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The country we live in

Caesarea Maritima

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Caesarea, well hidden in the dunes
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The walls of Caesarea
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Ruins of Caesarea Maritima
 

About 30 kilometers up the coast from Haifa, this site is filled with reminders of the Church’s childhood.

We find there the only archeological item that mentions Pontius Pilate’s name.

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Paving stone with Pontius Pilate’s name
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Saint Peter – modern icon

It is there that Peter met the Roman centurion Cornelius and was astounded to witness the Holy Spirit spreading among the pagans. He seems to have been in a very awkward situation when he was explaining that fact to the brethren assembled in Jerusalem: “If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I hinder God?” (Acts 11, 17).

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Saint Paul

There also Paul would take opportunity to witness his Lord’s Resurrection: “for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.” (2Timothy 2, 9). Paul himself thought that his incarceration borne for the love of God was perhaps more important than his previous apostolate. Also he wrote to the Philippians: “I want you to know, brothers, that my situation has turned out rather to advance the gospel, so that my imprisonment has become well known in Christ throughout the whole praetorium and to all the rest, so that the majority of the brothers, having taken encouragement in the Lord from my imprisonment, dare more than ever to proclaim the Word fearlessly.” (Ph. 1, 12-14).

(Actually exegetes and other scholars are discussing where that letter was written from - Caesarea, Rome or Ephesus, but it doesn’t make any difference to us. That is the specialists’ discussion.)

Our Father Saint John of the Cross wrote: “A little of this pure love is more precious to God and the soul and more beneficial to the Church, even though it seems one is doing nothing, than all these other works put together.” (Spiritual Canticle B, 29) This seems a most beautiful commentary on that episode, not so? And not only because of the witness by martyrdom which would be Paul’s last act of love; there is another reason, hidden but maybe as important as the first: it is the joy of Paul, joy without even a shadow of jealousy. The joy of seeing other people not ‘taking his place’ but ‘relieving him’, when he himself is prevented from acting.

Yes, this is the childhood of the Church which is “engraved” in the memory of Caesarea: the memory of Peter disrupted by the Spirit in order to go to the pagans, the memory of Paul who would take a boat there for Rome to give witness for Jesus and like him, prove “obedient unto death”…

Lord, open my eyes
And I will know the marvels of grace
In the people I thought far from You.
Open my heart
To welcome all the children of your love
And give them a large space there;
Open my mind
And I will understand that your ways
Are sometimes beyond understanding;
Open whole my being
And I will become nothing but worship of your holy will,
That wants nothing but happiness for all your children;
And by your grace
Let me contribute to it
By the smallest thing I have to do.

 
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