Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

SVETITSKHOVELI CATHEDRAL, in Georgian literally means the LIVING PILLAR CATHEDRAL.  In Georgian “sveti” means “pillar” and tskhoveli” means “life-giving” or “living”, hence the name SVETITSKHOVELI.  This is an Orthodox Cathedral located in the historical town of MTSKHETA, Georgia, 20km north-west of the nation’s capital TBILISI.

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SVETITSKHOVELI CATHEDRAL, known as the burial site of Christ’s Robe has long been the principal Georgian Church and remains one of the most venerated places of worship to this day.  It presently functions as the seat of the Archbishop of MTSKHETA & TBILISI, who is at the same time Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia.

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The current Cathedral was built in the 11th century by the architect Arsukidze,, though the site itself is older dating back to the early 4th century and is surrounded by a number of legends associated, primarily, with the early Christian traditions.  It is the 2nd largest Church building in the country, after the recently consecrated —— Holy Trinity Cathedral of TBILIS, and is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site along with historical monuments of MSKHETA.

1. Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtshekta, Georgia


The original Church was built in the 4th century AD during the reign of Mirian -3 of Kartli (Iberia).  Saint Nino is said to have chosen the confluence of the Mount Kvari and Aragvi rivers as the place of the 1st Gregorian Church.  According to Georgian “hagiography”, in the 1st century AD, a Georgian Jew —- Elias was in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified.  He bought Jesus’ Robe from a Roman soldier (it was a seamless one) at Golgotha (also known as the “place of the skull”) and brought it back to Georgia.  Returning to his native city, he was met by his sister Sidonia, who, upon touching the Robe, immediately died from the emotions engendered by the Sacred Robe, which could not be removed from her grasp and so she was buried with it.

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The place where she was buried, with Christ’s Robe is preserved in the Cathedral.  Later, from her grave grew an enormous cedar tree.  Ordering the cedar tree chopped down to build the Church, Saint Nino had 7 columns made from it for the Church’s foundation.  The 7th column, however, had magical properties and rose by itself into the air.  It returned to earth after Saint Nino prayed the whole night.  It was further said that from the 7th column a sacred liquid flowed and cured people of various diseases.

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SVETITSKHOVELI CATHEDRAL, portraying this event can be seen on the 2nd column on the right-hand from the entrance.  Reproduced widely throughout Georgia, it shows Sidonia with an angel lifting the column in Heaven.  Saint Nino is in the foreground : King Mirian and his wife Queen Nana are to his right and left.  Georgia, officially adopted Christianity as its state religion in 317.

Georgia Svetitskhoveli Cathedral Zodiac


SVETITSKHOVELI CATHEDRAL has been damaged several times during history, notably by the invasion of Persians and Timur.  It has also been damaged by earthquake.  During the restoration of 1970-71, the base of the Basilica was built.  During the early years of Gregorian Church building, the Basilica was the dominant type of the Gregorian Church architecture, before the “cross-dome” style emerged.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral inside


In the 11th century, the present SVETITSKHOVELI CATHEDRAL was rebuilt (from 1010-1029) in the “cross-dome” style by Arsukidze.  The Cathedral is surrounded by a defensive wall, built of stone and brick during the reign of King Heraclius in 1787.  The top storey was designed for military purposes and has gun emplacements.  The entrance to the cathedral, from the wall, is located to the south.  The wall has 8 towers : 6 of them “cylindrical” and 2 of them “square”.  Archaeological expedition in 1963, found the house of the Patriarch of the 11th century at the southern part of the wall.  Inside the churchyard, the remains of the 2-storey castle of Patriarch Anton —- 2 were found.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral top


The base of the 3-storey Church, is supposed to have been built by Vakhtang Gorgasali after Saint Nino’s original Church has been found by archaeologists during the restoration of 1970-71.  The architecture of the present Cathedral, which dates from around 1020, is based on the “cross-dome” style.  The characteristics of the style is that the “dome” is placed across all four sides of the Church.  The structure of the Church is intended to ensure “good acoustics”.  The dome of SVETITSKHOVELI was re-constructed several times over the centuries to keep the Church in good condition.

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The basic stone used for the Cathedral is a “sandy yellow” with trimmings, while around the apse window a red stone was used.  The green stone used in the drum of the cupola is from the 17th century.  The “curved blind” arcading throughout is “unaltered” from the 11th century.  A large window occupies most of the western side of the Church.  The decorations show Christ sitting between two angels.  The original sculpture, on the external wall, has not survived, but was restored several times, most recently in the 19th century.

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The interior walls are painted with frescoes, most of which have not survived in their original state.  The decorations on the Church’s stonework features ” carved grapes”, reflecting the country’s ancient wine-making tradition.  On the south side, there is a small stone Church built into the Cathedral.  This is a symbolic copy of the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  It was built between the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th centuries, and it was erected here to mark SVETITSKHOVELI as the 2nd most sacred place in the world (after the church of Jerusalem), thanks to Christ’s Robe.  Remains of the original “life-giving” or “living” pillar are also here.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral inside


The cathedral was not only the site of the coronation of the Georgian Kings, but also served as their burial place.  Ten of the Kings are known to have been buried here, although only 6 tombs have been found, all in front of the altar.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral long view


A 2010 UNESCO report has found that structural issues threaten the overall stability of the cathedral.

Sacred soil

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2015 in UN’s International Year of Soils.  Launching this landmark, Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of UN’s Food and Agriculture organisation said, “The multiple roles of soils often go unnoticed.  Soils don’t have a voice, and few people speak out for them.  They are our silent allies in food production.”  So, let’s speak out for soils, which are fertile with sacred significance.
Earth, one of Indic religions’ MAHABHUTAS, represents the quality of solidity.  The Earth element (pruthavi-dhatu) signifies all that is solid in our bodies, too : flesh, bones, sinews and other organs. 
Similarly, the Bible portrays us as being created from the Earth : “God formed man (Hebrew, Adam) from the soil of the ground (dama).”  Thus, ultimately and intimately we are all off-springs of soil.  iStock_000005900018SmallThe adivasis have profound respect for Mother Nature and her soils.  These are exemplary ‘daughters/sons of the soil’, who, rooted in the soil, revere a pantheon of earthy devas and devis inhabiting village boundaries, fields,, forests, groves and mountains.  Contrary to the sense of the sacred widespread in adivasi religious consciousness, technocratic man often exploits the Earth for his selfish enjoyment.  This tendency is rooted in the “paradise lost” myth, where Adam and Eve rebel against God and sever their three-fold relationship with God, with each other and with Earth’s soil.  God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you ; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life until you return to the ground ; for, you are dust and to dust you will return.” –In his parables, Jesus often extolled the Earth and its mysteries : of birth and blossoming, decay and dying.  He compared life to a field where one must sow seeds of love-life-liberation. He desired that God’s word “fall on good soil so that we bear abundant fruit.”  
During this ‘Year of Soils’, and this when we celebrate earthy festivals like Pongal and Makar Sankranti, let’s resolve to restore our bonding with the soil.  It’s our sacred duty to stall deforestation, prevent soil degradation, combat unsustainable land use and ensure that future generations reap benefit from this God-given gift.  By doing so, we will e true daughters/sons of the soil, as well as caring children of God, promoting life for all.
—— Francis Gonsalves.

The gift of peace

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The first intimation of the FIRST CHRISTMAS by the heavenly hosts, when Mother Mary gave birth to her only beloved son — Jesus — in a stable, surrounded by cattle and fodder, was to the SHEPHERDS, minding their sheep in their fields.  They woke up by the flashing of lights and were told, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.  Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace and goodwill toward men.”
The one certain message, that was conveyed to all on earth, was that of PEACE & GOODWILL.  Jesus came into the world, to share God’s peace and love with everyone on earth.  That is why He is called the “PRINCE OF PEACE.”
The peace bequeath by Jesus is inseparable from His presence.  Christmas celebrations, often mistaken with material gifts that Santa Claus brings along, is really about God’s GIFT OF PEACE.  Only God can transform our selfish hearts and lives of conflict with GENEROSITY & PEACE. -Peace is God’s gift to us to be received, preserved and enjoyed on Earth.  No person can be at rest to the very roots of one’s being, in the absence of the consciousness that he is at peace with God.  And there can be no peace with God unless we are at peace with ourselves.  St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless O God, until they rest in Thee.”

A Christmas meditation

If we but had the eyes to see God’s face in every cloud
If we but had the ears to hear His voice above the crowd
If we could feel His gentle touch in every stirring breeze
And find the haven in His arms beneath leafy sheltering trees
We would not need to ponder or ask to understand
For we’d know HE HELD THE ANSWERS IN THE HOLLOW OF HIS HAND.
——- Helen Steiner Rice.
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The sum and substance of Christmas—— celebrating the greatest of God’s gifts : God’s presence as “PERSONAL PRESENT” in God’s Son, Jesus.  Sadly, with the money-making merriment that market forces peddle, the profoundest meaning of Christmas gets eclipsed.  Let’s rewrite the CHRISTMAS STORY.  Every Christmas reminds us that God has not finished with us.  He is still moulding and shaping us like clay, and when He gives the finishing touches, we will be like beautifully crafted pots, ready to hold all the love and beauty that He will pour into us.
Originally Christmas was a happy family feast, when people came home, from far and near, just to be with the family, sharing not just food but also so many memories and experiences.  Today, many people are lonely at Christmas, because they have no one to celebrate the feast with.  For most people, Christmas has become simply a ritual of going to Church in one’s best clothes and a few handshakes at the end of service.
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There are no Christmas carol-singing groups bringing Christmas to our doorsteps.  Many traditions have developed around Christmas —– the mistletoe, the advent candles, the feeling of anticipation, of welcoming a great event —- the birth of Jesus, who is Emmanuel, God with us.  I must be a part of the SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS. —– Even on Christmas Day, there are some families who don’t have enough to eat, no clothes to wear, no shoes for their weary feet, while other families have it all —– Christmas cakes, pudding, roast chicken or turkey ——- sometimes most of which is wasted.  In the so-called Christian countries, in the West, there are homeless people shivering in the dark winter, while other splurge on every conceivable luxury around.
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We have to rewrite the CHRISTMAS STORY.  A real Christmas is sharing from the plenty we have with those who don’t.  A celebration is real only when everybody is included and we are able to be compassionate towards those who are lonely, destitute and unhappy.  Surely, we will bring a smile to their lips and they too will sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”  Thus , it will be truly be a VERY HAPPY & BLESSED CHRISTMAS.”
Inputs from Father Francis Gonsalves an Janina Gomes
 

The twelve days of Christmas

Some people tied to debunk this song as an “urban myth.”  Many have questioned the historical accuracy of the origin of the song.  Some say it was a “nonsense song” for children with “secular origins,” and it is a song of Christian instruction, perhaps dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Christian Faith.
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THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS refers to the days from Dec.25 to Jan 5.  Here it is for your perusal :
On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE.  The PARTRIDGE is Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate on Dec 25th.  He is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem :” Jerusalem, Jerusalem !  How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so.” (Luke 13:34)
On the 2nd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 2 TURTLE DOVES :  The Old & the New Testament, which, together, bear witness to God’s self-revelation and the creation of a people to tell the story of God to the world.
On the 3rd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 3 FRENCH HENS : The 3 Theological virtues —– Faith, Hope & Love (1Corinthians 13:13)
On the 4th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 4 CALLING BIRDS : The 4 Gospels —- Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, which proclaim the good news of God’s reconciliation of the world to Himself.
On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 5 GOLD RINGS : The 1st 5 Books of the Old Testament, known as the TORAH or PENTATEUCH : (1) Genesis (2) Exodus (3) Leviticus (4) Numbers and (5) Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity’s sinful failure and God’s response of Grace.
On the 6th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 6 GEESE A-laying : The 6dys of Creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world. (Genesis -1)
On the 7th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 7 SWANS A-swimming : The 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit : (1) Prophecy (2) Ministry (3) Teaching (4) Exhortation (5) Giving (6) Leading & (7) Compassion (Romans 12:6-8 ; 1Corinthian 12:8-11)
On the 8th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 8 MAIDS A-milking : The Eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10)
On the 9th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 9 LADIES DANCING : The 9 Fruits of the holy Spirit : (1) Love (2) Joy (3) Peace (4) Patience (5) Kindness (6) Generosity (7) Faithfulness (8) Gentleness & (9) Self-Control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 10 LORDS A-leaping : The 10 Commandments.
On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 11 PIPERS PIPING : The 11 faithful Apostles : (1) Simon Peter (2) Andrew (3) James (4) John (5) Philip (6) Bartholomew (7) Matthew (8) Thomas (9) James, son of Alphaeus (10) Simon the Zealot (11) Judas bar James (Luke 6:14-16)  The list does not include the 12th apostle — Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.
On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 12 DRUMMERS DRUMMING : The 12 points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed.
The “true love” mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself.  Each day depicts some aspect of the Christian Faith, that was important for children to learn.
———– Dennis Bratcher, Copyright 2013.

Feeling Christmassy

Here are two recipes that the children would love this season : —
REINDEER CAKE POPS
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Ingredients : 100gm chocolate brownie ; 100ml melted chocolate ; 50gm mixed nuts ; 15gm whipped cream ; 5 plastic sticks. –FOR HORNS : 50gm flour ; 1egg.
Method : In a bowl, break the brownie into small pieces, add nuts, add melted chocolate and knead it to a tight dough  Divide into small portion, and shape into small balls, pierce them with the plastic stick and dip the pop into warm tempered chocolate.  Keep aside to set, decorate with horn and make eyes using whipped cream and chocolate drop.
For Horns : Beat egg and flour together into a smooth paste.  Using butter paper, make a cone and put the mixture in it.  Pipe the mixture into the shape of a horn and bake it for 10 – 15mins.
CHRISTMAS TREE CAKE POPS
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Ingredients : 500 gm leftover cake crumbs ; 500gm white chocolate ; 1/2tsp green colour (food grade) ; 50gm assorted edible sprinkles ; 10-12 plastic sticks.
Equipment : 1 large mixing bowl ; 1 large metal spoon ; wax paper ; plastic wrap ; deep, microwave-safe plastic bowl.
Method: In a bowl, knead the leftover cake, if dry add sugar syrup or chocolate sauce.  make about 12balls, 50gm each.  Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in micro oven, add the colour, mix well and keep aside.  Take the cake balls, pierce the plastic in the middle, and start shaping like a cone, keep pressing and shape ach like Christmas trees.  Dip the cake tree in the chocolate.  Take a toothpick and make scratch marks, before the chocolate sets sprinkle with the decorations.

My grace is sufficient

LITTLE FAITH will bring your souls to Heaven, but GREAT FAITH will bring Heaven to your souls.
His grace is great enough to meet the great things
The crashing waves that overwhelm the soul
The roaring winds that leave us stunned and breathless
The sudden storms beyond our life’s control.
His grace is great enough to meet the small things
The little pin-prick troubles that annoy
The insect worries, buzzing and persistent
The squeaking wheels that grate upon our joy.
There is always a large balance to our credit in the Bank of Heaven, waiting for our exercise of faith in drawing it.  DRAW HEAVILY UPON HIS RESOURCES.
grace2“My grace is sufficient”, and I say, “I should think it is, Lord.”  The holy laughter of Abraham was never fully understood.  It seemed to make unbelief so absurd.  It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking the river dry, and Father Thames saying, “Drink away, little fish, my stream is sufficient for thee.”  Or, it seemed after the 7yrs of plenty, a mouse feared it might die of famine, and Joseph might say, “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.”  Again, imagine a man away up yonder, on a lofty mountain, saying to himself, “I breathe so many cubic feet of air every year, I fear I shall exhaust the oxygen in the atmosphere,” and the earth might say, “Breathe away, O man, and fill your lungs, my atmosphere is sufficient for thee.”   So the Lord says,” MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR THEE.”  “Ask and you shall receive.”