The Sacred Journey continues

June 9, 2015

Wow. So much that we have seen, and how in the world to sum it up in just a few paragraphs?
The last day that we spent in Istanbul was a really busy one; we started the day walking to a museum devoted to ancient mosaics, where grand mosaics that have been discovered by archaeologists—most found in homes or courtyards—have been painstakingly excavated and moved, so that people can see and appreciate them. From there we walked to the Carpet Museum, where we viewed ancient—and I mean ANCIENT—carpets on display in atmospherically controlled environments.
Hagia Sophia From there it was Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), the church built by Emperor Justinian in 537, that was converted to a mosque after the Crusades (conversion of a church to a mosque involves facing Mecca and saying a prayer from inside the church, then adding some architectural accoutrements that are required for a mosque), which is now a museum. The artwork within it is fascinating, the architecture that went into building it is historically groundbreaking, and the grandeur of the space—even with the scaffolding inside used in current restoration—is stunning.
Interestingly, at the top of the main dome, there is a painting or fresco depicting Jesus, which was covered entirely with a painting of the first verse of the Koran; but allegedly in the ongoing restoration, plans are being made to uncover and reveal the painting of Jesus.
The next day we drove—a LONG way—to view the ruins of ancient Troy, and ponder the truth of Homer’s depiction of the Trojan War (he wrote about it around 5-800 years after the war, basing his story on oral traditions); the archaeological discoveries are jaw-dropping, with some speculation that there may have been a Hittite city on the site that predated Troy by hundreds of years. But the evidence of roads, and homes, and temples, and theater, are plain to see.
After a night in Canakkale, we traveled to the ruins of the ancient city of Assos, visited by the Apostle Paul on one of his journeys (but no mention of his staying there any amount of time), then on to the site of Pergamum, where one of the churches mentioned in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation was. To read and remember that the message to that church mentioned the “temple of Satan,” and to see the many temples in the area—to Athena, to Trajan, to Dionysius, to Zeus—helps one to reflect on the fact that the hope of the Christian faith struggled in a culture that was oppositional to the message of the Gospel. We today, in lands and cultures where the Gospel is unknown (even in America!), and where other faiths are more prominent, need to remember that we must always speak the truth—and in love!
EphesusThe magical port city of Kusadasi was our next stop, allowing us to make a trip to the sprawling, ancient city of Ephesus. Ephesus was an important port city in its time, was where Paul’s preaching and the conversion of many to the Christian faith prompted an economic crisis in the city that resulted in a riot that led Paul to need to “hot foot it out of town.” The Apostle John allegedly ended his ministry and life here, as did Mary, the mother of Jesus. There is a tiny church on the alleged site of Mary’s home, as well as the ruins of an ancient Basilica above the purported site of John’s tomb.
But the archaeological site of Ephesus is simply amazing—it spreads far and wide, with evidences of Greek and Roman influence, but here and there, the sign of the Cross can be found. To think that both Paul and John came here to spread the good news of Jesus; and that a church started here to which Paul later wrote one of his letters—is an encouragement to all followers of Jesus to continue to be bold witnesses wherever we go, and whatever we do.
Lib and I ended the day with a few others at a carpet school, where we were privileged to see how hand-woven Turkish carpets are made; how silk is collected from cocoons and spun into thread; and were later treated to an explanation and display of probably 50 rugs. And despite the soft-sell, great price, and wonderful attention, we walked away without purchasing one!
Next up? The cruise of a few Greek Isles, with the Isle of Patmos, where John received and wrote the Revelation, on the first day!

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