We join with the Church – the Orthodox and Catholics around the world – in mourning the return of Hagia Sophia to Islamic prayers.
for 1000 years, this was the crown of the Christian East. Predating the Great Schism by 500 years, and being a symbol of the strength of Christianity through and despite division… The place where the Byzantine rite of the Church, the liturgy of Eastern Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism was honed in true cathedral form… Once the largest church on earth, a symbol of the Greatness of the Triune God that was praised continually within its walls, became a mosque with the fall of Constantinople, remained so for almost 500 years before becoming a museum within the last century.
A museum is a far cry from the intention of the holy space, but it allowed for the uncovering of the mosaics that praised Christ, the Theotokos, and the Saints. Christians were welcome (and of course, we are a people of prayer – Christians prayed there when visiting – alone…). But even that has come to an end. Over this past week, the mosque of Agyasofya (pronounced the same as the Great Church) has reopened.
The great mosaics and icons have been shielded from the Islamic faithful by scaffolds and curtains, but how long before the plaster is reapplied – the “protection” of the art that had caused so much damage?
Today – July 24, 2020 – has been called a Day of Prayer and Mourning. The Ecumenical Patriarch and the Churches of the East, having been joined by the hierarchy of the Catholic Churches, are asking for all Christians to mark this day as we remember a loss. While this church is no longer ours, may the God who was made man protect us, strengthen us, and guide us. May the Mother of God, Mary the Theotokos give hope for the conversion of the whole world. May the Holy Spirit use this opportunity for all Christians to come together as a stepping stone towards the reunification of the Churches into a single Communion.
The prayer that has been asked of us this day is what is know as the Akathist to the Theotokos. It is a beautiful prayer that names Mary as “the only hope of the hopeless.”
Having received God into Her womb, the Virgin hastened to Elizabeth whose unborn babe at once recognized her embrace, rejoiced, and with leaps of joy as songs, cried to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, branch of an Unfading Sprout:
Rejoice, acquisition of Immortal Fruit!
Rejoice, laborer that laborest for the Lover of mankind:
Rejoice, Thou Who givest birth to the Planter of our life!
Rejoice, cornland yielding a rich crop of mercies:
Rejoice, table bearing a wealth of forgiveness!
Rejoice, Thou Who makest to bloom the garden of delight:
Rejoice, Thou Who preparest a haven for souls!
Rejoice, acceptable incense of intercession:
Rejoice, propitiation of all the world!
Rejoice, good will of God to mortals:
Rejoice, boldness of mortals before God!
Rejoice, Thou Bride Unwedded!
A full text booklet can be found here: https://1saxj2i1vq934y49o1o3msw9lu-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Akathist-Hymn2.pdf
I highly recommend hearing the beauty of the chanted prayer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2IYzQ2Ava4