If there was one place with no mystery, no Holy Spirit, no depth, at least compared to the rest of the Holy Land, it is the current day Nazareth. We got there immediately after Bethlehem, for lunch, and there is no grand arrival, no deliverance of any expectation. Instead, it is but a Middle Eastern town.
To get to the site of Jesus’ home, you again have to go up a small hill. In this case, the hill is obviously focused on pilgrims and early 20th century Kodak sign gives the cue that many pilgrims come here. It feels like one of the oldest things I see.
The Basilica of the Annunciation is interesting but not powerful. It is Vatican II, and there is no patina, save an abandoned neoclassical house overlooking the entrance courtyard. I expect patina in the Holy Land. The Basilica covers a number of early churches; in going down into the center of the building you can see the stones as part of the architecture. Most of the countries of the world have contributed mosaics of their interpretations of Mother Mary and Child. Fr. Andrew Mayes, who is taking our group on its pilgrimage, kids that it reminds him of a Miss World content with all its emphasis on beautiful images of women from around the world.
Most of the panels are representational of a typical costume; the Japanese Mary looks like a Japanese woman, etc. The American one, however, is dark and rugged and is a sculpture relief, rather than mosaic. Discordant. Dissonant. Sharp. Caricatured. Mother Mary is in anguish in the U.S., and you can’t easily make out baby Jesus. There is no joy in it, just an artistic academic exercise.
It is perhaps right that Nazareth is so normal. As my Bishop Dabney Smith said after I came home about the normality of the situation, it’s the incarnation. Christ in the world is all about, well Christ being in the world. Incarnate.
The Nicene Creed I saw so often in my Book of Common Prayer is now real: