Blog Template Theology of the Body: Mary's House

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Mary's House

During my recent travels with my husband, we had the huge privilege of making a May pilgrimage to the little stone house just outside of the ruined city of Ephesus, which tradition holds to have been the home of Mary and St. John.

The first-century house (partly original, partly restored) is tucked safely away in the hills, far outside of the old town, where the mother of Jesus could have lived quietly, relatively protected from those naysayers and enemies of the new faith who eventually ousted both St. John and St. Paul from their territory. First-century converts flocked to this place to be baptized in the back yard of the mother of their Lord; the fifth century fathers of the Council of Ephesus, who gathered in that vicinity against the Nestorian heresy to authorize belief in Christ's full humanity from she who was truly His mother, acknowledged their own affirmation of the tradition that this place had been Mary's home.

As we walked up the forested hill to the little house, leaving behind our Protestant companions who remained on the bus in protest (it confirmed some of my suspicion that even the most well-meaning modern evangelicals are ridden with old Nestorianism), we caught glimpses of the young Franciscan friars who steward the place; we passed the enormous baptismal pool, carved in the shape of a fish; we passed an outdoor altar were Masses are offered; and then we entered the solid little house. We knelt there, very briefly, in our place in line, before the tiny and unadorned altar which past pontiffs have blessed. I have heard friends say that following their own pilgrimmages to Marian sites, they have found that there is a distinct difference between the experience of prayer in her "presence," as compared to the presence of her Son. Although both can overwhelm you with the most satisfying sense of love, Christ in the Eucharist penetrates; by the mediation of the Holy Spirit, Mary more gently envelopes. My experience was that of feeling, briefly, more "mothered" than I ever could have imagined. It was an awesome place, in the quietest sense of the word; I felt like I was there with the one woman, who, blessed above all to be Christ's mother and ours, prayed and waited there on His will as no one else ever could. Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:43)

From the top

1) Orthodox women add their prayer requests to a collage of other petitions; these are written on scraps of paper and rags, and knotted together to form a kind of tapestry outside the house.

2) The ancient baptismal pool- the large size bespeaks a large number of converts

3) Mary's house