Friday, June 11, 2010
We visited the Monastery of St John the theologian. Wonderful place. Up on top of the highest hill overlooking the harbour of Patmos. Very spiritual place. Has a number of original pictures painted not long after its building in 1100. It's building was inspired and overseen by Christodoulos. That is the best name I have ever heard meaning 'slave of Christ.' Might rename myself. But then again, Mark John is cool considering that John Mark wrote the first Gospel and Mars was the Roman god of war. Still, perhaps I will take it as a nickname. Philippians is all about this (1:1; 2:8 etc).
We had a glorious moment in the evening. We had discussed our desire to meet an Eastern Orthodox priest. They are everywhere, with their cool hats, beards, big bodies, black robes. We wondered how they viewed the world. Well we saw a visitors centre where the Orthodox faith was explained to tourists around 8pm last night. We popped in. A nice lady there said we might like to watch the video showing. As we watched in came a priest. We immediately recognised him from the video. He is the Bishop of the Island, the Abbott. He oversees the 400 churches on the island, the seminary, and the monastery. They train Priests for all over the world, the NZ Greek Orthodox priest trained there (I plan to meet him in Wellington when I get back).
Anywho, we thought, let's go and talk to him. We went over and one thing led to another and before you knew it we were sitting with him. He is Archimandrite Antipas, named after the Antipas of Revelation in Pergamum who was boiled alive, the first martyr of Asia. He was lovely. The woman in the centre translated for him. Her name was Anistasis (resurrection) and her daughter's name was 'Jesus saviour' with the second name eirene (peace)! We talked about our faith, his faith, his role. Turns out he is not married. Bishops and Abbots (archbishops) can't marry. However, one can still become a priest if married. Anistasis' husband is a priest and they have a daughter. He can't become one of the hotshots. An improvement on complete celibacy.
He talked about faith as a heart thing. He spoke of the Spirit. He was every bit as passionate as we are. He spoke of his passion for ecology, justice, peace and more. He has overseen the planting of 500 trees on the island. He is evangelical, wanting the gospel to go out. The visitor's centre is set up to help people find faith. This place is full of people searching, coming to holy places. It is a great vision.
We are going to church on Sunday and he is taking us out for lunch. What a blessing.
For those who don't know, the church is made up of three great blocks: Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant. I am a Protestant through and through, and this trip has reminded me why. The church was one up until around 1050 when it split into Catholic Orthodox. One of the main reasons was the source of the Spirit: God the Father, or God and Jesus. The Orthodox claim the former, the Catholics the latter. I am with the Catholics, but it is quibbling over minors. I was thrilled that Antipas agreed that we are one. He called us brothers and sisters. His dream is a world without war. Amen to that; that is exactly what Jesus came for. For me I struggle with the elevation of Mary and the Saints; however, I feel the Orthodox faith does not cross into heresy here. They recognise that all are Saints, but that some are to be recognised for great service. They do not pray to the saints, but believe that the eternal living saints who form part of the church (in heaven), can intercede for others. Interesting idea. For me, I don't see a need to pray to a deceased Christian. I will pray to the High Priest; that is the point of Christ coming, free and open access through faith to God because of the work of Jesus our intercessor and High Priest.
Anyhow. It was a sensational experience. I can't wait for Sunday to have lunch with him; share hospitality, break bread. For me it will be an act of healing and unity as Protestant and Orthodox come together as one. They did not seem fazed by Emma being a reverend which was great. As you can see by the photo, I was decidedly underdressed! Still he was not concerned. What a glorious moment. Emma and I went back to our hotel giggling like a couple of kids; we felt blessed... we are.
Pray for the peace of the world and the unity of the church... Amen.