Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Relics and Things

My wife and I are in Istanbul, Turkey as I write this. It has been an interesting two days here. On day one we saw the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, a huge cistern, and Korah Church.

Of greatest interest to me was Hagia Sophia. The present iteration of that church owes its existence to the Emperor Justinian. Two previous buildings occupied the spot prior to the current huge domed structure. Constantius, the son of Constantine, built a church with a wood roof on the site several hundred years prior to Justinian's structure. That building burned and another erected. It, too, burned when riots broke out following chariot races at the nearby Hippodrome. The present building served as the patriarchal church for the bishop of Constantinople until the city fell to Islam whereupon it was converted to a mosque.

Today we visited the Egyptian spice market, sailed on the Bosphorus, and visited Topkapi Palace, the home of the Ottoman sultans. This immense structure is home to much of the finery attached to the sultanate. One display featured religious relics associated with Islam. As we viewed the exhibit we saw Moses' rod that budded, Joseph's turban, and the forearm of John the Baptist. We also viewed Mohammed's footprint and other relics associated with the Kaaba and Mohammed. If you believe those things are what they say they are I have a bridge to sell you located in Arizona near the Colorado River!!!

I always assciated the collection and worship of relics with Roman Catholicism but I'm sure it exists to some degree in many religions. Frankly, I think it is a lot of superstitious nonsense, but hey, I saw the rod that budded! Someone once said there are enough Catholics with a piece of the cross to reconstruct dozens of crosses. Relics were a big deal before the Protestant Reformation and, for some, they are a big deal today. Consider for instance all the stuff that goes on about the Shroud of Turin or those who brought splinters back from the Ark on Mount Ararat. I guess if that's the sort of thing that turns you on it is just the sort of thing you'd be interested in.

I certainly don't need some stupid relic -- real or imagined -- to bolster my faith! I have the testimony of reliable witnesses in "the Book." Its testimony to the resurrection of Jesus in space and time is enough for me!

Now, having said all of that, my wife and I leave Istanbul tomorrow for a trip to Cappadocia followed by a tour of "the seven churches of Asia." Read the first chapters of Revelation for a comprehensive list of these churches. I'm looking forward to visiting Ephesus, Philadelphia, Smyrna, and the other churches in the list. I'm not looking for relics! I'm looking for a better understanding of the historical settings for the early church. I'll tell you more about it as we go along.


Vagabond Professor said...

Sounds like you are having a good hysterical time. I'd love to see all that some time. God's blessings to you and Dolores.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the posts! Would you recommend this trip for a simple farmer from Iowa?

Elder John said...

Sounds like a great trip and I hope to visit some of the same places one day. As a former Catholic I am well familiar with relics. The nuns that taught us (Josephite order) were said to have a splinter of the cross in the crucifix they word. Considering the amount of nuns in that order it would have been physically impossible to me now.

But while we of the Coc and ICC do not have relics we do have our sacred cows so to speak. I agree we have a living Lord as our focus but so many have other things they consider just as sacred as relics.

Crosses, stained glass windows, steeples (with crosses on top of course) and so much more. I remember one church I attended many years ago had a painting of the last supper on the back wall. the church really needed a good painting in 1980 and it took almost a year of meetings to decide what to do with that one wall. Paint over it (which many thought sacralidgous) or just leave it alone. It stayed untouched until the building was leveled to make way for a new one in 2004.