scratching out the cross

For a millennium, the Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world. It reaches all the way back to the worlds of Chrysostom and Constantine. When Istanbul was conquered by the Ottomans, it was turned into a mosque - and now it is a museum. The history is amazing - and so also is the beauty.

However it is neither the history nor the beauty of the site that will remain with me. It is the sight of the feeble attempts to scratch out the cross that were to be seen everywhere.

Here is the irony. While images of the cross have been defaced, every tour group enters the building at the Imperial Gate, crowned with its own mosaic. It is an image of Jesus, flanked by Mary and Gabriel, with the emperor prostrate at His feet. Jesus is holding a book with an inscription which is dutifully translated by every tour guide to proclaim, simply and clearly, the message of the cross in the language of every visitor:

'Peace be with you. I am the light of the world'. 

Peace in the midst of conflict. Light in the midst of darkness. The wonder of the cross.

A few dozen meters away there is some silly darkness going on. The ridiculous sight of people in a long queue for The Wish Column. Here visitors stick their fingers in a hole (worn away by pilgrims through the ages) in a column, believing that their wishes will be fulfilled if the finger comes out wet.

Quite a few dozen miles away there is some sad conflict going on. Within an hour or so of our visit to the Hagia Sophia, there is a terrorist attack at a peace rally in Ankara in which more than one hundred people are killed. The worst attack of its kind in Turkey.

Light and peace are must fully found in the Christ of the cross. No place in history has come closer to scratching out the cross than Turkey, home of the oldest Christian world. While it once provided the terrain for the missionary journeys of Paul, the location of the seven churches receiving messages from Jesus through John, and the circuit for the letters of Peter ... today the Christian community is weak - just a few thousand among many millions. And yet it will not always remain like this because while 'the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, to those who are being saved it is the power of God' (1 Corinthians 1.18). All those arms today, with cameras lifted high, will one day be arms lifted aloft with praises to Jesus.

nice chatting



Charles Warren said…
Thanks, well written with compassion and also with the end in view, i.e.the triumph of the cross...of Jesus, the Lamb of God, our glorious Lord and Savior! How blessed you and Barbara are to have visited this historic museum. dad warren.
What a great picture. 'Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess . . . '
Paul Windsor said…
Thanks, Jonathan ... and Dad too. Goodness me, how many people have the privilege of having their 94 year old father-in-law adding comments to their blog?! I am blessed indeed.

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