This past week I got to do something that I have wanted to do for years--I visited the island of Patmos, and the traditional site where the book of Revelation was born. In the first chapter of Revelation we find these words from John the Revelator:
I, John, with you all the way in the trial and the Kingdom and the passion of patience in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of God’s Word, the witness of Jesus. It was Sunday and I was in the Spirit, praying. I heard a loud voice behind me, trumpet-clear and piercing: “Write what you see into a book.Tradition teaches that it was John the Evangelist, the youngest of the disciples of Jesus, who received the Revelation while he was in exile on Patmos. These traditions teach that he would climb the highest hill on the island to pray inside a cave. It was in that cave that he saw the vision that would become the Apocalypse or the book of Revelation.
We visited The Cave of the Apocalypse while we were on Patmos. The Greek Orthodox Church established a monastery on the site of the sacred cave over 1000 years ago. The site had been a place of worship for almost a millenia before.
The sanctuary built around the Cave was dimly lit by candles and a couple of weak electric chandeliers. The walls were completely covered by paintings, elaborate gold and silver icons and other adornments. The smell of incense was overpowering.
The guide told us that we would see two niches in the cave--one where St. John rested his head while he prayed, and another where he would sit. As I walked by them, I felt something stir inside of me. My usual skepticism was replaced by the power of reverence--the kind of reverence that comes when you realize that you are just one small part of a much bigger thing.
For nearly two thousand years faithful Christians have been worshipping on that site--a site where even the most jaded person would have to admit something happened. When that realization hits you, it isn't easy to shake. I gazed on the walls of the cave in awe, with my eyes misting over.
I was overwhelmed by the glorious weight of the "great cloud of witnesses" that had gone before me in the Christian faith, and who I believe are still cheering us all on as we take up the mantle of knowing and showing Jesus in our own lifetimes.
May you take great comfort in knowing you are part of something incredible--the Church, the Body of Christ, the visible hands and feet of Jesus in the world. May you find encouragement and joy in the knowledge that those who paved the way are lifting you up even now.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.