We would be seeing 5 Greek islands in the short 4 days. We were told that at some islands, we could pull right into the port. Others, we would need to take a tender boat to get there. Here's a picture of my tender boat. H and I were doing this night excursion to Patmos together. We were unsure of which tender boat and which bus to get on. We both saw a "1" on our ticket, so we followed group 1. We quickly learned that was a church group. We thought it might be wonderful to follow a church group and get some of the Biblical history with our tour. Sadly, when we lined up, the leader quite rudely told us we were not to be with their group. Then a lady from the group shoved her arm out to stop us and let her 'people' go first ahead of us. Later, I discovered the name of the group, "The Spirit Filled Hearts Group," and I smirked. I decided to assume they were a lovely group, but just having an off day. (AND it will provide a wonderful devotion later about the 3 groups of people touring this holy site...those who have knowledge and faith; those who have knowledge but absolutely no faith; those who have knowledge and faith, but are not abiding in Him)
Our first tour was of a monastery. The entire island of Patmos was given to a soldier-priest in the year 1088 by a Byzantine emperor. He built this monastery, which remains until today. There are about 40 monks living there now. The frescoes were beautiful!
We were set to tour Patmos in the daytime, but due to a delay at our port (it was a Turkish holiday), we got there at night. I thought a nighttime tour of the monastery was even better. There was an island breeze, a rocky path on which to tread up to it, and the candles were all lit. H and I wanted to find a quiet spot to pray, but everything was so rushed.
The monastery bell.
We were allowed to take photographs of the building's structures, but not the inner worship room. I can just describe it to you as very ornate...gold and silver candelabras and alters to the point that you could hardly walk through it. Our take on it was that it was very opposite the personality of the apostle John, exiled here, who did not even name himself in Scripture, he was so humble.
This was perhaps my happiest photograph on my trip. This is a portion of the oldest copy of the Gospel of Mark that exists. It is from the 6th century. Having just taught my students how we had Scripture passed down to us, I loved seeing it. I'll admit I had to hang back, snap with no flash, and do a quick camera-stash in my bag and shuffle out. I just could not leave there without a picture.
And then we toured the cave where St. John is believed to have had his revelations. Inside as we toured, we were told of a spot where he used his hand to hoist his elderly body up, a place where he rested his head, and place where he held his manuscripts, and a place where the rock was split into 3 to represent the Trinity. Honestly, I can find no record of how the Orthodox Church connected this one cave to the apostle John, so the holy spots where he reclined and studied did not hold the fascination for me that it might for others. What was very meaningful to me is when I peered out the cave window...I could see the grassy knolls, the ocean waves, the rocky crags. And I thought to myself, "He may not have been in this cave, but he was on this island...faithful and dear to the Lord in his old age." I felt I had found the holy site, not in the cave, but as I peered out further into the barrenness. I thought of our ship, and I thought of the prisoner's ship he would have traveled on. I thought of how he might have begun to feel useless and old and wish he could return to his Lord, and yet, God had a purpose for him on this island. From it, we got the 'bookend' at the end of our Bible.