In 2005, I embarked on an amazing journey through parts of Europe visiting many beautiful cities and ancient ruins. My very last stop was the excavated city of Ephesus.
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia. The city flourished after it came under the Roman Republic in 129 BC. Ephesus was known for the Temple of Artemis which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Ephesus, a major crossroads of its day, was a nexus of many beliefs, religions and cultures.
As I thumbed through my travel brochure, there were many points of interest, but one caught my attention immediately, "The House of the Virgin Mary”. I was skeptical to the authenticity of this claim, but was also intrigued due to the numerous mentions of Ephesus in the Bible. Our tour guide was a young, enthusiastic woman with a seemingly unending knowledge concerning the region and its historical significance. Moving through the ancient ruins and listening to her words, it was easy to imagine life there thousands of years ago.
She explained that after the death of Jesus, John the Evangelist traveled with Mary to Ephesus. Here, he would lay the foundation for the first Christian community, which would later be developed by Paul. These original believers were heavily persecuted and from the need of survival, developed a secretive code that allowed them to connect with others of the same faith. This symbol was carved into the walls and walkways of the city’s streets. It was a symbol that informed the knowing observer of a safe harbor and the existence of like minded believers. This symbol is still visible today, after thousands of years of wear.
The guide drew five Greek letters at my feet in the sand. The overlay of these five Greek letters was "A Secret Handshake” that here was a place of safety and acceptance and that everyone is created equally. At that moment, I knew in my heart that my journey led me to a sacred place and I needed to share this SYMBOL of UNITY, with the world.