as they used to say,
in the world of calling cards and social seasons
It seems like forever since I've been into anything like a routine, and I have a number of random notes to report on, built up over the past two chaotic months-- including reviews of the many movies I found myself watching as I traversed the skies between Ontario and Texas. However, today only a couple of info-bits have floated to the surface, as we drift quietly into St. Martin's Lent (as Advent was once referred to-- sort of "Lent Lite" by implication).
REDEMPTION! -- film at 11:00!
The Nativity movie opens tonight, but God bless the local critics, they got the word out fast to give us a heads-up on what to expect. The 1.5 star review from Vanessa Farquharson at the Nominal Putz (er, that's National Post) offers these gems:
It's a predictable film... ...many Biblical clichés...Imagine! Predictable!
If only there was a stronger thread of humour...Ya-a-a-a-h-h-s--- where were those laughs?
...the young Mary... should have been reinterpreted with a lot more edge.Ab-so-LUTE-ly! What's a Blessed Virgin without edge?
[mosaic of the Theotokos, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey]
Now, it's entirely possible that the film reeks. But we won't know that without seeing it ourselves, since reviewers who have no idea what they're looking at provide us with little guidance.
Ms. Farquharson did enjoy the comic moment where one of the three kings insisted on an extra camel to carry all his valuable stuff. Apparently she didn't connect this high-larious piece of schtick with Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18.
WORLD PEACE THROUGH SYNCRETISM! -- film at 11:30!
Pope Benedict XVI winds up his Apostolic Journey to Turkey (in the footsteps of St. Andrew, and the shadow of St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom.
His Holiness impressed his hosts in a variety of ways: by attending a lengthy and elaborate Patriarchal Mass at the Cathedral of St. George, with Patriarch Bartholomew as celebrant, from whose hand the Pope received communion.
Earlier he had visited Hagia Sophia, one of the world's architectural wonders, built in the 6th century as the mother church of Christendom, in whose custody it remained for nearly a thousand years-- until it was CAPTURED by invading Turks in 1453 and OCCUPIED as a mosque, until NEUTERED in 1935 when it was proclaimed a mere "museum" in an attempt to settle competing claims by the two relevant religious bodies, one of whom had, in the ensuing 500 years, all but consumed the other.
The only good thing about surrendering the building to the state (when restoration to its rightful religious fathers seemed impossible) is that at least some of the magnificent Christian mosaics which had been hidden beneath the whitewash of its Islamic tenancy could be again revealed and restored-- or not-- they have in fact suffered outrageous vandalism since their post-Ataturk unveiling.
It was under the power of these images, however, and of the legacy of the church itself, that Pope Paul VI spontaneously fell to his knees in prayer during his visit in 1967, which threw his devoutly secular hosts into a momentary international tizzy (yes it did, notwithstanding misrepresentations to the contrary, in an error-filled report of the current Pope's visit by Yuksel Soylemez in the Turkish Daily News).
While Benedict declined to pray openly at Hagia Sophia (and let's call it by its proper name, not this Ayasofya nonsense, a word that is apparently without any etymological basis in the Turkish tongue, but was a handily appropriated bit o' gibberish), the big story seems to be that the Pope made prayer-like deferences in the direction of Mecca when visiting Hagia-Sophia-wannabe, the Blue Mosque.
With his arms folded across his tummy in a way that Muslims chose to interpret as one of their prayer-gestures (and which non-Muslims are free to interpret as arms-folded-across-the-tummy, signifying-arms-folded-across-the-tummy), the Pope turned with his hosts in what they chose to interpret as the act of facing Mecca. Well, maybe.
I guess there's no disputing which direction Pope Benedict faced. But only he can tell us exactly where his interior gaze came to rest. Observe the following map:
The three dots represent, in south-bound order, Istanbul, Jerusalem, and Mecca. Not quite a straight line, but close enough that no one standing in a mosque in Istanbul would be able to perceive the slightest difference.
In the Old Church we used to call it "ad orientam" and we all knew what it meant, even if the building it took place in was not cooperating with the compass.
Works for me, Papa Ratzi.
Further journalistic howlers regarding the history of Hagia Sophia:
"ANCIENT STRUCTURE HAS STRONG RELIGIOUS LINKS" (San Jose Mercury News)
"The Pope spent half an hour in Hagia Sophia, a domed complex that was once a CHRISTIAN CENTRE before becoming a mosque and eventually, a museum. " (my emphasis) (BBC News)
Call it a "Christian centre" if it makes you feel good-- call it a produce depot. It is what it is/was/and ever shall be: The Church of the Holy Wisdom of God.
Peace be upon all who came to this historic meeting with sincerity of heart. You know who you are.