Tuesday, August 19, 2008
The Jewish communities have just commemorated the destructions of the Temples that were "living and dwelling" on the mount in Jerusalem. The Christian Churches joined the launching by Pope Benedict XVI of the 2000th anniversary of Paul of Tarsus. Meanwhile, the Russian and the Ukrainian Slavic Byzantine Orthodox Churches celebrate the 1020th anniversary of the baptism of the Kievan Rus'.
Swirling waves of political and ethnic conflicts develop in certain regions. Nothing is really new. The events are lining upon very ancient and regularly upgraded troubleshooting elements. History is moving ahead by nature.
Let's consider the seemingly "political" aspect of the tragedy that comes out in Georgia and Ossetia(s). Some 15 years ago, I wrote an article about the development of the Churches along an "line/axis from Caucasus to Ethiopia" ("L'axe Caucase-Ethiopie", Christus, July 1992). I tried to describe the existence of a frontal vertical rift linking the Caucasian very ancient Churches of Armenia and Georgia with the Biblical Ararat (Noah) and the writing in Georgia of some Mishnaic tractates. Then, how the line of the Semitic Churches, born out of the early community of Jerusalem, expanded in Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia and Persia. It appears that this line was, at that time, growing weak and the future of the Churches was problematic. Christianity is definitely in danger in all the concerned regions.
Now, let's consider what is going on this year: the terrible development of the conflict in Iraq, the continuum of wars conducted in Afghanistan, Pakistan - the threatening positions adopted by Iran (Persia). The line slides along Tibet. Indeed, there is a line that evolves from the West to the East, from The Ukraine through the route that enters Tibet en route to China, Mongolia and Japan. All along the former Soviet border, the Turkish tongues-speaking nations (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan; Uyghur territories and Kyrgyzia), there is a horizontal axis that goes through times of great turbulences. On the other hand, Tadjikistan connects the former Soviet area with the Shi'ite Persian/Iranian Islamic republic.
This means that the whole of the early Church development regions linking the Roman Empire to the Persian Semitic Churches (Syrian-Orthodox, Assyrian/Nestorian) swindles again up to the ancient metropolies of Lhasa and all of the Tibet (a very ancient Assyrian Orthodox territory!) till Mandchuria, Mongolia, China and the Southern Japan. The Assyrian Church was defeated by Gengis Khan while the Syrian Orthodox survived in split communities in India (Kerala).
This horizontal line is inflamed at the present in various ways.
The Ukraine commemorates with grandeur the 1020th anniversary of the baptism of the Kievan Rus'. Politically speaking, it allows the republic to strengthen its independence toward the Patriarchate of Moscow and to require unity within the Ukrainian Church. The government looks for more freedom and consistency for the Ukrainian Church. Meanwhile, it also opposes the Kremlin power that does not accept the independence of the country. Russia also cut gas coming from the Caucasian pipelines.
The same shows with much violence in Georgia. The Russian army and the heads of the Russian Federation claim to come in order to help the Russian citizens in Abkhazia and Ossetia. The West immediately connects the situation with the invasion of Czechoslovakia: forty years ago, on August 22nd, 1968, the Soviet Army violated the territory of that country and imposed to return to the standards of the then Soviet/Russian communist regime. Forty years later, Czechoslovakia has split into two "One European Community" Czech and Slovak entities.
Patriarch Elia of Georgia heads one of the most ancient Churches. The Gospel was preached there by the Apostles: Andrew the first called, Bartholomew and Shimon the Zealot, called the Canaanite in the country. Saint Nino of Cappadocia confirmed the Christian faith in the beginning of the 4th century. On the pediment of the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher/Anastasis in Jerusalem - the cradle of faith in the Resurrected - "grapevine cross" signs are engraved in the stone. Queen Nino had no cross to explain the Christian faith. She took a vine stock to show that the resurrection continues in the shape of the vineyard of the Lord (John ch. 15). She did not mention the cross as an instrument of torture. She spoke of the Church as being the expanding vineyard described in all of the Scripture. The Georgian chart was used for the first time in Jerusalem. The very ancient language, with unique features, was ecclesiastically present in Jerusalem for centuries. The Georgian clergy served in Saint Thekla's church of the Great Monastery. It was recognized as a patriarchate in 1010 as catholicossat of Kartli.Today, there are no monastics or clergy people left as representatives of the Church of Saint Nino.
The Georgian Orthodox Church has always had close contacts with the Greek Church. Monastics were at mount Athos (Iveron Monastery) and in the Sinai. Inter/intra-relationships were functioning adequately: the Georgian Church was made a patriarchate by a decision of the patriarchate of Antioch that ruled in the area. When it went through the attacks of Gengis Khan and Timur (Tamerlane), it also found assistance from the Greek patriarchate of Constantinople as most of the Middle-Eastern patriarchates.
It is true that the whole of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century are marked by international migrations and "planetarian nation flows". Today, there are more changes or turbulences linked to some sort of spiritual backgrounds.
The West often reacts with a spirit of power that excludes common sense and historical insights. It took centuries before France could determine coherent borders. How should we consider the progressive "capture or taking over" of Brittany, the Flemish regions (Lille was a Flemish town - Rijsel - for ages!)? The Alsace (and the Lorraine) was swinging between France and Germany. Saarland had a referendum after WWII and decided to remain a German Land.The Savoie and the Comte of Nice/Nizza moved back and forth from Italy to France. There are constant troubles in the Baskland that propels a specific culture over the French and Spanish mountains. What may happen if, by some remote chance, the "One European Community" kingdom of Belgium splits? Would Wallony ask to join the French "liberty, equality and fraternity" republic of human rights?
Crossing the Channel, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is composed of different nations, mostly Celtic, that require their independence on a regular basis: Scotland, Wales. Scandinavia shifted by turns under the power of each local kings. The same happened in Italy and Spain.
Ethnic cleansing for East-European nations and it is easier to speak of "ethnic crisis or conflicts" in the West.
Thus, all the protests and moves against the often cruel changes that occur in East Europe are not so honest. They mainly concern the Balkans (former Yugoslavia), the ties that always existed between Russia and Serbia and the split Albanian regions. Romania-Moldova (Bessarabia) and Bulgaria were twirling as the Donau river from the Habsburg to the tsarist powers and their heirs.
The United States of America seem to be a coherent country. In fact, each state has its own laws and regulations. Each state has its own laws and regulations that may be different from those applied in the other states. This puts the US in very weak position. Thus, there is a kind of blindness. The Russian and American "empires" and the "germinating" European Community (which is in the pangs of rebirth upon foundations the Christian Roman empire) follow the pattern of the conflicts that appeared in full accordance with the Church splits. These breakings marked the development of the Church throughout the world over the past two thousand years. Spiritual and human rights are not necessarily depending on the markets of oil, gas, drugs and narcotics and irrational consumption.
The big split happened when Cyril and Methodos, blessed by the two major patriarchs of the West (Rome) and Constantinople (East) were violently rejected by the Frankish Latin believers. They did not allow to preach and pray in the Slavonic tongue and stopped them in Velehrad (Bohemia). The split endures...
It is en vogue to speak of "ethnic cleansing", in particular with regard to former Yugoslavia and Soviet Union. Killings and mass murders have horribly affected the Slavic nations. This process seems to be developing in the Caucasus and Central/Far Eastern former Soviet republics and autonomous regions. Nonetheless, "ethnic cleansing" has most often been connected with the spreading of Christianity throughout the ages. American Indians, Inuits, Africans deported to the New World were slaughtered or reduced into bondage in the same repellent "ethnic cleansing" way.
Today, this battle can be compared to "spiritual cleansing". It is much too early to allow the Christian Orthodox Churches determining their territory limits. In the present, Orthodoxy is planetarian and not restricted to the East. The fall of communism provoked a situation of competition among the various juridictions as also with the Roman Church.
This confrontation continues to develop in facing Islam that is also planetarian. The Ottoman empire collapsed and we should take into account the general process of humiliation that followed in its provinces in the Balkans and the Near/Middle-East.
It should be noted that this situation, viewed from Israel, shows more disorder and lack of credibility. The Christian way is simple: there is one talent, the salary being equal for all the workers without segregation. This "salary" allows the believers to become like Jesus Christ that "sealed" (Gr. sphragis-mark) us to unity and authentic love.
Are we going through the pangs of birth as Saint Paul stated? Or do we clothe on our slaughtering impulses under rags of fraudulent beliefs? The response will be given, as always, by the saints of our generation.
Photographs: (left) Katholikon of the Greek Orthodox Church inside of the Holy Sepulcher/Anastasis (Jerusalem).
(right) Saint Nino's grapevine stock cross.