Like many pilgrims visiting Galilee, my family tried to pack as much as we could into each day. We saw important places such as Jesus’ town of Capernaum, the Mount of Beatitudes, and the Church of Multiplication of the loaves and fishes at Tabgha.
Near the end of one meaningful but long day, my mother asked if we could stop at Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene. She at least wanted to take a picture. We stopped, thinking that we would be there only a couple of minutes. And, to our surprise and delight, we discovered a jewel on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The site has amazing first-century ruins including a synagogue, mikveh baths, homes, streets, and mosaics. Archeological digs are ongoing, and the findings surely will continue to be important.
The site also houses the Magdala Center, a Roman Catholic endeavor dedicated to women’s well-being and wholeness. Eventually, a conference center will be built to welcome groups for retreats and gatherings.
Very near the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a chapel was completed earlier in 2014. The architecture is beautiful and deeply inspiring. The colors replicate those found in the first-century synagogue on the site. The entry rotunda includes seven pillars inscribed with women’s names from Scripture. An eighth pillar is left blank, inviting women to include themselves among the faithful ones loved by God. Four chapels surround the rotunda, and each one includes a mosaic depicting a scene from Jesus’ ministry.
The main chapel’s altar is in the shape of a Galilean fishing boat. During worship, congregants look at the altar, then through glass panels out to the sea. They are invited to recall Jesus’ words in Luke, chapter 5, encouraging the first disciples to go deeper into the water and put down their nets.
In the years to come, as funds are provided, the Magdala Center and its work will grow.
If you have an opportunity to visit, I encourage you to do so.
To learn more, go to http://www.MagdalaCenter.com.