Monday, January 31, 2005


We Cannot Forget That Beauty

Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, chapter 13:
There is a story in the Russian Primary Chronicle of how Vladimir, Prince of Kiev, while still a pagan, desired to know which was the true religion, and therefore sent his followers to visit the various countries of the world in turn.

They went first to the Muslim Bulgars of the Volga, but observing that these when they prayed gazed around them like men possessed, the Russians continued on their way dissatisfied. 'There is no joy among them,' they reported to Vladimir, 'but mournfulness and a great smell; and there is nothing good about their system.'

Travelling next to Germany and Rome, they found the worship more satisfactory, but complained that here too it was without beauty.

Finally they journeyed to Constantinople, and here at last, as they attended the Divine Liturgy in the great Church of the Holy Wisdom, they discovered what they desired. 'We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for surely there is no such splendour or beauty anywhere upon earth. We cannot describe it to you: only this we know, that God dwells there among humans, and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places. For we cannot forget that beauty.'
What would travellers on a similar quest find today?

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