Written by Kaitlin Murray at Travelin’ Kait–
In the last moments of Jesus’ life, he entrusted his mother Mary to John, his youngest apostle – asking him to care for her as his own mother. Soon after, the apostles were forced to flee when their lives were threatened by the emperor Herod Agrippa, who had already crucified John’s brother, the apostle James. Escaping from persecution in Israel, John and Virgin Mary came to Ephesus to try and hide in a big city. John found a dense forest up in the hills behind Ephesus – the perfect location to build a house for Mary to live in, hidden from the rest of the world. There she spent her final years and died peacefully. The house of Virgin Mary (called Meryem Ana in Turkish) is a peaceful and inspiring little haven in a glowing mountain retreat – and I got to visit it!!!
In the early 1800’s, a bedridden German nun named Anna Katharina Emmerick had many dreams about Mary’s home in Ephesus the location back then lost in time. She described it with such detail that in 1891, 67 years after her death, the search for the home of Virgin Mary began. The house was discovered in the precise location and with accurate descriptions that Anna had described and excavations began right away.
They found a chapel dating back to the 12th century built on the site, however there is evidence that some ruins date to the 1st century AD. It was an incredible experience to be in that actual spot where the mother of Jesus lived and I felt like writing something special to show how it moved me.
I want to dedicate this poem to my 91 year-old great grandmother, Mary Katherine Nassif, who absolutely adores the Virgin Mary and always shows her special love to me . I hope you enjoy it!
Mary’s Eternal Grace
“Up on the peak of a hill where few nomads roam, a little cottage sits hiding from the rest of the world. Down below is a site of great culture and power – mighty Ephesus lives another day of glory and honor.
A fire is burning inside, heating up the house as the donkey outside lays peacefully resting. The trees light up dancing with the shadows of the sun, which jump from tree to tree as time flows on.
A bird chirps, a cricket sings, as Mary steps out of her home, and remembers her past. How much has changed since she was a young child – a mystery so deep, life itself is puzzled. Humbly she walks, her aura glows, flowers bloom at the touch of her toes.
In her hand she holds a rose picked near the spring down below, the wind sings a song for the heavenly women. Her smile so soft, her eyes how pure. John returns from his hike down to town – thankful he lives to see another day, a pack he carries for food on the way.
She looks up to the sky and calls for her Son, who lived and then dies, her heavenly one. The sun shines brighter, she knows He’s near. He whispers to her to have no fear.
The wind blows, the trees sway as I step into the Holy place. I’m finally here – I think to myself – Mary lived here and her presence is felt. Sitting here all alone, in a little building she called home.
I smile in relief – such a glorious day – knowing all the pilgrims before me felt the same way. My heart starts to beat, I step into the door. Then take another step, wanting to see more. Just a small little room sits in front of me – Mary lived here, my soul so free.
Like a gust of wind from the sea or a light of hope in a dark ocean, it hit me quickly, all at once. I rest my shoulders, look around, see another Christian next to me praying – knees on the ground.
What a miraculous thing a place like this – how hopeful the song, how sweet the message. There she stands, a statue of Gold, on the altar of God, what a sight to behold! Her arms reaching out, a smile on her face, welcoming you into this Holy place.
Then I say goodbye, kneel and say “thank you” again – smile and walk away with her presence taken in. Ahead of me, candles are lit, each carrying a prayer – a dream – a wish.
Out in the distance the mountains roar, you look around and want to explore more.
Then John runs over, he looks out at the sky. The stars twinkle brighter, the sun glows and shines.
A presence, a light – maybe a feeling or sound – tells you Mary says, “Hi,” her presence all around. I look down from her hideaway up near the sky – where the mother of Jesus lived the last years of her life.”
After having visited the chapel, we had the chance to write a quick prayer on anything we could find and tie it onto a wall full of other people’s prayers. The majority wrote their prayers and dedications on tissues and cloth, but there were also things like ribbons, hair pins, necklaces, and even water bottle wrappers!
The Virgin Mary House is a place of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims alike. The book Maryem Ana,written by Oriano Granella, says this:
“It is therefore a place of prayer, silence and reflection. A place where groups of Christian pilgrims from all over the world celebrate Holy mass in memory of Mary taken up into the heavens, where flocks of pilgrims, both Christian and Muslims, stop to say a silent prayer.”
It really was a place of peace and silence, and everyone around, no matter the religion, was enjoying their time of reflection. It was a great moment to escape from the hustle and bustle of society and have some time up on the top of a mountain in a holy location.
It was a very moving moment for me and I would recommend it for anyone visiting Kusadasi. Even if you aren’t super religious, or religious at all, it is a great place to visit and a fantastic day trip up into the beautiful mountains near Ephesus.