Posted by: rusch | November 3, 2007

Spirit

Let me start by saying that John C.’s post is by far one of the most moving blogs that I have ever read.

I was in Russia this summer and other then meeting people from my brother’s mission, visiting the Russian Orthodox churches in Moscow was the highlight of the trip.

I believe that emphasizing our position as the only true church has caused many to miss the goodness to be found in other religions and sometimes leads to what the scriptures warn against, namely, calling evil good and good evil. A prime example of this was how some members of my family saw the icons and imagery of these churches as idolatric whereas I saw icons as a means of connecting sacred stories to illiterate people and teaching them such principles as God’s love for them and other stories of faith and devotion from the Bible.

Of all the icons that I saw, the one that struck me the most was in a small Church in Greece.

I don’t remember how old the Church was. It must have been at least a thousand years old. Unlike the cavernous Russian churches that I described earlier, this Church was very small. Not more then a hundred people could have attended mass at a time within its’ confines. As I approached the altar, I looked up at the icon painted on the ceiling of the modest dome positioned over the altar. It was either God the father, or Christ. Either one, it does not matter. What does matter and remains significant to me is the message this icon and its’ positioning conveyed to me.

The first thing that was significant was where it was, on the ceiling and in the center. This reminds me the God is the cause of all. Because of him all things exist and that all things we see are emanations of him. The position of him above the Altar reminds me that he is watching over and taking into account all that is done by those who claim to be his servants. Their actions do not escape his view despite their position. He looks upon and is the Judge of all, Priest and parishioner alike.

On a personal level, the icon reminded me of God’s care and regard for me. It reminded me that he is keenly aware of my triumphs and defeats. That he sees my sadness and joy. That he rejoices when I choose righteousness and weeps when I refuse and reject love through sin though as Isaiah said, “His hand is stretched out still”.

The final lesson that I have been able to draw from this sacred imagery is that not everyone will recognize truth when it is in front of them. As I sit in my kitchen writing this, I wonder how many went in and out of this small, dilapidated, centuries old Greek chapel without thinking that it was anything more then another historic building in what many consider to be the seat of western civilization namely Athens, Greece.

I know that for me, that building was something more, as it probably was for those who worshiped there a thousand years ago.


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