As I was growing up, my German family spent many years vacationing on the Danish island of Moen in the Baltic Sea. To us, there was no better place. On Moen, you could find tranquility, beautiful beaches, history and friendly locals who cherished and protected their little heaven on earth. Even now, 40 years later, members of the Thomas clan still visit the island regularly.
In Patmos, I found Moen’s Mediterranean match. Though smaller than its Baltic cousin, Patmos gives you the same sense of homecoming the moment you put foot on its shores. There is something special about this place, an energy that captivates you and makes you want to come back for more.
In the year 95 A.D. John, the Evangelist and Theologian, made Patmos his home – actually, he was exiled here from Ephesus where he caused too much trouble preaching the gospel. I guess Emperor Domitian didn’t like John very much. The moment John arrived on Patmos he got to work writing the Book of Revelation (the last book in the Bible) in a cave overlooking the Mediterranean. His scribe, Prochoros, must have been working feverishly as John got constantly downloaded with divine messages. But John was no push-over (there is a reason why he is a saint): between downloads, he continued to spread the gospel on Patmos, converting many islanders to Christianity and baptizing them in a local creek.
John’s exile didn’t last very long. 18 months after John’s arrival on Patmos, the emperor had been murdered and John was allowed to go home to Ephesus where he died shortly after at the age of 96.
Today, the (assumed) site of John’s cave is a UNESCO protected historic site with a very small monastery. The place is now referred to as the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse. One priest and his mother live at the site permanently.
Patmos oozes traditional Greek values of family and village life. As I walk through the narrow paths in town I notice cats sleeping on porches, birds chirping and bright flowers in front of the houses, people drying their clothes in windows and men smoking their pipes in the village square. With 3,500 people on the island, Patmos has 365 churches – and no airport. The only way to get here is by boat. I love it!
Sometimes, it is difficult to visualize the events of many years ago when visiting historic sites. Not here. The place hums with history and spiritual energy. No wonder John got hit with all that divine enlightenment on Patmos.
As I leave this enchanting island behind, I ask myself why John left beautiful Patmos to go back to Ephesus. I guess at age 90something he wasn’t ready for retirement.