Today is All Saints’ Day — the day set aside in the Christian calendar to honor all those who loved and followed Jesus during their earthly life. This trip, this pilgrimage, has increased my gratitude for those who have faithfully gone before me.
I write this from Cappadocia, Turkey, the home of the Church Fathers, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa (Basil’s brother), and Gregory of Nazianus. These three holy men lived devout lives and helped define some of the most important doctrines of the Christian Church — how we understand the mystery of Jesus being both fully God and fully human.
Dan and I have been touring the amazing churches carved into caves here. Inside the churches are the remains of brightly colored frescoes, painted mainly in the 10th and 11th centuries. Almost every church we have visited (they are now museums) have the three Cappadocian Fathers depicted near Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist in the apse, where the altar stood. The photo below is of the other end of the church, where you enter, as most of the apses were too dark for photos.
Here in Cappadocia, as early as the 4th century, monks came to find solitude and refuge in this rugged landscape of cliffs and caves. They often lived as hermits. As time went by, monasteries were developed which attracted many visitors. All this was happening in Turkey at around the same time as the Celtic monasteries in Ireland and England. Even though separated by thousands of miles, these saints were influenced by the same Spirit and writings.
This trip has helped deepen my grasp of “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3.18). These words were written to a community of Christians here in Turkey by the Apostle Paul . On this All Saints’ Day may we all have a sharper vision of what it will be like to worship with that great multitude from every nation, tribe, people, language, and time, gathered around the throne and the Lamb (Revelation 7.9).