Saturday, May 13, 2017

Cruising the Greek Isles: Rethymnon, Crete

As we were leaving Santorini, the ship’s captain called us together to make an announcement.  We held our breath, thinking that perhaps we would not be going to Crete, since the Knossos visit had already been cancelled.  Instead, he wanted to let us know that we would be facing a rough sea as we made our way to Crete overnight.  The waves could reach a height of 12-14 feet, he said.  Dramamine was passed out to all!  Most of us made it through the night, but a few, including my sister, suffered sea-sickness.  The captain brought us through the rough sea and by morning we were safely anchored in the old Venetian harbor of Rethymnon, Crete.

My family and friends are aware that Crete has had a profound influence in my life since the age of 17, when the Air Force sent me there for a year and a half.  My adult life has been shaped by that experience.  What a thrill it was to have my brother and sister experience Crete with me on this visit after hearing me rave about it for the past 55 years!  “This is why I left you in Crete,” the Apostle Paul wrote young Titus, “that you might set in order the things that are wanting…” (Titus 1:5).  I have always felt that, like Titus, I was left on Crete for a purpose.

Crete has changed drastically over the past 55 years. Still, the island “holds a wondrous attraction for me, for it ’twas” on this island that I became aware of a wider world than that which I had ever known, a world where people lived thousands of years before me, a new world, that I beheld with new eyes and understanding.  On Crete, a vision of this world as it is meant to be filled my mind, a vision which I embraced and have sought ever since.  Crete provided me opportunity to experience people (in Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Germany, Turkey, Libya, and Egypt) and to discover that in spite of our diversity we belong to one another and are meant to live in a global community as brothers and sisters.  My former Sunday school teacher, Beatrice Smith, wrote (to encourage me) during that first sojourn on Crete, “God is as close to you in Crete as he was in New Jersey.”  Yes, God was close to me in Crete, so close that I came to know how small my conception of God and God’s world had been in New Jersey!  I began to see “how big and wide God’s vast domain” and to know that Love is at the heart of all things. Perhaps that explains, above all else, the magnetic-like pull that Crete has had on my mind, my heart, and my soul through all these years.  Every congregation I have ever served has heard a sermon titled, “Left In Crete.”

In Rethymnon (as everywhere in Crete) there are traces of a history dating back 7000 years B.C., even preceding the Minoans of Knossos (the first civilization in Europe). It was  so special to be in Rethymnon (the third largest city on the island)  and it was sheer joy to be “left in Crete” again, even if only for a day!

Greetings from Crete:  1962
Rethymnon Taverna: 2017

We enjoyed a dancing troupe on
board ship at Rethymnon, but this is
a photo of Crete dancers from 1961

Crete Visit:  1997

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