Lent Day 39
Friday, March 29 , 2013
Reading: Luke 14:25-33
By Rev. Mansour Khajehpour
It does not matter how many times I travel to Istanbul, I always find a good reason to visit the magnificent, ancient Hagia Sophia Church, a church that was dedicated to the Logos, God’s Word. Hagi Sophia basilica once was the largest Cathedral of the Orthodox Church and until 1935 carried the name “Mosque’ over its head. It aches my heart each time I visit this place I know there is a lesson for me.
In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Constantinople became Istanbul and the basilica became a mosque. The bells, altar, and other symbols of Christianity were removed and the mosaics were plastered over.
When the Ottomans took over Constantinople, they made every effort to remove any signs of Christianity. The city became Istanbul and all churches became mosques, and this famous Cathedral became the Grand Mosque. All icons were destroyed and all the wall paintings were painted over. There I found a huge mosaic with Jesus at its center. The bottom part of this mosaic is badly deteriorated, but the rest carries a strong message.
Some centuries ago Christians left this at the emperor’s court, probably as another church decoration. For over 500 years this mosaic was hidden under plaster. These days the Turkish Tourism office is trying to restore it. To make this beautiful mosaic would have been very costly. To uncover and to restore this artwork is definitely costly as well. Visitors stop by it for different reasons, yet for me it had a very special message. As these small pieces of the mosaic are being uncovered I am being reminded of the sacrifice our sisters and brothers who have gone ahead of us have paid. This mosaic proclaims the same message: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (14:26-27)
Today’s Prayer: Dear God, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You have given us life abundantly. Thank you for changing us to be the salt of the earth. Thank you for giving us your taste. Please give us creativity on finding new ways to offer you aroma, and your taste, the taste of your presence to the world around us without mixing your message with human ideologies and sinful culture. In Christ’s name, Amen!