Monday, August 29, 2016

Idolatry Is Foolish

Idolatry, for those who have seen the beauty and the truth of Christianity, seems like a foolish belief system, which can only take its faithful so far. To be honest…not that far, since it is a human understanding of deity which is false. It is interesting to read the following passage from the Old Testament (Wisdom of Solomon 13:10-19) where the foolishness of idolatry is highlighted.

Solomon continues praying:
10   Some people are miserable because they have set their hopes either on lifeless idols crafted in the shape of animals from gold and silver, or else on some old pieces of worthless stone. 11A woodcutter may saw down a small tree, then peel off the bark and skilfully make something worthwhile from the wood. 12Some of the leftover wood may be used for a cooking fire, 13while a crooked and knotty piece may be carefully carved into the shape of a human 14or of some useless animal, before being painted red to cover all its flaws.

15A special shelf is made on the wall, and the idol is fastened to the shelf with metal nails 16to keep it from falling, because the one who made it realizes that it is merely a helpless idol. 17Then—without shame—its maker prays to this lifeless idol for help with finances, marriage, or family. 18Its maker asks for good health from something weak, for life from something dead, for guidance from something without experience, for a safe journey from something that cannot walk, 19and for wealth and success from something that cannot move its hands.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia

Ihlara Valley, in Cappadocia, central Turkey, is located within the border of Guzelyurt-Aksaray. Ihlara Valley and the volcanic landscape of the region were formed as a result of the volcanic eruptions of Mount Hasan during the third Geological Era. Melendiz River, the Cappadocia River, had carved its bed, made it deeper forming, thus, the valley. It flows through 14 km long Ihlara Valley, whose older name was Peristremma. Interesting enough there are 105 churches and nearly ten thousand rock caverns in Ihlara Valley.

Ihlara Valley, due to the great number of churches, was an important monastic centre. The Churches in the valley represent the characteristics of the age they were made, being constructed in a carved cross shape, with single or double naves.

The valley was used as a hermitage by priests and monks after the 4th century, spreading Christianity to the locals. Ihlara Valley stands as the pearl of Cappadocia, bringing together nature, history, art, culture and religion. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Truth of Being

How can we distinguish between what we are, who we are and what characteristic and virtues we have? Are they different? Or do they explain the same thing, i.e. our ontology as people and persons? Can this be said about God too? Christos Yannaras explains, in regards to God:

‘The identification of being with the freedom of love – of that love which forms being hypostases – reveals that the truth of the ethos or morality is equivalent to the truth of being. When we speak of the unity and communion of the three divine persons, we are referring to God’s mode of being, which is the ethos of divine life. And the ethos of God is identical with His being. When the Christian revelation declares that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:16), it is not referring to one among many properties of God’s “behaviour,” but to what God is as the fullness of trinitarian and personal communion.’[1]

[1] Yannaras, Christos, The Freedom of Morality, (New York, SVSP, 1996), p.18. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Saint Ninian Bishop of Whithorn, Apostle to the Picts

“See in each herb and small animal, every bird and beast,
and in each man and woman, the eternal Word of God.” -St. Ninian

Bishop and confessor; date of birth unknown; died about 432 AD; St Ninian is the first Apostle of Christianity in Scotland. The earliest account of him is in Bede (Hist. Eccles., III, 4): “the southern Picts received the true faith by the preaching of Bishop Ninias, a most reverend and holy man of the British nation, who had been regularly instructed at Rome in the faith and mysteries of the truth; whose episcopal see, named after St. Martin the Bishop, and famous for a church dedicated to him (wherein Ninias himself and many other saints rest in the body), is now in the possession of the English nation. The place belongs to the province of the Bernicians and is commonly called the White House [Candida Casa], because he there built a church of stone, which was not usual amongst the Britons”. The facts given in this passage form practically all we know of St. Ninian’s life and work.

The most important later life, compiled in the twelfth century by St. Aelred, professes to give a detailed account founded by Bede and also on a “liber de vita et miraculis eius” (sc. Niniani) “barbarice scriptus”, but the legendary element is largely evident. He states, however, that while engaged in building his church at Candida Casa, Ninian heard of the death of St. Martin and decided to dedicate the building to him. Now St. Martin died about 397 AD, so that the mission of Ninian to the southern Picts must have begun towards the end of the fourth century.
St. Ninian founded at Whithorn a monastery which became famous as a school of monasticism within a century of his death; his work among the southern Picts seems to have had but a short lived success. St. Patrick, in his epistle to Coroticus, terms the Picts “apostates”, and references to Ninian’s converts having abandoned Christianity are found in Sts. Columba and Kentigern.
Some believe that shortly before his repose St. Ninian may have moved from Scotland to Ireland and died there, though there is no evidence to confirm this. According to a legend, at the moment of St. Ninian’s repose, a bell began to ring by itself, announcing the death of the righteous man and calling everybody to his deathbed. St. Ninian was buried in a stone coffin near the altar of the church that he had built on Whithorn. Pilgrims flocked to his relics up to the sixteenth century, when his relics were lost due to the Reformation.[1]

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Capitolio, Havana

One of the largest buildings in the Cuban capital is the Capitolio, which is a replica of Washington D.C.’s Capitol. This Neo-Classical structure was once a congressional building. The diamond inset in the floor is the point from which all distances are measured in Cuba. This building was inaugurated in 1929 and incorporates Art Deco elements into a Neo-Classical design. It reopened in 2014, after restoration, and now hosts the National Assembly.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Landscape Gardens – Royal Mail First Day Cover

The newest collection by the Royal Mail First Day Cover is dedicated to Landscape Gardens, The Genius of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The name Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-83) has become synonymous with the 18th century landscape garden. His trademark park formula, with its sweeping lawns and stands of ancient oak reflected in vast lakes, continues to influence our vision of a pastoral England. Each of these eight stamps commemorates different aspect of this great achievement. These eight stamps depict the landscape gardens from: Blenheim Palace, Longleat, Compton Verney, Highclere Castle, Alnwick Castle, Berrington Hall, Stowe and Croome Park. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Alexander the Great and Mount Athos

Mount Athos is one of the holiest places for the Orthodox Church and faithful. However, the land has existed before Christianity. Many have given it a certain significance in the ancient world, which is not accepted by many. Nevertheless, we do find that many refer to it. One instance is Plutarch, when giving Alexander the Great’s story. What kind of relationship could there have been between the King of Macedonia and Mount Athos? A project, which was not realised. An exaggerated one that was, however, fitting for a king. Plutarch explains:

‘It was Stasicrates who had remarked to Alexander at an earlier interview that of all mountains it was Mount Athos in Thrace which could most easily be carved into the form and shape of a man, and that if it pleased Alexander to command him, he would shape the mountain into the most superb and durable statue of him in the world: its left hand would enfold a city of 10,000 inhabitants, while out of its right would flow the abundant waters of a river which would pour, like a libation, into the sea. Alexander had declined this proposal, but now he spent his time with his engineers and architects planning projects which were even more outlandish and extravagant.’ (chapter 72).