CROSSROADS OF JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN HISTORYLugar de encuentro de la historia Judía y Cristiana
The Sea. By Kathleen Nichols

Crossroads of Jewish and Christian History

The Sea. By Kathleen Nichols

The Sea. By Kathleen Nichols

The daily 5-minute drive to Magdala from the apartment where our community lives in northern Tiberias follows a road that skirts the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. My eyes never tire of looking out over the waters.

The glowing rosy surface reflecting the pre-dawn sky becomes a smooth slate blue, streaked by fire at sunrise. As the vivid yellow sun quickly grows in the sky, the water becomes a smooth silvery mirror. The lake takes on a myriad of hues as the day moves on, drawing your gaze continually towards it, lest one nuance of beauty be missed. Chameleon-like, the tones of the Sea of Galilee range from sky blue to Carolina blue, steel to independence blue, and even from a Turkish blue-green and teal, to a striking turquoise. Like swirling veins in marble, the lake’s main water currents are visible most of the day, until the late afternoon winds texturize the usually Prussian colored water with white caps. As day draws to a close, the Golan Heights to the East are usually set aglow by the sunset, contrasted below by the now sapphire tint of the water.

This play of color reminds me of the warm welcome I received when I first came to Magdala. Waseem, Magdala’s Head of Security, kindly greeted me and the other consecrated women as we entered the guesthouse, with his smiling bronzed face set with blue-green-golden eyes. His family has a long history with the lake, and his ‘Sea of Galilee eyes’ – with the same colors and contrasts – challenged me to carry the beauty and power of this ‘5th Gospel’ (living where Jesus walked) in my own gaze.

Of the many hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Sea of Galilee each year, countless ask themselves what makes Jesus so important. Looking out over the water generally provokes this kind of peaceful reflection and contemplation. As a consecrated woman, the Sea asked me this question using words from the fifth chapter of the Song of Songs:

What makes your Beloved
better than any other lovers?
(Song of Songs, 5:9)

In answer, seeing the lake from our second-floor chapel, I found myself describing the land and water before me.

My Beloved is fresh and ruddy
To be known among ten thousand…
His eyes are doves
At a pool of water
At rest on a pool
(Song of Songs, 5:10,12)

Jesus is just as the sunrise over the sea, both refreshing and fiery over this unique land; His gaze is gentle and kind like the dove; it is calming in its depth, breadth and transparency, just like the waters.

Looking out over the lake while being on the water is especially peaceful. While paddle boarding from Magdala toward Peter’s Primacy this week, I sat down to dangle my tired feet in the water on a particularly calm part of the lake, just as the sunlight broke through the clouds low on the horizon. I bent my head to try and see some fish, and saw my own surprisingly clear reflection. From within, the same desire that St. John of the Cross expressed in his Spiritual Canticle came out, in further answer to the question of the Sea.

If only, crystal well,
Clear in the mirrored silver could arise
Instantly, by some spell,
The long-awaited eyes
That traced deep in my heart
I recognize
(St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle)

At times I think of the Sea of Galilee as the humble eye of God, seeking us out from this lowest point on Earth – only the Dead Sea is lower. He seeks me. He watches me with loving eyes. He is found in the depths – in my own heart – in the profound longing I have to love and be loved, always and ever more fully and completely. He is found in the look, the word, the gesture, the need of each and every person around me… that is where I also find those, “long awaited eyes, that in my heart I recognize.”

Perhaps, Mary Magdalene encountered Jesus while looking out on the lake, seeking meaning. Perhaps, His eyes resembled the colors and contrasts of the Sea of Galilee in front of her own home. Maybe she caught a glimpse of His reflection on these waters, and recognized in His gaze the fulfillment of unidentified longings within her heart. Wherever it happened, she was transformed by love, and made beautiful in and by Him. As the Apostle to the Apostles, she carried the dazzling grace of her encounter by the Sea to all who were hungry for God for the rest of her life. She brought out His beauty in them through the power of His grace in and through her.

When you looked at me,
your eyes imprinted your grace in me;
for thus you loved me ardently…
now truly you can look at me,
since you have looked
and left in me
grace and beauty
(St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle)

As we celebrate Mary Magdalene’s feast day, let us allow Jesus to transform us with this same grace and beauty!

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Magdala (near present day Migdal) is located on the western coastline of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) and at the eastern foothills of Mount Arbel. Read More

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