St. John and Ephesus-A A +A
By Luci Lizares
Thursday, January 9, 2014
WITHIN the Octave of Christmas, December 27 to be exact, we celebrated the Feast of St. John, the beloved Apostle. St. John was the son of Zebedee and the younger brother of James, another Apostle of Christ. Based on Sacred Scripture, their mother, Salome was the sister of Mary which would make John and James the first cousins of Jesus.
I never realized how little I know of the Apostles. John, the youngest of the twelve apostles, seemed the most innocent with the quickness to trust and believe. He was present during the Transfiguration and the only apostle who stood by Mary beneath the Cross. John was given filial custody of Mary by Jesus Himself during the last moments of His earthly life and was loyal to the very end and more as the protector of the Mother of God. He was with Mary during Pentecost. Traditional belief says that he brought Mary to Ephesus and built her a home there.
Our visit to Ephesus enlightened me more on the life of St. John, the Beloved Apostle and his influence in preaching God’s message to the world. Scholars believe that he wrote his Gospel in Ephesus. The Gospel of John is a narrative of the life of Jesus from the prologue, which is the doctrine of the Incarnation, the first part recounting Jesus’ public life from His baptism, the second part which relates the history of the Passion and the Resurrection of Our Savior, and a short epilogue which echoes our Lord’s words and works.
The historical order of events, the sequence of facts, the accurate knowledge of the geographical and social conditions where the events took place show that St. John must have enjoyed a personal relationship with Jesus and an eyewitness of these events.
As a witness to all the mysteries before him, John’s writings reveal a heart touched to the deepest recesses of contemplation with a fire spirited by the Holy Spirit. The candidness and spontaneity of his love and his unique witnessing, credits St. John as one of the chief and historically credible sources of our knowledge of the life of Jesus Christ.
In the fifth century, Emperor Justinian, acknowledging John as one of the pillars of the Church, built a magnificent church in Ephesus in his honor and St. John is believed to be buried there as per his request.
The Basilica was one of the sacred sites in the Middle Ages where thousands made pilgrimages. The decline of Ephesus and with the constant raids by Arabs then by the Mongol army attacks and an earthquake in the 1400’s, destroyed the basilica totally.
The humongous Basilica was in the shape of a cross and covered with six domes. The tomb of St. John was under the central dome.
During our visit, we were blessed to experience a Greek Orthodox rite at the very site of the tomb of St. John. I was very curious about the celebration and just surmised that it was an ordination. With all the pomp and ceremony of their robes, yet there was the simplicity and humility of the whole service. Under the punishing heat of midday, the priests seemed unfazed and carried on with sincere sanctity despite onlookers like me who were quite dazzled and amazed.
As the Christmas season came to a close and knowing more of the Gospels of St. John, the reason for the season of Christ’s coming has become more meaningful. As God made man in anything and in everything really He can overcome the power of darkness as He is the Savior.
Again, a prayer of thanksgiving of being blessed to have walked in these grounds and to know more how to live in faith and trust in Jesus!
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on January 09, 2014.