Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nazareth's First Century Spring

I've sort of waited for this day. And, before I begin, I want you all to know what I am about to tell you, I say in all serious jest.

There's a mean old man sweeping the floors of the Church of St. Gabriel in Nazareth. I've encountered him not once, but twice. But before I warn you ... um, tell you ... about him, let me tell you about this marvelous place and what it is built over.

According to the Orthodox tradition, Mary -- the mother of Jesus, before she was his mother -- was drawing water from the first century well when she received the call on her life from none other than Gabriel. The spring leading to the well remains, as does the well, but several years ago, during renovation, the water supply was cut off to the well.

As a young girl and as a woman living in Nazareth, this is the only location Mary would have and could have gone to daily to fetch water for her family.

The Church of St. Gabriel was originally built circa 600-700 AD and was and is dedicated to the archangel, Gabriel. The chapel of the church we are able to see today is from the Middle Ages with the church itself built in 1750.

Inside the church one finds distinguished iconostasis, highly-polished pews, paintings honoring God and His story told beneath this location, deep golds and rich reds. It's quite dark, really. Warm by its nature but stand-offish in a way. Come but don't touch, it seems to say.

Or maybe that's the crotchety old man ...

At any rate, directly ahead of the front door from which light spills in from a courtyard where street vendors sell their good and several cafes offer culinary delights, are seven worn steps leading to the Chapel of the Spring.

And there, trickling below a low-burning lamp and surrounded by numerous depictions of Mary, is the source of the water.

Of course I have to share with you the funny part of this story. We wanted to take pictures (we managed to get a few) but the man yelled at us. Sharon and I sat in one of the pews, hoping to hear from God in the opulence and silence of the church. Eyes closed, we both managed to drink in a drop or two of Living Water.

But, the old man fussed at us and told us to get up. So we did. Feeling pretty rejected, our team of six journalists, one guide, and one IMOT rep, went out into the courtyard. It was then I found my courage. I wanted footage of the spring, by Golly. I tucked my video camera into my purse, left my other camera equipment and carrying case with my comrades, and headed back into the ancient building.

"What do you want now?" the man asked from just inside the door.

I hadn't expected a question. I answered, "I'm going back in" in the most firm tone I have.

The man stepped aside; I marched toward the barrel-vaulted chapel, descended the steps, slipped the camera out of my purse, prayed the man didn't hear the little bell that sounds when I turn the camera on (he didn't, I suppose) and ... voila! Film!


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