Growing up in Capernaum
From childhood, John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved," lived in Capernaum. His father Zebedee was a fisherman; his mother Salome was probably a sister of Mary the mother of Jesus. When they were old enough, John and his brother James followed their father to his boat on the Sea of Galilee. Later they left everything to follow Jesus.
Even as a young boy, John absorbed the passion for religion found in the Jewish people of his town. Every Saturday morning the men, women and children of Capernaum gathered in early daylight in their handsome synagogue to sit on benches along the walls or on the stone floor, facing the wall towards Jerusalem. (right: reader)
There the seven branch candlestick burned near the reading desk as the morning light began to stream from behind it through the windows in the wall. The leader of prayer stood and raised his voice to praise God who had made a covenant with his people through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And the people responded loudly, "Amen."
Then the Ark, a wooden chest containing the scrolls on which were written the first five books of Scripture, the Torah, was brought forth. One of the scrolls was unfolded and read in the morning light, first in Hebrew and then in Aramaic, the everyday language of Palestine. When the reading was finished, the scroll was replaced in the Ark and another blessing proclaimed.
A speaker, perhaps an official of the synagogue, a member of the community or a visitor, gave a sermon on the reading from the Law. Besides recalling the great works of God found there, he would remind them to be faithful to the smallest laws and customs of everyday Jewish life. The service was completed by a reading from the prophets and some prayers. Then people left the synagogue to celebrate the rest of the Sabbath day. The experience was like a spiritual bread nourishing their hearts.
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