Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarchal Church of St. George, Istanbul, Turkey

My guide, Mehmet Tetik (\tetik) drove me in his car to the see of the Orthodox Church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the highest see of the Orthodox Church and has retained it’s centre in Istanbul (Constantinople) for over seventeen centuries.  Orthodox means “right belief” and “right worship”. Orthodox Christianity adheres to the teachings of the seven ecumenical councils, all of which took place in or around Constantinople.The Ecumenical Patriarchate is known as the “Great Church of Christ” and it is the reference point for liturgical and administrative matters. It is also known as called the “Phanar” or “lighthouse” which derives from the name of the old Greek neighbourhood where it is located.
The church of St. George (the Great Martyr and Trophy Bearer) is the fifth church to house the Ecumenical Patriarchate since the 15th century.  Before that it was a convent for Orthodox nuns.
The Church of Constantinople was founded by St. Andrew, the first apostle.  His disciple, Stachys, was the first bishop of Byzantium (38-54). After Constantinople became the capital of the Roman Empire in 330, the Church’s status was elevated to it’s present position. The Fourth Ecumenical Council (453) granted Constantinople equal ranking to Rome.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, a citizen of Turkey was elected 270th Archbishop of Constantinople - New Rome in 1991.
Mehmet explained that often famous and important people from Greece will bring their children here to be baptized or their marriages will be held here.  He said that he believes it’s the hope of the Greeks that they would once again have Constantinople as their own. They lost it in the Turkish War of Independence when Ataturk leading the Turkish forces pushed the Allies and Greeks out of Istanbul to establish the present republic.  The main black entrance door remains closed to the church as a reminder of the atrocities that occurred at that time against Christians and against the Orthodox church.
Mehmet also explained that the twin headed eagle is the symbol of the Orthodox Church since the early days of Constantinople as it represented the Eagle looking to the east and to the west.
Apparently the Pope comes to visit here and when he does he returns relics that the Crusaders stole when they invaded Constantinople.  The joke is that it will be a thousand years before they’re all returned at the speed of the present process.
There's a marvellous piety those I know who are Othodox Christianity. Personally I'm attracted to the celebration of Christian Spirituality in the church. There's an overt appreciation of the mysticism of the "Cloud of Unknowing" , the teaching of a European middle age monk, in the church. My very positive outlook on the Orthodox church might well be coloured by the first member I grew to know well, a poet and book store manager.

DSCN4473St. John the Baptist.DSCN4475DSCN4476

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