Today we travelled to Phillipi, the first place that the Apostle Paul preached in Europe. Yesterday in Berea and again today in Neapolis (now called Kavala) there are mosaics of Paul having a vision in which a young man calls him to come to Macedonia. If you read Acts, Chapter 16, you hear the story of Paul going outside the city on the Sabbath to a place of prayer by the river. There he met Lydia, a business woman. Lydia believed in Jesus and asked to be baptized. We were at that river today. There is a beautiful contemporary baptistry at the site with exquisite traditional Byzantine mosaics in the dome over the baptismal font and again over the Altar. But the place all of us will remember most is the river. There is a small amphitheater at the river and a cross-shaped entry into the river itself. We held an affirmation of baptism and Eucharist there this morning. We read the vows we make at Baptism and made the promises again, we said the creed together. Then one by one we stepped down into the river and Pastor John (or Father John as our Orthodox guide, Athena, calls him) splashed us with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and made a water cross on our head. Then they stepped up out of the water and I gave each one bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ. John and I washed each other and gave each other bread and wine. Then he prayed and I blessed them. It was something I will never forget.
Later we walked the ruins of the Agora of Phillipi and stood on the scene of the Tribunal which sent Paul and Silas to prison. We got to look into the prison, which tradition is sure enough was the actual prison in which Paul and Silas sang hymns and baptized the jailer, that they built a basilica above it. The basilica is a ruin now, with scattered pieces of carved stone and capitals lying all over the remains of the floor. It is so amazing to walk on these stones, to breathe the air.
The hills and vineyards and orchards of Northeat Macedonia look so much like Santa Barbara it is astonishing. Mary Murray’s sister, Debbie lives in Santa Barbara now, and I was there for 10 years before coming to Oregon. So we had a chance to witness the actual “Mediterranean” houses which the wealthy Santa Barbaraites try so hard to imitate. It was fun to compare notes, and to see what the real thing looks like.
Tonight we are in Neapolis, preparing to follow the Via Egnatia, the ancient road, to the Turkish border. Tomorrow night we will be in Istanbul after driving all day. Neapolis is a beautiful seaport, with the island of Thlassos in the distance across the Agean Sea. I wish we could stay longer. We are seeing so much which is beautiful and interesting and Spirit-filled, but we are moving pretty fast.
I am sorry I have not been able to upload pictures. One way or another, using other’s computers makes using hardward complicated. Maybe tomorrow.
Today’s meditation verse was: Guard the good treasure entrusted to you with the helpof the holy Spirit living in you. (2 Tim 1:4). I leave it for you to reflect on as well. We were able to reflect on our baptism and the Eucharist, the physical elements of our faith. What is the good treasure entrusted to you?