By Judge Marina Corodemus, one of the Philoptochos pilgrims who went to Constantinople last week. As a first time visitor it was not just the sites that were truly awe-inspiring but the deeper thoughts they evoked.
The road to Constantinople is lined with the souls of those who venerated Christ, preserving and protecting the faith through their devotion. Their sacrifices are a living presence palpable for all Orthodox pilgrims to experience in today’s Constantinople. Jesus’ presence is not confined to ancient testaments of devotion, as evidenced in the magnificent mosaic in Ayia Sophia church and the breathtaking frescoes in Chora. Christ lives today in the Patriarchate, the Theological School at Halki and primary/secondary schools of modern Greek children living in Poli—reminders of a once flourishing Greek population. Christ is the living being for pilgrims to experience and is ever-present.
Istanbul is a city of contrasts. It is a modern democratic secular society wrapped in the enigma of the Muslim faith. Its youth rebels for true separation of religion and state and beckons for individual liberty in the face of governmental retaliation. It is social chaos in an evolving, societal stream. The cacophony of Taksim Square echoes to those who seek freedom. Yet Orthodoxy, a repressed religious minority, survives on the fringes. Battered but not beaten, censored but not suppressed. Liturgy continues to be celebrated, vespers are still chanted, and recitation of prayers continues to rise with requests to a living God.
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