This (former) port town near Corinth was Phoebe’s home base. Phoebe is the deacon of the church there who delivered Paul’s weighty and significant letter to the Romans (see Romans 16). Of note was her and other women’s ministry, a ministry that we Episcopalians and others have revived in the 20th century and now celebrate in the 21st Century.
Also at Cenchreae, Paul took a vow before he set sail for Ephesus go to Jerusalem, for which he ceremonily cut his hair (Acts 18:18-19).
We had time to reflect and pray here too…thinking of all the people of faith there who have influenced our faith…and receiving of faith.
Breaking bread and enjoying local quisene is also part of our growing fellowship.
While Paul was visiting Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the market place day by day with those who happened to be there. (Acts: 17)
As our pilgrimage concluded, we followed “the footsteps of Paul” through The Classical City,” a tour highlighted by a visit to the truly incredible Acropolis Museum, consistently rated as one of the best museums in the world. The Museum is a perfect sanctuary for the ancient artifacts that were found in and around the Acropolis.
We then climbed the steps to the Acropolis – much as Paul may have done two millennia ago – and were treated to a panoramic view of the entire city below. The Acropolis is a very striking natural phenomenon – a massive rock rising up with sheer cliffs from the surrounding plain. Visitors like Paul would naturally set their sites upon the Acropolis.
And sitting atop the Acropolis is the Parthenon (which in Greek is a title for the virgin goddess, Athena,) widely regarded as the epitome of ancient classical architecture.
Our tour of Athens concluded with a visit to the ancient agora, or market place, a very large space in the central heart of the ancient city. As noted above by Luke in the book of Acts, Paul “would visit the market place day by day.” He would have had a “ready made” audience, as the agora was busy with activity in ancient Athens.
Adjacent to the agora lies the very distinctive Theseum (or Temple to Hephaestus.) This structure, converted into a Christian church in the 5thCentury A.D., has been preserved in remarkable condition and remains one of the finest examples of a completeclassical temple.
At the end of a full day, we gathered together one last time and shared our experiences and the special moments we had encountered on our pilgrimage. After dinner we had an early bedtime, leaving wake up calls for 3 AM to catch our flights home! We have had a wonderful pilgrimage, each one of us feeling that there was one precious moment when we sensed God’s presence and love.
On Saturday, March 30, after we the phenomenal ruins at Ephesus, we traveled the island of Patmos – where we had the opportunity to tour the Monastery of St. John (founded in 1088) and the Grotto of the Apocalypse. Here, John received the Revelation…the last book of the bible.
On March 31, Good Shepherd Pilgrims arrived to the island of Crete, which, as noted in the book of Acts, was visited by Paul, seeking refuge from dangerous seas on his journey to Rome to make his appeal to Caesar. When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius… We boarded a ship and we put out to sea… When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete…and came to a place called Fair Havens.(from Acts 27)
Though our seas were not exactly the calmest, we could only imagine what Paul must have encountered on his voyage. The further along we go, the more we are impressed by Paul’s courage, energy, and devotion.
On Crete we also toured the ancient city of Knossos, which, with constant habitation from the Neolithic era until the 5th century AD, is beyond a doubt the land that “gave birth” to the first civilization of Europe, the Minoans. We also visited the capital of Crete, Heraklion, founded in 824 and an important homeland of many contributors to literature and art.
On this Sunday afternoon, after a “lessons and carols” format service with readings from Paul, we celebrated Eucharist on board, led by Rob and by Christie Olsen, who is the Associate Rector at St. James Episcopal Church, Hendersonville.
Though the weather tried to keep us away, we made it to Ephesus on Saturday, where Paul spent three years of his ministry. This city, rediscovered and unearthed in the 1860s, in only 20% exposed, but what we saw was truly facsinating. We could really imagine Paul walking these streets…and taking the Ephesians to task about their worship of Artimeus, a god made with human hands, for which he was run out of town. Paul had many obsticals to over come to change the hearts of the people towards God and his grace through Christ: Emperor worship, the worship of Greek and other gods, economic changes for people and cultures when former gods became “unprofitable,” Jews who did not recognize Jesus as THE Messiah. Yet Paul remained determined to stand firm in his faith and his call…through imprisonments and beatings, as well as rejection. His resolve is all the more clear now–and we are thankful for it!
As Paul traveled by sea, so do we…sort of! On to Ephesus! To whom Paul would one day write: “to Him whose power working in us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine” and “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering to God.”