We are in Istanbul, taking the ferry across the Bosphorus on our way to Selcuk and Ephesus. We bid goodbye to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, and Topkapi Palace (home of the arm of John the Baptist).
We are on a pilgrimage to see all the Apostles of Jesus and have visited all but one.
We have been to the relics of James in Santiago, Spain; Thomas in Chennai, India; Peter, Phillip, Bartholomew, Paul, Jude, Simon, James (the less), Matthias in Rome, Italy; Andrew in Amalfi, Italy; Matthew in Salerno, Italy.
All that remains is St. John in Ephesus, Turkey.
After a long, long bus ride through heavy traffic we reach the train that will take us to Izmir.
It rains much of the night and is foggy in the morning. We catch another train to Selcuk. It’s a hard ride, standing in a very crowded train.
The Church of St. John (ruins) is actually in Selcuk, close to the ruins of Ephesus. We pass through the Gate of Persecution, entrance to the ruins.
Jesus told John to care for his mother and after Jesus was crucified, John brought her from Jerusalem to Ephesus, a major Roman port city. John preached the Gospel there and Emperor Domitian exiled him to the island of Patmas, where he had a vision and wrote the Book of Revelation. After Domitian was assassinated, Nerva became emperor and pardoned John. John returned to Ephesus, preaching at the church he had established.
We view the ruins of the Baptistery at the Church of St. John.
John lived to be 100 years old and was buried in a cave under the church at his request. Some people say that he did not die but is merely sleeping. They believe his breath emits a dust with curative powers. Other people say that when he entered the cave for the final time, a blinding light appeared and he vanished.
The Basilica of St. John was built over his grave in the 6th century. If reconstructed, the Church of St. John would be the 7th largest basilica in the world.
St. John is the only apostle whose body is not claimed by a particular person or place. There are no “relics.” Those who opened his tomb during Constantine’s reign found only dust, no body or bones. The basilica became a major place of pilgrimage and the pilgrims found that the dust emerging from John’s grave could cure sickness and calm storms on land or sea. The dust was called “manna” because it appeared magically and had magical qualities.
We have traveled for many months, visiting the relics of the Apostles of Jesus. Now we walk the final steps to complete our pilgrimage. We hear the Muslim call to prayer and approach the tomb of St. John.
The voice calls, “Come to prayer! Come to prayer!
Come to salvation! Come to salvation!”
Behind the tomb are two grates which connect an underground passageway. This is the place from which the dust of St. John can emerge. I prepare myself mentally to collect some earth from the grave of St. John the Apostle.
I do walking meditation and return to the grave.
I pray for you, my readers, that you will find inner peace. I do not know if I will embrace you during this lifetime. Perhaps we will be together in a future life as children, siblings, parents, lovers, or spouses.
This cat follows me and accepts my love for you. He looks back at the dirt I collected from the grave.
On Ayasulak Hill, there is a fortress and cisterns, constructed during the Byzantine era. St. John wrote his Gospel there.
The Church of St. John fell into disrepair and was converted into a mosque in 1330. In 1402, Muslim defenders put up fierce resistance but were overwhelmed by Mongels who destroyed the basilica/mosque.
I visit the remains of a small mosque within the fortress perimeter.
I enter the cistern, formerly a church, where John wrote his gospel.
We hike along the hillside below the fortress.
Lao tsu writes (chapter 58):
If a country is governed with tolerance,
the people are comfortable and honest.
If a country is governed with repression,
the people are depressed and crafty.
When the will to power is in charge,
the higher the ideals, the lower the results.
Try to make people happy,
and you lay the groundwork for misery.
Try to make people moral,
and you lay the groundwork for vice.
Thus the Master is content
to serve as an example
and not to impose her will.
She is pointed, but doesn’t pierce.
Straightforward, but supple.
Radiant, but easy on the eyes.
While doing family therapy, I meet many people hoping to change the behavior of others. They wish to make people happy or moral but problems emerge. You can’t change other people but you can change yourself. The Inner Way allows you to see inside yourself and a process unfolds.
We have completed our apostle pilgrimage and will continue around the world, carrying the dust of St. John. I offer some to you.