Saturday, December 29, 2012

Forgiveness



Christ is Born! Glorify Him!










Here are a couple of wonderful and unexpected emails that were sent to me.
Beautiful! I hope you think so too.


Christmas Eve....
written by Fr. Richard Wurmbrand, who witnessed these events, 

    When I was in jail I fell very, very ill.  I had tuberculosis of the whole surface of both lungs, diabetes, heart failure, and other sicknesses I can't even remember.  I was near to death.  At my right had was a priest who was the abbot of a monastery.  He had been so tortured that death was knocking at his door.  But his face was serene.  He spoke about his hope of heaven, about  his love of Christ, about his faith. 
He radiated joy.
     On my left side was the Communist torturer who happened to be the one who had tortured this priest almost to death.  Some time later, he had been arrested by his own comrades.  As you  can see,
atheists don't hate, only Christians or Jews they hate everyone and everything.  They hate each other.  And so it happened to this Communist torturer, who was was beaten and tortured by his comrades
and was now dying beside me.  His soul was in agony.  During the night he would awaken me, saying, "Father, please pray for me.  I can't die, I have committed such terrible crimes."
     Then I saw a miracle.  I saw the agonized priest calling two other prisoners.  And leaning on their shoulders, slowly, slowly he walked past my bed, sat on the bedside of the murderer, and caressed his head - I will never forget such a scene.  I watched a murdered man taking care of his murderer!  The priest said to the man, "You are young, you did not know what you were doing.  "I love you with all my heart."  However, he didn't just say the words, I love you, he truly loved him.  "I love you with all my heart."
     Then he went on...."If I who am a sinner can love you so much, imagine Christ, who is 'Love Incarnate', how much He loves you!  And all the followers of Christ, whom you have treated unjustly, know that 
they love you and they forgive you.  And Christ loves you.  He wishes you to be saved much more than you wish to be saved.  You wonder if your sins can be forgiven.  Know that He wishes to forgive you more
than you wish to be forgiven.  He desires for you to be with Him in heaven much more than you wish to be in heaven with Him.  Because He is Love.  You only need to turn to Him and repent."
     In this prison cell, you could now hear the confession of the murderer to the murdered.  It happens that in life, some events that are so powerful occur which could sound like they came out of a novel. 
The victim giving absolution to his torturer.  Then they prayed together, embraced each other and the priest dragged himself back to his bed.  Both men fell asleep in the Lord that night, Christ called them to be
close to Him.  It was Christmas Eve, but it was not a Christmas Eve in which we simply remember that two thousand years ago Christ was born in Bethlehem.  It was a Chrismas Eve during which Christ was born in the heart of a Communist murderer.
     These are the things, which I witnessed with my own eyes.

Response:
 In the early 1970’s I was a student (and a Greek teaching fellow) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.  The seminary brought in the eyewitness author of this story, Richard Wurmbrand, to give a remarkable series of public lectures, unlike any I have heard before or since.  While there, he and his wife Sabina stayed in a dormitory room virtually adjacent to the room I shared with my best friend, Vance Drum (now a prison chaplain in Huntsville,TX), so Vance and I were privileged to have some private chats with the Wurmbrands over those days.  Both of them were full of peace and joy and radiated Christian faith, hope, and love to a degree we had never encountered.

Richard Wurmbrand was a Romanian Lutheran pastor (of Jewish descent) during the dark period of Communist rule in Romania.  He was arrested for preaching Christ, and spent many years in the unspeakably cruel prisons devised by the Communists for torturing Christians into renouncing Christ.  He was finally ransomed out, and the Wurmbrands became refugees in America until the fall of Communism in 1990, when they returned to Romania.  He died in 2001 at the age of 91.

You can read the Wikipedia article on his life here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Wurmbrand

I had read his famous book Tortured for Christ in my teens, so I was very excited to get to meet him.  His body was obviously mangled from torture, and he suffered pain and disability from it the rest of his life.  When he gave testimony before the US Congress, he was asked to remove his shirt so that his scars and disfigurement could be seen.

Though Pastor Wurmbrand never entered the Orthodox Church (at least in this life), he was very sympathetic to the Orthodox because most of his fellow prisoners were Orthodox Christians, including many priests and monks (among them Fr. George Calciu, of blessed memory).   He maintained close friendships with some of them who had also escaped to America, and became a friend to the monks of St. Herman’s Monastery in Platina, CA.

Fr. George Calciu was the spiritual father of my godson James, who introduced me to him on a visit to Washington, DC.  I won’t be surprised if Fr. George is added to the calendar some day.  Fr. George spoke to me warmly about his friend Pastor Wurmbrand.

Though I knew nothing of Orthodoxy when I met Pastor Wurmbrand, later it became clear to me that his heart and his thinking had been strongly influenced by Orthodoxy.

There are numerous books in English by and about both Pastor Wurmbrand and Fr. George, and I commend them to you for your spiritual nourishment.

This Christmas Eve, I am looking forward to sharing with you our first Orthodox Nativity services, and our first services in Midland with our new iconostasis.

May the newborn Christ bring us the gift of deep forgiveness He gave to those Romanian sufferers.  Peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Reader Mark

Tuesday, December 18, 2012




Katherine Bolger Hyde has multiplied the  capability of her very sweet book of 'Lucia Saint of Light' by creating a video using the lovely illustrations of the book along with a lively and excellent narration of the story to give it an enlarged dimension. This is a great buy as a Christmas Gift for the children on your list at $4.99 and a wonderfully entertaining production that includes the life of the Saint as well as the traditions surrounding the celebration of Saint Lucia of the Light. I recommend it highly! From Conciliar Press

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Currently in Syria

How can people do this to others? 


A countless number of Christians and Muslims are victims of the violence; the hospitals are full with injuries and the pain is endless. Syrians, in spite of their religious backgrounds, have the right to live in their country with pride and dignity. During the past fifteen months, we have lost many people and a large number of Syrians were forced to evacuate from their homes. Christians had to flee their towns, cities and everything they own, and our beloved priests had to leave their churches.

We call all Syrians, in the name of God, to accept each other and live as one nation in our beloved Syria, the cradle of prophets and religions. We urge the United Nations and all Arab organizations to understand and respect our beloved country and to work together in order to achieve peace and stability in Syria.

Ignatius IV

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

source: http://www.antiochian.org/content/appeal-primate-antiochian-orthodox-church

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Word

I can almost hear it.

It must have been a Breath that sounded like an echoing expelling of air at the beginning of things.  It came flowing and pushing the waters at its center.  Droplets were thrown into the air and pooled from their center out, out over the whole of the universe.  The waters took up the Breath and the motion of the Breath and began to breath also from that single Breath. Waves were formed and they continued that breath in an out, chasing back and forth across the surface of the earth.
And then there was a Word and it was with the earth and small creatures were nudged into being by the Thoughts of the One God.

Our words because we are His creatures have a great power to invite, to create, to cause to grow; or to criticize, to condemn, to fill with thoughts of hellish worlds casting those that eat of them into places of soul destroying darkness.

How careful we have to be that our words are Love.

A Contribution for

Orthodox Synchroblog  

Others contributing to this month’s Synchroblog are:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Check out these photos of the Holy Land

Fr. Ilya has just posted many, many photos of the Holy Land on his FaceBook page.

Go to this site to see them. http://www.facebook.com/events/453502727994420/453734954637864/

 He has made my job very easy and I will put all of you that have been following this
journey on my BlogSpot in his hands.  These are wonderful pictures.
Have fun looking at them.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Day 6 - Saturday, November 3, 2012

Our first day in Galilee will begin by exploring the vicinity of “sea” of Galilee. We plan to visit a number of sites around the lake. To cover the territory in one day is impossible, but some of the most important sites are definitely on the list: we will visit Capernaum, where Jesus made his home during the years of His earthly ministry; the Mount of Beatitudes where Our Lord taught His followers the New Testament “ten commandments” Tabgha, with church of multiplication of loaves and fishes; and Kursi, the place where Lord healed the Gadarine demoniacs and where the herd of swine rushed into the sea and drowned.





The Sea of Galilee:

The Sea of Galilee lies on the ancient Via Maris, which linked Egypt with the northern empires. The Greeks, Hasmoneans, and Romans founded flourishing towns and settlements on the land-locked lake including Gadara, Hippos and Tiberias. The first-century historian Flavius Josephus was so impressed by the area that he wrote, "One may call this place the ambition of Nature." Josephus also reported a thriving fishing industry at this time, with 230 boats regularly working in the lake. Archaeologists discovered one such boat, nicknamed the Jesus Boat, in 1986. The native talapia fish is called "Peter's Fish" in honor of the apostle.
         


Jesus picked four of his apostles from the shores of Lake Galilee: the fishermen Simon and his brother Andrew and the brothers John and James. One of Jesus' famous teaching was the Sermon on the Mount, which was given on a hill overlooking the lake. Many of his miracles are also said to have occurred here including his walking on water, his calming the storm, and his feeding five thousand people and other stories from the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. 

Capurnam:

 Inhabited from 150 B.C. to around A.D. 750 Capernaum is mentioned in the book of Matthew and is thought to be the birthplace of the apostles Peter, Andrew, James and John.  In the 4th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew he refers to Capernaum as the home of Jesus.  It is know that Jesus taught in the temple located there. The temple is located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and takes its name from the Hebrew for 'Nahum's village' (Kfar Nahum)

There also Jesus healed a man afflicted with an unclean devil, restored Simon Peter's mother-in-law to health, and granted the wish of a Roman centurion to cure his servant. 

The area of the Gardarine Demoniac:

John MacGregor, The Rob Roy on the Jordan (p. 378-380, c1869,c 1904 ) describes this location.

Between Wady Semakh (at the Kursi Junction) and Wady Fik (near Kibbutz En Gev) there are at least four distinct localities where every feature in the Scripture account of this incident may be found in combination.  Above there are rocks with caves in them, very suitable for tombs, and farther down there is ample space for tombs built on sloping ground--a form of sepulture far more prevalent in Scripture times than we are apt to suppose.  A verdant sward is here, with many bulbous roots which swine might feed upon.  And on this I observed--what is an unusual site--a very large herd of oxen, horses, camels, sheep, asses, and goats, all feeding together.  It was evident that the pasturage was various and enough for all--a likely place for "a herd of swine feeding on the mountain."
Khersa, near this, in ruins, was probably the Gergesa of old, and, as has been observed repeatedly by authors, this might well be in the "country of the Gadarenes," though a considerable distance from the town of Gadara.  We are told that, "the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place."  It does not say a "high" place, but "steep," and that they "ran" (not, they "fell") down this "into the sea."  There are several steeps near the sea here, but only one so close to the water as to make it sure that, if a herd "ran violently" down, they would go "into the sea."  But the place which I regard as most likely for the site of this event is at the end of the short plain under some rocks, and near the green plateau, where the swine could feed.  Here, for a full half-mile, the beach is of a form different from any other round the lake, and from any I have noticed in any lake or sea before.  It is flat until close to the edge.  There a hedge of oleanders fringes the end of the plain, and immediately below these is a gravel beach, inclined so steep that, when my boat was at the shore I could not see over the top even by standing up, while the water alongside is so deep that it covered my paddle (seven feet long) when dipped in vertically a few feet from the shore.  Now, if the swine rushed along this short plain towards this hedge of underwood (and in the delta of Semakh, their usual feeding place would be often amount to thick brushwood of that kind), they would instantly pass through the shrubs, and then down the steep gravel beyond into deep water, where they would surely be drowned. 

Information and photos from the following sources:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On my way to Houston with Heavenly Ladder Bookstore



Here is a sampling of the incense that I will have with me from Mt. Athos; over 38 different scents. We are also bringing some great  icons by the score, our wonderful very fresh teas and tisanes, charcoals, cds, dvds, jewelry and numerous treasures.  Stop by and visit with us at the 2012 Parish Life Conference of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Houston (Westin Galleria Hotel in Uptown Houston)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Some Thoughts

Now that we have come to the end of the time that will be spend in Jordan there are some things that I want to talk about.  There are some very interesting sites, (Not to mention the modern city of Amman) on this tour.  I had no idea before I started researching the different locations on Fr. Ilya's tour of what an amazing place that area must have been at the time of Jesus.I am amazed by the huge cities that were so very elaborate and intricately centered in deep desert.  I am also amazed at the number of mosaic floors that are still intact.

As a side note, recently I was in San Francisco and at the Palace of the Legion of Honor and there was a wonderful exhibit of a mosaic floor.  This one was found in Lod, Israel during the digging of a planned road bed.  An archaeological group were called in and uncovered the floor.  They were able to remove the floor by rolling it up intact and lifting it out of the location.
A very interesting thing about this was underneath the floor the archaeologists found foot prints from, as I remember, a couple of different men, three women and two children.  What a picture that gives of how that mosaic was made sounding a lot like a family unit.
The detail on the floor was wonderful.  Fishes, animals and an amazing array of wildlife.  Beautiful.  I would love to see more of that kind of work taking one back centuries, very moving. Imagine what that would be like within the context of the building itself.  Better read here for more accurate information: http://legionofhonor.famsf.org/legion/exhibitions/marvelous-menagerie-roman-mosaic-lod-israel

I was also interested in the records of Asiatic lions in the area. There were many around the Jordan River in particular.  Many of the stories of saints deal with interaction of different saints with lions.
St. Mary of Egypt and another St. Gerasimos of Jordan.  I love his story particularly.
St. Gerasimos came upon a lion that was in great pain.  He approached the lion and realized that the lion had a thorn in its paw.  He removed the thorn and the lion followed him home and began to live in the monastery with St. Gerasimos.  The brothers all thought if lion was going to live there was going to have to participate in the life of the community and he should have an obedience.  An obedience was given to the lion to take care of the monastery's donkey.
One day he was out with the donkey near the river Jordan.  The donkey was grazing and the lion felt very sleepy and gradually went to sleep.  A trader came along and saw the donkey and took him as he traveled along his way, thinking he was very fortunate to find a donkey.
When the lion woke up he realized the donkey was gone and he felt very sad that he had not kept his obedience.  He returned to the monastery with his his head hanging.  The brothers ran to him and asked him where the donkey was.  The lion continued to hang his head.  The brothers began to berate thinking that he had eaten the donkey. The lion was very sad.
Every day he would go to the Jordan and look for the donkey hoping to find him.  One day he saw the donkey in the train of the trader who had taken him as they traveled near the Jordan.  The lion roared as loud as he could and frighted the trader away.  Catching the donkey's lead rope in his jaws he took him back to the monastery.
The brothers were overcome and sorrowful that they had accused the lion wrongfully and the lion was restored in their eyes.

I know I have probably left out some of the details but I love stories of the early Church Fathers like this.
What amazing stories must come out of this country. What a lot of Christian history is available in Jordan.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Update on the tour to Jerusalem

I am not getting enough response on my end to continue working on the journaling focus of this projected trip to Jerusalem.  The nice thing is because we are in Fr. Ilya's travel program, he will continue to advertise the trip on his website minus the journaling aspect. So the trip is still on -  http://www.orthodoxtours.com/

I will continue to give an overview of the days in the journey to Jerusalem.  Please contact Fr. Ilya if you are interested in this tour.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Christ is Risen!!!

The Holy Fire in Jerusalem




Jumping ahead in our journey to Jerusalem...after all CHRIST IS RISEN!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day 4 Shobak Castle and Um Rassas

Day 4 – Thursday, November 1, 2012
This morning we will depart from Petra back toward Amman. Along the way, we will stop to see the Shobak Castle which was originally called Krak de Montreal o Mons Regalis, and was the first Crusader outpost beyond the Jordan River. It was built by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem to guard the road from Egypt to Damascus. It resisted many sieges, but in 1189, it fell to Saladin's troops. The towers and walls are well preserved and decorated with carved inscriptions dating from 14th. From Shobak we will continue to the deserted Byzantine camp-settlement of Um Rassas, with the remains of an important monastic complex where probably the only surviving column of some ascetic (stylite) still stands. Our last stop of the day will be Mukawir – site of Herod’s palace, where the sorrowful events of the end days of St. John the Baptist most likely took place. We will arrive in Amman for dinner and overnight.



Shobak Castle:
Approaching Karak de Montreal o Mons Regalis, originally called Shobak Castle from the  ancient Kings Highway to the east or from the Dead Sea to the west, the striking presence of this fortified town and castle show it to be the key fortress that it was.
An ancient Crusader stronghold, Karak sits 900m above sea level and lies inside the walls of the old city. It was a major fortress on the ancient road that ran from Damascus to Egypt.  The city today is home to around 170,000 people and continues to boast a number of restored 19th century Ottoman buildings, restaurants and places to stay.  But Karak Castle is the most startling attraction.
The town is built on a triangular plateau, with the castle at the southern end. The castle is approximately 220m long, 125m wide at the north end, and 40m wide at the southern end where a narrow valley further deepened by a ditch separates it from an adjoining higher hill.  It was once Saladin's key artillery position. Throughout the castle, dark and roughly-shaped Crusader masonry contrasts with the more finely-crafted blocks of limestone used in later Arab work.
While the castle dates back to the 12th century, Karak has been a fortress since biblical times. The Bible relates how the King of Israel and his allies from Judah and Edom ravaged Moab and besieged its king Mesha in the fortress of Kir Heres, as Shobak was then known.
Onto this location the Crusaders erected a vast castle. After 20 years of construction it was finished in 1161and became the residence of the Lord of Transjordan, and the most important fief of the Crusader kingdom, rich in produce and tax revenues. After withstanding several sieges in the early 1170s, Karak came under the rule of Reynald of Chatillon, who became known for his recklessness and barbarism. Breaking all treaties, he began looting merchant caravans and Mecca-bound pilgrims, attacking Islam – the Hijaz – and raiding Arabian ports on the Red Sea, even threatening Mecca itself. Saladin, the ruler of Syria and Egypt was quick to respond and took the town of Karak by force, burning it down and attempting to storm the castle.
The Crusader army was defeated at the Battle of Hattin. Saladin spared most of the captives except Reynald, who he executed himself. The defenders of Karak held out for eight months in a prolonged siege before surrendering to the Muslims who allowed them to walk free. There is an interesting Swedish film  Arn – The Knight Templar that recounts this story.
Under the Ayyubids and early Mameluk sultans, the castle was substantially renovated and the town’s fortifications strengthened with massive towers but seemingly no gates – access to the town was through subterranean passages with entrances still visible today.
Umm Ar-Rasas:
Umm Ar-Rasas is home to some of the finest Byzantine church mosaics, including a large mosaic carpet depicting Old and New Testament cities on both the east and west banks of the Jordan River. 

This city is mentioned in both Old and New Testaments of the Bible. It was fortified by the Romans and records remain of local Christians creating Byzantine-style mosaics in their places of worship well over 100 years after the start of the Muslim Umayyad rule.

A recently unearthed Church ( Saint Stephen) lies just outside the city walls. Within it is also a remarkable mosaic floor, the largest of its kind to be discovered in Jordan and second only to the world famous mosaic map at that we will have seen at Madaba. There also is one of the few remaining Stylite columns.



Driving back towards Amman we will also see  the fortress of Mukawir located atop a high hill near the Dead Sea. It is the site of one of Herod's palaces, and has the tradition of being where Salome danced and St. John the Baptist was beheaded. From the top of this mountain it is possible to see Herod's two other mountain-top palaces, Herodium near Bethlehem and Alexandrium near Jericho. On a clear day it is possible to see the towers of Jerusalem.  Large cisterns carved out of the side of the mountain provided water for this remote mountain-top fortress.
Sources:
http://na2.visitjordan.com/Default.aspx?tabid=163
http://www.atlastours.net/jordan/shobak.html
http://www.sacred-destinations.com/jordan/umm-al-rasas
http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/jordan/rasas/ra05.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umm_ar-Rasas
http://www.select.jo/jordan-mukawir-machaerus.shtm

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day 3 Petra



Day 3 – Wednesday, October 31, 2011
Petra is a most intriguing Nabatean city carved in rock cliffs. This is a historical monument really “one of its kind anywhere in the world.”  We will spend most of the day exploring ancient ruins and temples, fortifications, theaters and other buildings carved in the rock. Prior to the visit of the main site, we will drive to the site knows as Little Petra. Located just some miles away from its more famous “neighbor” it is not any less intriguing and perhaps even more enchanted. For Dinner and overnight we will remain in Petra.


More:

Day 3 – Wednesday, October 31, 2011
Petra is a most intriguing Nabatean city carved in rock cliffs. This is a historical monument really “one of its kind anywhere in the world.”  We will spend most of the day exploring ancient ruins and temples, fortifications, theaters and other buildings carved in the rock. Prior to the visit of the main site, we will drive to the site knows as Little Petra. Located just some miles away from its more famous “neighbor” it is not any less intriguing and perhaps even more enchanted. For Dinner and overnight we will remain in Petra.


More:

Petra  (stone GR); is a historic and long hidden archaeological city in Jordan that is one of the world's most famous sites, where ancient eastern traditions combine with Hellenistic architecture leaving monumental buildings sculpted out of solid red sandstone. The city was established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, a nomadic people with their “home” hidden from the world in this world of carved stone. Lying on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin in the mountains,(Wadi Musa) this large valley extends from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was publicized by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage". Petra was also chosen by the BBC as one of "the 40 places you have to see before you die".

Much archeological dating of Petra was done through its tombs, buildings and water conduits that remain in carved sandstone dating from Nabataean, Roman and Greco origins.  Its beauty is further enhanced by Mosaic work and a remarkable 2,000-year-old Hellenistic-style wall painting which was cleaned recently by British conservation specialists.

Christianity found its way to Petra in the 4th century AD, nearly 500 years after the establishment of Petra as a trade center. Athanasius mentions a bishop of Petra (Antioch. 10) named Asterius. At least one of the tombs (the "tomb with the urn") was used as a church. An inscription in red paint records its consecration "in the time of the most holy bishop Jason" (447). After the Islamic conquest of 629–632 Christianity in Petra, as of most of Arabia, gave way to Islam.
 During the First Crusade Petra was occupied by Baldwin I of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and formed the second fief of the barony of Al Karak with the title Château de la Valée de Moyse or Sela. It remained in the hands of the Franks until 1189.

Little Petra, Al Beidha, is also in the Wadi Musa area. This site is only a few kilometers from Petra and easily accessible by taxi or rented car. It is literally hidden away in the center of a mountain and filled with remarkable treasures of architectural importance also documenting the life of the Nabataean culture.
Visiting Petra will be a remarkable once in a lifetime experience with much to see in this unique location.


Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra
http://nabataea.net/petra.html
http://travelswithsheila.com/al_beidhalittle_petra_and_more_1.html

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day 2 - Bethany beyond Jordan

Our first stop will be at the site that recently was identified as the most probable place of “Bethany beyond Jordan” – the place of our Lord’s baptism. Not far from here, there is the hill from where according to tradition St. Prophet Elias ascended to Heaven in a fiery chariot. The area is historically very significant and marked with many Byzantine ruins. The vicinity of the site is also closely associated with the Venerable Mary of Egypt and her cult is very prominent among local Christians. Our next stop all be at the summit of Mt. Nebo. The law-giver Moses observed the Promised Land from this mountain and this is the closest he ever got to the place where he desired to be so much. Then we will visit Madaba – a little village housing Byzantine Churches with very important mosaics, among them, one depicting the map of the Holy Land. This will be our last stop before our transfer to Petra.

An  Overview-


Twenty minutes from Amman is St. George Orthodox Church in Madaba, home of a mozaic map of the Holy land.  The town of Madaba is noted for a great number of mozaics that compose the floors of this town.  Some have been excavated some have not.

Bethany Beyond Jordan is a 45 minute drive from Amman and north of the Dead Sea. The Jordanian Department of Antiquities has surveyed and partially' excavated a string  of ancient sites that collectively represent one of the most important archaeological discoveries in modem Jordan — the settlement and region of Bethany (or Beth abra), was where John the Baptist lived and carried out his ministry.



 The Bethany area sites make up early Christian pilgrimage routes between Jerusalem, the Jordan River, and Mt. Nebo. 

The area is also associated with the biblical account of the ascent of the Prophet Elijah (Mar Elias in Arabic) to heaven in a whirlwind on a chariot of fire, after having parted the waters of the Jordan River and walking across it with his anointed successor the Prophet Elisha. It is also the area in which St. Mary of Egypt lived out her life.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

Day 1- A little about Amman, Jordan

Fr. Ilya has found a good group flight, traveling from Los Angeles to Istanbul to Amman Jordan and then home through Tel Aviv, Istanbul and Los Angeles.

After that amazing flight (Imagine the distance covered!),  we start our pilgrimage here in Amman, Jordan and overnight there.


Day 1 – Monday, October 29, 2012
Arrival to Amman in the afternoon. Transfer to the hotel. Refreshment, dinner, overnight.



An  Overview-

Ammon, Jordan is the country's political, cultural and commercial center and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Greater Amman area has a population of 2,842,629 as of 2010.[2] The population of Amman is expected to jump from 2.8 million to almost 6.5 million by 2025 due to constant and rapid immigration.

From a historic perspective the settlement mentioned in the Bible as Rabbath Ammon was the capital of the Ammonites, which later fell to the Assyrians. It was dominated briefly by the Nabataeans before it became a great Roman trade center and was renamed Philadelphia. After the Islamic conquests, Amman became part of the Muslim empire, until the Ottomans were forced out by the Allies, with the help of the Hashimites, who formed a monarchy that continues to rule until the present.



Amman is among the most popular locations for multinational corporations to set up their regional offices, alongside Doha and Dubai.

Amman is considered to be one of the most "westernized" and cosmopolitan cities in the Arab World. Amman has become one of the most popular destinations for "Western" expats and college students who seek to live, study, or work in the Middle East or the Arab World in general. The city's culinary scene has expanded from its shwarma stands and falafel joints to embrace many popular American restaurants and fast-food outlets

The city's largest airport, Queen Alia International Airport, situated about 30 km (18.64 mi) south of Amman, is the majorinternational airport in Jordan and the hub for Royal Jordanian Airlines. The airport has three terminals, two passenger and one cargo, and in 2010 handled between 5.8 million passengers despite the airport's capacity to only handle 3.5 million visitors. The airport is undergoing expansion, including a new terminal costing $700M, that will allow the airport to handle over 12 million passengers.

Due to its stability and openness, Jordan—especially Amman—is home to many different artists, writers, and musicians, many of whom are expatriates from troubled areas like Iraq or the Palestinian territories.

Amman is home to many diverse religious sects making up the two primary religions of Jordan, Islam and Christianity.

The city is generally well-appointed for the traveler, reasonably well-organized, and the people are very friendly.

The steep terrain and heavy traffic remains challenging for pedestrians and for the rare cyclist. New resorts and hotels dot the city and there are many things for the traveler to see and do. Amman is used as a staging point for travels to nearby cities and settlements in Jordan.
Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amman
http://wikitravel.org/en/Amman#b