Luke 1:27-35 – to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”: But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; And of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
This church is also known as the church of St. Gabriel who was the angel that approached Mary with the news of her pregnancy. It is thought to have been built during the Byzantine era under Constantine, rebuilt at the time of the Crusades, and then one more time during the 18th century under the Arab governor of Galilee. The church is built over an underground spring where it is believed that Mary was drawing water at the time of the annunciation. Water still flows from the well into the church and people can touch it or even drink from it – which I did.
It is not certain that this was the exact spot of the annunciation. There are actually 18 churches of the annunciation in Nazareth. What cannot be denied however is the history of the church itself which is pretty impressive since it was first established at the time of Constantine. To get to the underground chapel, you have to go down seven steps into a low vaulted cavern that was probably constructed by the Crusaders. The walls are decorated by 12th century tile work, and below the altar is a shaft leading to the spring.
The church was very crowded so it was hard to access the shaft and even harder to feel much beyond a high level of curiosity. I found myself instead looking at the people in the chapel who were lighting candles, drinking the water and kissing the altars. Most everyone there had journeyed there from someplace else just as I had. The one thing we had in common was our pilgrimage to these holy sites so that we might encounter the sacred and better understand the origins of our faith. I think that everyone experiences it differently and while I cannot ask each person about their experience, I can try to capture a glimpse of it through photography. For much of my journey I focus on the people at least as much as the sacred sites. I think the story told by the people is vital and alive while the story told by the ancient sites is reflective of a different set of people into whose eyes we are not able to gaze. I hope that between the two at least a small portion of the story can be told.
To see more photos, click on the link below…
|Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation|