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Mary's House

April 18, 2014

 Although I don’t write about religion, I think this post from our trip to Turkey in 2012 reflects the spirit of the season.




Is this really the house where the Mother of God spent her last years? Like so many things, it all boils down to a matter of faith. Although I work hard to contain my cynicism, faith isn’t my strong suit. But I am painfully sentimental and the story of Jesus is a remarkably good one, as well it should be after thousands of years of embellishment.


You might be surprised to learn that the House of Mary is said to be in Turkey; I know I was. This all began in Germany with the 19th century bedridden nun Anne Catherine Emmerich. She had experienced a number of visions, including the description of a house the Apostle John, to whom Jesus is said to have entrusted His Mother before His crucifixion, had built for Mary. John is known to have traveled to Ephesus in modern day Turkey, where he lived out his life. It is assumed he followed Jesus’ directive and brought Mary along with him. Emmerich’s visions were published in 1852. This excerpt is from Wikipedia:



Mary did not live in Ephesus itself, but in the country near it. Mary's dwelling was on a hill to the left of the road from Jerusalem, some three and half hours from Ephesus. This hill slopes steeply towards Ephesus; the city, as one approaches it from the southeast seems to lie on rising ground.... Narrow paths lead southwards to a hill near the top of which is an uneven plateau, some half hour's journey….



Emmerich also described the details of the house: that it was built with rectangular stones, that the windows were high up near the flat roof and that it consisted of two parts with a hearth at the center of the house. She further described the location of the doors, the shape of the chimney, etc.


The house was discovered in the 19th century by following the descriptions reported in these visions, and just about every pope since then has made a pilgrimage to the spot and proclaimed it a holy place of veneration. But is it Mary’s house? It dates from the right era, but where’s the proof demanded by Doubting Thomases like me?


So why was I here on this mountain top, staring at something that, for me, carried as much spiritual significance as Disneyland—a place said to have been inhabited by a woman I wasn’t sure existed, who was said to have given birth to a son whose true purpose and identity has caused so much confusion and conflict in the world? I was here because this was the spot that had propelled Mrs. Chatterbox to Turkey, the place she’d wanted to visit most.


I snapped a few pictures of the house, and turned around to look at my wife. She was crying. “Are you alright?” I asked clumsily. I was worried we’d come all this way and she was disappointed, the site not having lived up to her expectations. Had she come to realize that this probably wasn’t the place where the Mother of God had lived out her life?


“I’m okay,” she said, swiping away the tears with the back of her hand.


“It’s a beautiful setting,” I admitted, a theological discussion taking form in my mind. But theology was the last thing on her mind.


“I miss my parents, and CJ,” she said. Mrs. Chatterbox’s folks had passed away a decade earlier, and our son was home, thousands of miles away.


My wife smiled at me, and something ineffable in her eyes made me realize that at the heart of Christianity is a simple concept—family. Maybe Mary of Nazareth didn’t live out her days here. To my wife this hardly mattered. Countless other mothers had. Beyond the hype surrounding this place there remained a basic truth—this was simply a house, a home where generations of mothers had suffered losses and tragedies just as relevant as the one that, two thousand years ago, set in motion events that would prompt people to board tour buses racing to this mountain.


Something about this tourist trap made my eyes well up with love for my wife and son, loss for those that I have loved and lost. I took comfort in the breeze that rattled the leaves of the ancient trees surrounding us. Sentimental—absolutely, but I felt a presence. Mary, are you here?


Cynic that I am, for a moment I believed she was.




Happy Easter Everyone.



So...Mary DIDN'T stay at a Holiday Inn Express? Hmm...I thought she was smarter than that.
By: Al Penwasser on April 18, 2014
Life itself seems impossible to my small mind. Science has demonstrated that bumblebees can not fly. Some things are impossible to believe yet difficult to deny. My faith is not in word for word Biblical stories, but in a higher power and some sense out of this incredible world in which we find ourselves. Lovely story.
By: Cranky Old Man on April 18, 2014
Your setiments are wonderfully expressed Stephen, I really like this post!
By: John on April 18, 2014
This is a wonderful post Stephen- the love that you have for your wife and your family is such a gift for everyone- including yourself.
By: Kathe W. on April 18, 2014
Give me some strength! Great and thoughtful post and I feel much as you do about the various religious sites from all religions...mainly because women play the shallowest of roles in effecting change. But even more interesting is I will be traveling with a group of Catholics (of all things!) through Turkey in the fall and may not get to see all the parts of Turkey I want !
By: Tabor on April 18, 2014
It doesn't matter if the story is true--what matters are people's reactions!!
By: fishducky on April 18, 2014
you brought tears to my eyes today...
By: TexWisGirl on April 18, 2014
This is so beautiful. Life is about love and family and forgiveness. Great post---tweeted it!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on April 18, 2014
Whatever it means, I'm glad you and your wife had a chance to see it and learn the story surrounding it.
By: Lexa Cain on April 18, 2014
Linda and I visited this site in June of last year. As you many recall... no photographs were permitted inside. I believe we all struggle with faith.
By: Daniel LaFrance on April 18, 2014
Blessed Easter to you and your family, Mr. Chatterbox.
By: mimi on April 18, 2014
Beautifully told! Happy Easter!
By: Pixel Peeper on April 18, 2014
What an awesome story to wish us a happy Easter. A happy Easter to you!
By: red on April 18, 2014
The crux of Christianity - a big, big family of misfits, forgottens and 'least of these' and a whole lotta love. This is the Jesus I know. Love this story. Hugs to you and Mrs. C. Blessed Easter.
By: Carrie on April 18, 2014
that's a beautifully told story Stephen and is what you do so well. i got so much from it. thank you
By: Fran on April 18, 2014
What a lovely story of love. Thanks for the telling of it and the truth in it from all perspectives.
By: Oma Linda on April 19, 2014
I think a lot of people struggle with faith because much of what constitutes faith requires accepting things that seem illogical. I think that most religions are based on love, humans often twist and turn their beliefs into something that is the polar opposite. Mrs. C sounds like a lovely person. Some one that has a loving heart is the very BEST example of what is is to be good person.
By: Cheryl P. on April 19, 2014
Lovely story, it really doesn't matter if it's true, it's the spirit.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on April 19, 2014
You know, you often hear about "Christian family values," but Christ blessed who walked from their families to follow him.
By: Snowbrush on April 19, 2014
A beautiful post, Stephen, thank you! I think that ultimately religion is about love and finding the right way for a person to live. You've found this in Mrs C and your family, it's wonderful. I hope you are having a great Easter :)
By: Sharon Bradshaw on April 20, 2014
Tourist trap, indeed. I think you hit the nail on the head.
By: Catalyst on April 20, 2014
whether you chose to believe in christ's divinity or not i think the biblical record of him entrusting mary to john's care are such a full expression of his humanity. that his last thoughts were of the woman who raised him and his dearest friend, that they be together caring for one another. thank you for sharing this story. it must have been quite an experience.
By: lime on April 27, 2014

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