The Encounter Chapel is first of all an archeological treasure: the floor is that of the original first century market place of the Magdala port.
A port market place is about as busy a spot in any town you can imagine – probably the main metro train station or airport in our terms – where people without any discrimination rub shoulders.
Since we have also discovered significant infrastructure for fish processing, it is most logical that fishermen of the Sea of Galilee, many known to us by on a first name basis, who wanted to sell their fish for export to Rome (documented by Flavius Josephus) would have gravitated to Magdala’s port, probably not unfamiliar to Jesus’ fishermen disciples. Jesus´ ease at sitting in their boats and mingling with large crowds helps us to see many people encountering him in this marketplace and he can engage the workers and the traders.
Additionally, our Magdala Synagogue architecture inspired its present structure: two close rows of dry stone seating around the space for prayer, six columns and color pigments identified by a lab in Germany from the original synagogue frescoes and reproduced to decorate the walls, thus evoking for our presently divided Christian communities the atmosphere which the first generation of Jesus disciples enjoyed, who mingled without divisions among themselves nor separations from the Jewish community when they gathered in the synagogue. So, here we encounter each other anew and ask for the grace of Jesus’ presence among us in order to recognize what we share in common / our commonality.
Finally, the large painting (titled “Encounter”) gives us a snapshot of the encounter of the hemorrhaging woman who tries to touch Jesus for healing (Mark 5: 25-29).
The Encounter Chapel, in the lower lever of Duc In Altum, is dedicated to Jesus’ encounter of all of us, as illustrated by the hemorrhaging women. Located on the marketplace of the first century port, the Encounter Chapel is modeled after the structure of the Magdala First Century Synagogue with room for up to 120 people.
The chapel features a beautiful mural-sized painting of the encounter between Jesus and the hemorrhaging woman. “When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake and a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” Mark 5: 25-29 NIV
The woman represented in this chapel was looking for healing, and found it when she touched the hem of Jesus. What a miraculous and life changing encounter! Today, people can stand on the stones of the marketplace where Jesus walked and have a personal encounter as they experience the historical and spiritual presence of Christ.