Monday, April 4, 2011

Sioni Cathedral

Now, as an Eastern Christian theologian, I'm quite happy to tell you what Gregory of Nyssa thinks of the idea that there are three gods, but I'm not so comfortable with the practical things (i.e, what on earth I'm actually doing). I've been thinking about converting to the Orthodox Church (I think Cabasilas's writings are astonishingly beautiful), and studying the liturgy of the Byzantine Church in preparation for finals, and so I thought I might as well make the leap, as it were, and attend a service at nearby Sioni Cathedral, a largely thirteenth-century (with revisions) church that served as the former Georgian cathedral before the building of Sameba:

Academic, it wasn't! It was two hours of sheer sensual assault, both extraordinary - the feeling of kneeling on a marble floor alongside two hundred congregants, the sound of the choir (the three-part harmony apparently meant to reflect the ultimate unity of the Trinity - I quite like that, actually!), the mosaics, the iconostas! 
Stolen from someone's blog - respectfully!
 I don't have a camera and the Internet had very few interior shots.
Then again, there were difficulties when it came to effecting spiritual reflection! I wore a pair of heels (the only non-open-toed, non-trainer shoes I could find) that proved very painful after two hours of standing in a sardine-packed church, and the density of the crowd made it impossible to see the priest. That, combined with my inability to follow Georgian liturgy, made the experience somewhat trying... I'd like to go to a smaller, more intimate service next time around, in order to better focus on and take in the actual order and process of the liturgy.

I love the idea, expressed in Maximus the Confessor and Cabasilas, much later, in Zizioulas, that in the church on earth one can be an icon of the heavenly Church, the heavenly world. Not an icon in the sense of mere "image" - but rather something with two meanings: I am partaking of the Eucharist, for example, both in the present, literal sense, and also simultaneously undergoing the process of theosis: the twofold reality of art. I am drawn by the idea that by participating in sacred space and sacred time, and performing certain actions, I can participate in that two-fold reality. 

What was particularly striking, however, was how much less FOREIGN the adoption of certain mannerisms (here - a head scarf, a long shirt, and a modest skirt for church) made me feel! I've rarely experienced harassment in Georgia, but I found that, having identified myself as a "religious orthodox person" (if not a Georgian), I moved differently; I walked differently. My sense of space and time and self was so much less other - and I acquired far fewer stares than usual. (And was even taken for a Georgian by one (Georgian-speaking?) woman asking me a question/directions - no mean feat for a pale blonde blue-eyed girl!)


More to come - I saw an absolutely MAD production of Twelfth Night directed by Robert Sturua, which deserves a post of its own!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Monday evening, 4 April 2011



Hello, Fleur Flaneur,

I found your blog by chance today, and I see that you are thinking about converting to the Orthodox Church. I am convert (2008) and I am interested in Sakartvelo, so I was pleasantly surprised. If you would like to meet other online Orthodox, there are plenty of at Facebook, and I would be happy to introduce you to some friends of mine (mostly convert-Orthodox, some cradle-Orthodox). I remember what a big decision it was for me to go from only reading books to actually attending Liturgy. I applaud your courage. I am also glad that it was a good experience for you. If I may humbly suggest: study the Liturgy, but then attend it with a still and listening mind. Then it will touch your heart. It sounds like you have done a lot of reading from the fathers (both ancient and modern); wonderful ! If I may ask, have your read “The Orthodox Way” by His Grace Kallistos Ware? It is not intellectually rigorous, yet it is not meager or weak of intellection, either; and it has spoken to me and to others in the heart. Another good read is “Bread and Water, Wine and Oil,” by Melitos Webber; it also speaks to the heart. Humbly, I suggest that you start (if you haven’t already) to say the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, have mercy on me, a sinner” -- or you can just pray His Name); and ask Him from your heart to lead you to where He, Jesus, wants you to be. He shall reply. You might also want to ask St. Nino, the Enlightener of Sakartvelo, to pray for you. If you want to discuss things more, you can find me at Facebook at John[removethis]Gfoeller or through regular email at john[DOT]gfoeller[AT]hotmail[DOT]com. And if not, that is ok too. I pray that Christ will bless you and lead you most fully to Himself, according to the teaching of the Apostles.

the sinner,

-- John

Anonymous said...

Monday evening, 4 April 2011



Hello, Fleur Flaneur,

I found your blog by chance today, and I see that you are in Georgia (Sakartvelo) and that you thinking about converting to the Orthodox Church. I am a convert (2008) and I am interested in Sakartvelo, so I was pleasantly surprised. If you would like to meet other online Orthodox, there are plenty of us at Facebook, and I would be happy to introduce you to some friends of mine (who are mostly convert-Orthodox and some are cradle-Orthodox). I remember what a big decision it was for me to go from only reading books Orthodoxy to actually attending Liturgy. I applaud your courage. I am also glad that it was a good experience for you. If I may humbly suggest: study the Liturgy, but then attend it with a still and listening mind. Then it will touch your heart. It sounds like you have done a lot of reading from the fathers (both ancient and modern); wonderful ! If I may ask, have your read “The Orthodox Way” by His Grace Kallistos Ware? It is not intellectually rigorous, yet it is not intellectually meager or weak, either; and it has spoken to me and to others in the heart. Another good read is “Bread and Water, Wine and Oil,” by Meletios Webber; it also speaks to the heart. Humbly, I suggest that you start (if you haven’t already) to say the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, have mercy on me, a sinner” -- or you can just pray His Name); and ask Him from your heart to lead you to where He, Jesus, wants you to be. He shall reply. You might also want to ask St. Nino, the Enlightener of Sakartvelo, to pray for you. If you want to discuss things more, you can find me at Facebook at John[removethis]Gfoeller or through regular email at john[DOT]gfoeller[AT]hotmail[DOT]com. And if not, that is ok too. I pray that Christ will bless you and lead you most fully to Himself, according to the teaching of the Apostles.

the sinner,

-- John

Mixho said...

I'm a half converted Scandinavian living in Sololaki and I so recommend Bethlehemi church. All the best.

/Mixho