Blessings in a Garden

Series: Israel 2022 – Mount of Beatitudes

I come to the garden alone

While the dew is still on the roses

And the voice I hear

Falling on my ear,

The Son of God discloses….6

We have entered a beautiful garden on a hillside on the Korazim Plateau overlooking the Sea of Galilee. There are roses blooming along the walkway, birds flitting among the trees chirping and singing, bees and other pollinators buzzing among the blossoms adding a quiet hum to the peacefulness of the site. Even though it is February, the middle of winter, and there is snow on Mount Hermon to the north, here it feels like spring.

This “mount” we’ve come to is Mount Eremos and Har Ha Osher in Hebrew.1  I suppose it could hardly be called a mountain at all. This “mount” has a negative altitude. It is 200 meters above the Sea of Galilee but still 25 meters below sea level.  Mount Eremos is one of the lowest summits in the world.

The Franciscan chapel that dominates the garden was built in 1937-38 over the ruins of a Byzantine chapel at the site that was used from the 4th through the 7th century.  It was the practice of the early Christian church to build chapels at sites in Israel associated with Jesus and His ministry. Only a few traces of the ancient monastery and cistern remain at the site.1

The Franciscan Chapel on the Mount of Beatitudes

The “new” chapel was designed by an Italian named Antonio Barluzzi commissioned by the Italian Mission Society…. with funding from Benito Mussolini…. yes, that Mussolini.2

It is a lovely chapel built with 8 sides in a Neo-Byzantine style. It has marble veneer casing the lower interior walls and includes gold mosaic in the dome over the altar.

The golden dome inside the chapel.

The floor inside is circular around a central altar and includes mosaics for 7 virtues. Each stained-glass window is dedicated to and shows a single Beatitude written in Latin.2

For this is the Mount of the Beatitudes. While there is a 20th century chapel and garden with views all the way down to the Sea of Galilee, there is very little to identify this hillside as the one where Jesus sat and spoke to his disciples and a multitude of followers some two thousand years ago…nothing at all from the first century to commemorate what is today called “the Sermon on the Mount”.  

The floor mosaics around the altar show 7 virtues
and this one which says, “We adore you, Christ”.

The Sermon on the Mount is detailed in the Gospels, Matthew 5, 6, & 7 and Luke 6. It is the longest single discourse by Jesus memorialized in the Christian Bible. It is probably the most famous and most quoted of all the sermons recorded in the Bible or anywhere else for that matter. These three chapters in Matthew and corresponding chapters in Luke also include the “Lord’s Prayer” which absolutely has to be known by every Christian in the world today. (Okay, maybe the 23rd Psalm would be in the running for most famous and memorized passage, but I think it holds a distant second at best to the Lord’s Prayer.)8

Gateway overlooking the hillside of Mount Eremos

It may also be one of the most mis-quoted and maybe misunderstood passages in scripture. While reading and researching the Beatitudes (in both Matthew and in Luke where some call it the Sermon on the Plain4), I was amazed at how many different interpretations and applications I found. After two thousand years, theologians are still trying to understand what Jesus was saying that day on the hillside where He sat and taught those who followed Him.

At first read, it seems so simple…as is the way with most deeply complicated things. The Beatitudes include 9 blessings that focus on justice, faith, fortitude, hope, temperance, humility, compassion, meekness, charity, peace, and love… of course, love. Did Jesus not always preach love?

Mural inside the chapel showing Jesus teaching His followers.

I have read several translations but the pure poetry of the “blessed” verses in the King James Version (KJV) is what I grew up with and what I tend to remember.

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

5Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

6Blessed are those who hunger

and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

7Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

8Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

9Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called sons of God.

10Blessed are those who are persecuted

because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11Blessed are you when people insult you,

 persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil

against you because of Me.

12Rejoice and be glad,

 because great is your reward in heaven;

for in the same way

they persecuted the prophets before you.

Matthew 5

The koine Greek word “makarios” used for Blessed can also mean “happy” or “fulfilled”.7 Some see the Beatitudes as a guide for living for Christians under the New Covenant.  Would that I could follow these tenets and be perfectly happy and fulfilled – perfectly righteous – all on my own! But, alas, I cannot. No one can. That was the point for the Jews in the first century and it is still relevant for all Christians today. You cannot do it on your own – the standard is too high — you need help – you need a Savior.

I walked there, in the garden on the hillside where Jesus (our Savior) might actually have come and sat down to teach this lesson. Scattered throughout the garden amongst the flowers were large plaques showing the Beatitudes in different languages of the world. 

There are other engraved stones about that have a single Beatitude inviting contemplation of just one “blessing” at a time.

It is a place for meditation, a place to consider those “blessed” words. A place to pray and to talk to God and to listen for that still small voice as God responds.

“And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other, has ever, known!” 5&6

Dr. Bremer from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) teaches at the Mount of the Beatitudes.

Scriptural Sources:

  1. Matthew 5:3-12
  2. Luke 6:20-23

Sources and References:

  1. Mount of Beatitudes – Wikipedia
  2. Church of the Beatitudes – Wikipedia
  3. New Testament places associated with Jesus – Wikipedia
  4. Ministry of Jesus – Wikipedia
  5. In The Garden – Lyrics, Hymn Meaning and Story (godtube.com)
  6. In the Garden, C Austin Miles, 1912 (Public Domain)
  7. Strong’s Concordance 3107, Interlinear Bible, Greek – “makarios”, Helps Word Studies 3107
  8. Sermon on the Mount – Wikipedia
  9. The Holy Land for Christian Travelers, John A. Beck, 2017, Baker Books, Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, MI, www.bakerbooks.com , USA, Mount of the Beatitudes, p218 (This book can be purchased on Amazon.com)

ICYMI (In case you missed it) – Previous blogs in the Israel 2022 series:

Israel 2022: Pinch Yourself – April 4, 2022

Israel 2022: Caesarea Maritima – April 11, 2022

Israel 2022: Contested on Mount Carmel – April 20, 2022

Israel 2022: In This Valley – April 30, 2022

Israel 2022: Sea of Galilee – May 9, 2022

Israel 2022: A Very Old Boat – May 31, 2022

Israel 2022: A Blessing & A Curse – Capernaum – June 20, 2022

Israel 2022: One Little Boy Named David – July 5, 2022

Israel 2022: The Gates of Hell – July 23, 2022

Strolling Through the Gardens at Ladew

wide view gardenA couple weeks ago, we visited Ladew Topiary Gardens near Monkton, Maryland. I told you of our visit with an initial blog on June 8th in which I wrote all about Harvey S. Ladew, the creator of this beautiful garden…or gardens, should I say. But I stuck mostly to Mr. Ladew and the manor in that initial blog. If you’d like to go back and review, the link is here.

I promised that I would share some photos of the actual gardens…or, as much of them as I saw on this visit. I did not quite walk all 22 acres of gardens. I know I missed the “Garden of Eden” which I hear has statues of Adam and Eve and I also missed the Nature Walk…but that just leaves more to see on our next visit.

So I am now providing those photos…or, at least some of them since you will understand that I took more than two hundred photographs and, even though I had plenty of blurry shots to delete, I still have quite a few to share….but I won’t share all of them….just a goodly bunch. (Now, is that a proper phrase? Yikes! Mrs. Mintz back in eighth grade would look at me knowingly, shake her head in exasperation, and pull out the old red pen and start scritching away at my work….that is, if she were here now to read any of it. On the up side, some of what she tried to teach me did, in fact, sink in and I continue to write….unlike the stuff Mrs. Doehla tried to teach me in those Algebra classes a few years later which, like everyone else, I’m not sure I would know how to use even if I wanted to use it.)

So, without further ado, here are the photos of the gardens.

cafe

We started our tour at the Café…..because it is about the food, you know…..where we enjoyed chicken salad sandwiches and cold lemonade on the patio. Since it was a rather warm day and most folks opted to eat inside, we had the patio all to ourselves…and that was just lovely as far as we were concerned. You couldn’t have asked for a prettier day.

water wall

There is just something about garden walls with mosses and ferns growing in the mortar cracks…

path to cutting garden

Next we meandered down the garden path to the cutting garden where there were roses galore and loads of peonies.

cutting garden

pink white peony

pink peony2 pink peonies

Next we headed down to the Butterfly House….we knew it wasn’t open yet for the year…but the wildflower meadow looked lovely and invited exploration. I particularly liked the yard art in the meadow. Well, I suppose the artist wouldn’t call it yard art..he’d probably be snobbish and drop the “yard” but it is what it is – art for the yard…yard art…or in this case “meadow art”.

yard art 3

yard art

yard art 2Then again, it seems the artist had another…and much better name for the art he added to the gardens.

seeds steeds

The “beautiful weeds” part would work for my flower beds at home….well, the “weeds” part anyway.

tally hoThen there were the topiaries…hence the name….Ladew Topiary Gardens.

window wallI suppose I expected lots of little hedges trimmed to look like little creatures like the foxhunt scene above. I wasn’t really expecting walls and windows and garlands carved into the yew hedges…not to mention all sorts of geometric shapes of all sizes from very small to very very large. It was impressive to say the least.

wall and pond

topiary on the side

camel

View through the topiary window to the wildflower garden.

window view

We spent quite a bit of time in the Iris Garden. This time of year the Iris’s were blooming so it made sense that we would gravitate there….especially since it sort of went down hill from the main topiary gardens on the east side of the manor. I do downhill quite well….the uphill part was not so easy.

iris garden

iris 2iris 3iris 1benchWe spent a lot of time trying out the benches in the shade in the Iris Garden…and why not? They were lichen covered and lovely in their own right.

jap mapleAt the bottom of the Iris Garden, you can peek through the arbors and see a topiary ship setting sail into the wildflower meadow. Nice!

ship topiary

Our last stop on our tour was the walled rose garden. What can I say? The roses were plentiful and in full bloom. I love roses climbing on brick walls. It reminds me of cottage gardens and lovely old estates. Throw in a few cherubs (and maybe an imp of a satyr) and a pond with a frog or two and you’ve got paradise in a garden as far as I’m concerned. The smell of all those roses was heavenly, by the way.

satyrrose gardenrose garden 2frog

If you would like to visit Ladew Manor and Topiary Gardens, the address is 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, MD 21111. The website is http://www.ladewgardens.com/.