Yesterday's Istanbul walking tour included a visit to the Kariye Museum, an old Byzantine church that was converted to a mosque but then again to a museum in the 20th century. It's original name was the Church of the Holy Savior Outside (or Beyond) the Walls. It's sometimes called the Chora Church.
|"Anastasis" (Church Beyond the Walls)|
|Hands, Lifting to Life|
And the frescoes in the parecclesion (just to the right of the nave) are equally impressive. Perhaps most arresting is one known as Anastasis ("Resurrection") -- in which a powerfully determined Jesus raises Adam and Eve out of their tombs. Underneath Jesus' feet are the gates of hell, with all manner of chains, prison keys and instruments of oppression.
|Hell's Fear, Keys, Chains|
I'm thinking, this afternoon, of those California families in who've lost loved ones to unimaginable violence in Santa Barbara. I'm thinking of the Turkish families, hundreds of them, who've lost loved ones in a terrible and avoidable mining disaster. And I'm thinking of all the other ways we're bound and frightened and diminished by fear. I'm less interested in a triumphant Christ -- and much more drawn to a strong and committed Jesus. This is the One I see reaching for us, reaching for the captive in us, lifting us to something better and genuinely human.
|God's Good News is Liberation: Istanbul|
I like so much the name of that old, old church: Church of the Holy Savior Beyond Walls! I've come so many miles, and left behind so many responsibilities, yet there is a kind of discovering that happens here. And it is so powerful and lively and renewing. I see Jesus on the walls of that old church -- and it's as if for the first time. I can't quickly sum him up, or figure out his agenda (let alone his 'plan' for my life). He's both on the walls, in plain sight, and very much beyond them. Jesus is indeed a mystery, but a provocative one, one I dare to question and contemplate. Even here.
And on the streets of Istanbul, as in the streets of Santa Cruz, I'll look for his hand. A hand that lifts.
|Sunset over Istanbul|
|Mosaic at Chora: Woman Grabs the Hem of Jesus' Garment|