jesus which represents the humanity of Jesus. While the painting on the dome above the sleeping statue showed Jesus caring for Mary in heaven which represents the divinity of Jesus.

We heard Mass at the Basilica of Dormition of Mary

It was a great experience to celebrate Mass at the place where Mary the Mother of Jesus breathed her last. We ask her to intercede for us who still remain her till we go to join her in her in heaven where she is.

Pictures after the Mass





In God’s Land: Gethsemane, Jesus’ Agony

16 09 2019

“Father, remove this cup from me, but not my will but thine be done.”
When God’s appointed time comes to save mankind from the slavery of sin, we contemplate Jesus Christ in Gethsemane, suffering in agony to the point of sweating blood (cf. Lk 22:44). He spontaneously and unconditionally accepts the sacrifice which the Father is asking of him.
Ancient information located the grotto of Gethsemane, in the Kidron Valley, where Jesus went with his disciple, and where he was arrested. Excavations which took place after a flooding revealed that place was previously an olive press with olive gardens and a cistern. In 4 century AD, a byzantine rock church was built there and later rebuilt in the 6th. Also several tombs were excavated near by witnessing to the ancient tradition of burying the dead near holy places.

The Garden of Olives

The Church of Gethsemane has 16 domes because 16 nations donated to rebuild this church. Gethsemane was an olive oil press. Inside the garden, 8 of the trees here still dates to the time of Jesus. It was a garden or orchard where there was an oil-press (this is the meaning of the name Gethsemane), and it was outside the city walls of Jerusalem, to the east of the city, on the way to Bethany.

Pictures of the Garden of Olives

The Church of Gethsemane

Inside the Church of Gethsemane, the blue-ish purple color of the stained glass windows helps pilgrims pray. The Church faces the golden or beautiful gate where Peter healed the blind man. It has a deer on the roof. The deer is on the dome is the symbol of psalm, like a deer thirsts for water so my soul is thirsts for the living God. In the year 2009, Benedict 16th celebrated Mass in the olive garden across and the President of Israel, Netanyahu, attended

Pictures of Church of Gethsemane

The stone on which our lord sweated blood

Here we are touching the stone on which Jesus sweated blood while he was praying

Mary’s Empty Tomb

Next we went to see the empty tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where she was assumed body and soul into heaven. When Mary passed away, they laid her in-corrupt body at Mount Zion for nine days. After, they took her to the burial grounds of Gethsemane and buried her. Jews buried their dead facing the temple and thus our Lady’s tomb faced the temple.
Three days later, they found the tomb empty.
According to archeologist, Niccacci, there was an ancient text that was read during the feast of Assumption which described the location of Mary’s tomb as part of the Jewish burial ground or (Necropolis)
In 1959, excavations revealed that the Mary’s empty tomb was on a burial ground, there was a happy coincidence between this literature and archaeological findings. Early Jewish Christians had isolated the tomb from the rest of the tombs and preserved it with veneration. Two churches, one upon another were built by the Byzantines in the 5th century BC.
We celebrated Mass at the Grotto of Gethsemane (Where Jesus was arrested, betrayed by Judas with a kiss)

Pictures of the Empty Tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Inside Mary’s tomb

Mass at Gethsemane

A place of agony, a place of our incapacity to keep close to our lord in prayer! We ask God to teach us to abandon our selves to the will of God. Help us to always do the will of God

Church of the Pater Noster

Next, leaving Gethsemane we went to the Pater noster Church.
It’s the place where our lord thought the disciples the prayer, Pater Nostra. It’s also here that our lord ascended into heaven. It’s also here that our lord wept over Jerusalem.
We had to pay money to enter because it is controlled by Muslims. When Saladin conquered, he converted it to a business, Muslim businessmen pay to hire it and charge money from Christian pilgrims.

Pictures of the Church of the Pater Noster

The Church of Pater Noster today has the arch of the crusader.
Our Lord loved the Mount of Olives because it over looked the city of Jerusalem. It was from the Mount of Olives that Jesus ascended into heaven. It was also here that our lord wept over Jerusalem. The Mount has numerous caves and it is in one of them that Jesus taught his disciples the “Our lord’s prayer” or the “Pater Noster” as it is called in Latin. The Church of the Pater Noster stand on the Mount of Olive, astride one of the caves in which ancient tradition says Jesus taught this prayer per excellence.
It was built under the direction of Constantine’s mother Helena in the early 4th century. The church survived intact until it was destroyed by Persians in 614.
In the year 1875, a young princess, Princess Aurelia Bossi came to the Holy land and saw Muslims selling the remaining stones of the 4th-century church for tombstones, she paid them off and acquired the land, and handed it to the French government. She is buried here as a mark of gratitude for recovering this place from the Muslims.
In the Church, the Pater Noster is written in 173 languages. There’s also a piece of mosaic left over from the basilica built by St. Helena

Yes, it is a cave, winter is cold, and our Lord had no money to pay for hotels, so he and his disciples gathered in caves they didn’t have heating. Here, in this cave, Jesus spoke about the end and about his passion and death. When he finished, one of his disciples asked him, Lord teach us to Pray
Here we held hands and sang the Pater Noster in English, Philippines and Igbo.

We saw the plaque in Samaritan. They were part of the Jews, but were excommunicated because they mingled with Babylon. Today, they (Samaritans) still intermarry between themselves and thus are dying out. There are just only 760 Samaritans remaining in the world (380 in Jerusalem and 380 in Shecem) and many of them are retarded.

Ascension

Next we went to the Chapel of Ascension
There are two foot prints of the Lord which he left as he was lifted up to heaven chiseled into a rock but one has been removed and put in the dome of the Rock. From here our lord Ascended to Heaven

Pictures of our visit to the Chapel of Ascension

Video from Saxum on the Ascension

Church of Dominos Flevit. Where our lord wept over Jerusalem.


Next we climbed further up to the Church of Dominos Flevit, this was where Christ wept, crying:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! – – Matthew 23:37
Jerusalem, a city that Jesus loved so much, that never returned the love of God because they have not learned how to be friends of God. We become God’s friends through prayer. When we persevere in prayer, even if it is repeating over and over, Jesus I love you.
As St. Augustine says, “It must burn in you that which you want to ignite in others.” Jesus was burning with sacrificial love for Jerusalem, wishing to heal her and teach her the way of live but she wouldn’t listen.
Planted in front of the Church was the tree of the crown of thorns

The Church of Dominus Flevit overlooks today the dome of the rock and the Alaska mosque, because the prophesy of Jesus was fulfilled in the year AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed, and the temple burnt down, such that there was no one stone left upon another.

That is the focus of the trouble between the Jews and the Muslims. The Muslims claim that the rock enclosed by the dome is the place where Prophet Mohammed ascended. But yet the Temple Mount was the holy place of the Jews many centuries before the birth of Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam. King Solomon constructed the first temple in the very place that the dome of the rock is today in 900 B.C, but it was destroyed by the Babylonians. Second temple was built by Herod 20 B.C. This destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Mohammed was born in 22 April, 571 AD

To enter the Al-aqsa mosque and the temple mount is free but there was a time it cost ten dollars per visit. They stopped collecting money after the second intifada which started when the then Israeli President, Ariel Sharon entered the Al-aqsa mosque. As we stood looking at Jerusalem and the temple mount from the Church of Dominus Flevit, time for the Muslim prayers arrived and at once powerful microphones started blasting out Islamic prayer call to prayers.

Pictures of Dominus Flevit