On the ceiling of the majestic building called the Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul Turkey, there was an extraordinary painting of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Hagia Sophia was the central Cathedral of the ‘Eastern Empire’ in the great city of Constantinople from the year 537AD. Its name means ‘Holy Wisdom.’ After a tragic attack on the city just before the time of Martin Luther, Hagia Sophia was converted into an Islamic Mosque and remained so for the next 500 years until it was made into a museum just before World War II.
For whatever reason, the Islamic leaders of the Ottoman Empire, for a time, kept the face of Christ Jesus on the ceiling although other elements of the previous Christian cathedral were removed. The original image, painted on the Hagia Sophia dome which is about 30 metres wide and about 50 metres high was, finally covered up in the mid 1800s.
Pastor Michael Jarick of the Corinda parish, has previously travelled to Turkey and he has been in the Hagia Sophia. He described to me, the overwhelming sense of awe that a person experiences as they look up at the dome floor below. For centuries, people who entered Hagia Sophia looked up into the face of Jesus Christ looking down upon them. Historically this representation of our Lord Jesus is called ‘Pantokrator’ or the ‘one who holds all things’ in the Greek language. In the Hagia Sophia, people under the ‘dome’ were reminded of the good news that the Lord of Creation was our Lord and Saviour: Jesus Christ.
Each year, before we get into our Advent and Christmas celebrations, we pause for Christ the King Sunday. On this day, we celebrate that message of the Hagia Sophia dome. The Lord who has “got the whole world in his hands” was the one who said “come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” The one who gave the call to Moses from the burning bush, is the one who went to the cross for the great exchange: our sin for his righteousness that we would have peace with God.
God bless your preparations for this Advent Christmas season. When the outlook might not be so good, look up and know that the Lord of heaven and earth has been revealed to us as the Lord of the cross who declared, “I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
“May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1)