Sunday, August 28, 2011

St. Anton's Monastery

For those of you that weren't aware, the Country of Georgia is a largely Christian nation. Their Christian traditions date back to proselytizing by the apostle Andrew in the west of Georgia in the first century. But the large scale conversion (as best I tell) came from a number of missionaries from Cappadocia (a region in Turkey where early Chrisitans fled Roman persecution). The most important of which was Saint Nino who converted the then Pagan Queen Nana and King Mirian the third, in the fourth century (see my blog post from April 2011 about the trip to Ninosminda).

There was another large group of Cappodocians who came to Georgia in the sixth century to expand Chrisitanity, found churches and monasteries, all lead by St. John of Zedazeni (with Saints; Anton, David, Shio, Ise, Joseph, Zenon, Abibos, Stephan, Isidoros, Piros, Michael and Tadeoz). Most of the interesting old things to see in Georgia are tied to their Christian heritage, and it has regained support as Nationalism in Georgia also seems to be tied to their faith tradition. So, it was to the monastery founded by Saint Anton of Martkopi that I visited this weekend.

Gorgeous location in the mountains about 1/2 hour from Tbilisi, fabulous vistas (but as it was a cloudy, rainey day so I didn't take any pictures of that). We saw St. Anton's grave in the small church, attended the consecration of a man in the church building where the relics were kept (Gvtaeba), and were fervently prosyletized in Georgian by one of the monks. Dissapointed when he discovered I was not 'orthodoxy', but rather presbyterian, which he somehow assumed was like the 'baptisyists'-not exactly, but I couldn't explain the nuances of the calvinist reformation and the ninteenth century great awakening in my pigeon Georgian.

Finally he found this delightful old monk who spoke much more English than I spoke Georgian, and he wanted to convey two things: first, God is love. That one was easy. Second, he struggled with a rendition of the 10 edicts, of doing wrong and one is not better nor is it worse than another. It took a few rounds of back and forth, but I finally said, "Do you mean that in the eyes of God, all sin is equal?" (A very basic Chrisitian precept). He almost fell over, "You have heard of this?" We went on to talk about a few small points of the congress of Nicea, religion in general and faith, the primacy of grace (although, I don't think I sold him on this one). I certainly did my part to dispel the notion that American Chrisitanity is populated by a boatload of snake charming folks who don't actually read the bible.

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