Postcard from Patmos: Musings of a Meandering Pilgrim

On a clear day, John could have looked out and seen some of the hills of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) on the distant horizon. From within his mountainside cave, John would have heard the "cock-a-doodle-doo!" of the early morning rooster, the call of little Athena's owl at night, and the soft cooing of the mourning doves and nightingales, just as I did from the deck of our small home about a mile away in the tiny harbor town of Grikos. As I did during my visit, John would have smelled and seen the lavender, purple heather, thyme, jasmine, wisteria, yellow gorse, wild pink and white roses, brilliant red bougainvillea, blue lupins, clematis, yellow and white daisies, blooming cacti, and other plants and wildflowers from his cave home. Several kinds of vegetables and the fruit and nut trees would have provided food for him, as well as the fish, wild hare, and many varieties of birds, including quail, pheasants, partridges, and chickens. As I did while on the Holy Island, he would have also enjoyed milk, yogurt, cheese, and meat from goats and sheep keeping watch from the hills above.

I didn't expect that Patmos would still be so wild! When the winds blow, it feels as if the whole island shakes. Watching the sea gulls flying high above the Aegean on a blustery day, I could see them struggling against these sweeping winds. On the north end of the island, on a hill near the enchanting, clear blue-green bay of Kampos, there are two modern windmills, visible all the way from the southern tip of Patmos, that catch these winds and convert them into electricity for many. I think I will always associate the winds of Patmos with the Beloved Disciple, who surely experienced the wind of the Holy Spirit there during his exile. That Wind still blows, generating electricity but also a kind of spiritual energy that bathes this holy place.

And that brings us to Pentecost Sunday, the celebration of the transforming gift of the Holy Spirit. My Pentecost this year is awash with new memories, mental pictures of the moving Spirit.

In my mind, I can see and hear the Orthodox nuns who sang an exquisitely haunting liturgy each evening in an incense and icon-filled chapel on the sea at the Nunnery of the Annunciation (or Evangelismos). With an equal sense of worship, they create beautiful lacework for churches and paint stunning icons. They also greeted us with loving hospitality: a glass of cold water and delicious pears after the service.

I see the monks who inhabit the great Monastery of St. John Theologos in Hora, preserving ancient texts in their library there, and I see the hermits who live alone around the island and whose work is prayer for the world. Father Alexander, one such hermit, once danced on stages around the world and acted in Hollywood movies (such as Cleopatra), but now greets visitors in his long black gown on the way to John's cave.

I see the young couple from London we met and had dinner with, overlooking Skala harbor on the night of the full moon, talking with him about his work as an Anglican priest among Caribbean immigrants in London and with her about her exploration of faith in spiritual direction as a Catholic.

I see the many restaurant chefs we talked with who made us delicious dinners and then surprised us with the traditional sweet fruit at the end. I see the Orthodox priest who said a three-and-a-half hour liturgy in John's cave-turned-candle-filled-chapel and then gave us blessed bread to eat, and I see all the people that we met everyday in our travels around the island. I know that this "island with a halo," as one writer (Patmos: Island With a Halo by Annoula) calls it, is a "thin place," a place where we meet the Holy in wonderful, blessed ways.


The end of our long pilgrimage to Italy and Greece has now arrived, but I will carry Patmos and beloved John within my heart in a new way forever as I, too, say with deep gratitude to God, "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!"

Read other articles in this series:

Musings of a Meandering Pilgrim

Exploding Easter Cart

The Annunciation

(Burnt) Siena

Tales from the Crypt

Shades of Blue

After a 35-year career as a therapist and counselor educator, Rebecca now serves as a spiritual director, retreat leader, supervisor/teacher in spiritual direction training. Her practice is called HeartSpace Ministries. She is also a writer of prose and poetry.

5/25/2010 4:00:00 AM
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