A great man is one who collects knowledge the way a bee collects honey and uses it to help people overcome the difficulties they endure - hunger, ignorance and disease!
- Nikola Tesla

Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.
- Franklin Roosevelt

While their territory has been devastated and their homes despoiled, the spirit of the Serbian people has not been broken.
- Woodrow Wilson

The Hagia Sophia

The Mystical Light of the Great Church and its Architectural Dress

by Charalambos P. Stathakis

Dear reader, as you run like the rest of us along the dizzy main road, stop, stay aside for a while. Let the others be dizzy, and take the secret underground trail, which will lead you through the dewdrops of the leaves, the crystal smile of the sun, the city’s underground galler- ies, your knowledge, and your feelings, to the doorstep of the Hagia Sophia. Because all dew- drops, all sunrays, and all beauty lead there. That is what you will be told by my friend, the author, whom I am fond of and whom I send you to, Charalambos Stathakis: the doctor, the warm and humane researcher, the scientist devoted to his work and his patients, who has given a series of scientific papers, who, nevertheless, retains a nest of beauty untouched in his heart, which makes him outstanding—even though he is not a specialist in architecture, nor a historian, nor a theologian, nor a Byzantinist—it makes him stand out in all these together and in entirety.

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If you let yourself into his relentlessly personal approach to the Hagia Sophia with humble obedience, the light that transforms the building and is transformed in the building will be revealed to you.

Watch how he stands in front of Hagia Sophia, how he walks among her gold-lit corners, how he touches her heaven-dropped structures, and how he converses with her history, her legends, the interpretations of architects and theologians—he who is the least of all, but because of this also the first. Follow him with discipline on this trail. Work hard to comprehend him. Then return to the beginning to experience it again written in full and in one piece. Study his illustrations with patience. Do not halt on some technical imperfections. Receive what you are given. It comes from a non-specialist and this is why it helps us non-specialists to comprehend the Church, which may be simple in the experience it conveys, but not in its structure and its structural solutions. This is why it is revealed to us gradually by the mystagogical text and the accompanying illustrations. In this way, reader, you will experience the blessed originality of the author in interpreting architecture and space through light.

You will then see how the light helps him in a pioneering comprehension of this mystery: a) in the answer he gives to the question of whether the two external buttresses were con- ceived by Anthemios and Isidore from the start, b) in the explanation of the enormous exte- rior arches based on light, c) in the explanation of the contrast between the exterior and interior thickness of the arch (which, in our view, constitutes the correct understanding of Agathias’ text), d) in the understanding of the ellipticity of the dome, e) in the analysis, for the first time, of the significance of the plaque with the representation of the Church, above the central door in the interior of the Church, f ) in perceiving the lack of harmony in the relationships between the parts of the Church as a transcendence of the “perfection of measurement” for the sake of “spiritual perfection,” and g) in his original point of view about the interior decoration, that is, whether or not there was iconography in the Hagia Sophia from the beginning. Stride the bridge which breaks through the light, dear reader. Follow humbly, with asceticism and obedience, the revelation granted to you by Charalambos Stathakis, a personal interpreter, a relentlessly personal seer, who has a vision of the Great Church, not simply as a resplendent building, but as a living Entity with characters of a Person.

Fr. Stamatis Skliris


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Aleksandra Vrebalov

Aleksandra Vrebalov (born September 22, 1970 in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia) is a Serbian composer based in New York City. She studied composition with Miroslav Statkic at Novi Sad University, then with Zoran Erić at Belgrade University, Elinor Armer at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ivana Loudova at the Prague Academy of Music. She obtained her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Michigan where she studied with Evan Chambers and Michael Daugherty.

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Knowing the Purpose of Creation through the Resurrection

Proceedings of the Symposium on St. Maximus the Confessor

The present volume is a collection of presentations delivered at the St Maximus the Confessor International Symposium held in Belgrade at the University of Belgrade from 18 to 21 October 2012. The Belgrade Symposium brought together the following speakers: Demetrios Bathrellos, Grigory Benevitch, Calinic Berger, Paul Blowers, David Bradshaw, Adam Cooper, Brian Daley, Paul Gavrilyuk, Atanasije Jevtić, Joshua Lollar, Andrew Louth, John Panteleimon Manoussakis, Maximos of Simonopetra, Ignatije Midić, Pascal Mueller-Jourdan, Alexei Nesteruk, Aristotle Papanikolaou, George Parsenios, Philipp Gabriel Renczes, Nino Sakvarelidze, Torstein Tollefsen, George Varvatsoulias, Maxim Vasiljević, Christos Yannaras, and John Zizioulas. The papers and discussions in this volume of the proceedings of the Belgrade Symposium amply attest to the reputation of Saint Maximus the Confessor as the most universal spirit of the seventh century, and perhaps the greatest thinker of the Church. Twenty eight studies have been gathered in the present volume, which is organized into eight chapters, each of them corresponding to the proceedings of the Symposium, all of which are of intense interest and importance. Chapter One brings to light new evidence regarding the sources, influences, and appropriations of St Maximus’ teaching. His mediatorial role as one of the few genuinely ecumenical theologians of the patristic era is acknowledged and affirmed. Chapter Two offers some crucial clarifications on the relationship between person, nature, and freedom. In Chapter Three we find substantial discussion on body, pathos, love, eros, etc. New interpretive paradigms and insights are proposed in Chapter Four, while the next chapter presents the Confessor’s cosmological perspective in light of modern scientific discoveries. Some important ontological and ecclesiological issues are discussed in Chapter Six, while in Chapter Seven we are able to see what contemporary synthesis is possible through St Maximus’ thought. Chapter Eight offers further readings by engaging younger scholars who did not present their papers at the conference but whose studies were accepted by the organizers. In the final paper we find an important overview of the Symposium with a description of the conference’s flow. In an age of plurality and division, it is particularly important to know what our Tradition—shaped by the Fathers—can teach us. In any such endeavor, Saint Maximus the Confessor stands out as the most important theologian of the so-called Byzantine period. Yet his theology, assimilated and incorporated by Tradition, has relevance beyond any single historical period; in fact, the Confessor’s efforts to mediate between East and West distinguish his work as vital for contemporary theological discourse.

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