Cappadocia: Christian Ant Farm
Cappadocia is the name of a region in central Turkey very important for early Christian history. Seminarians out there will probably remember Basel and the two Greg’s (Nyssa & Nazianzus), aka the “Cappodocian Fathers,” who helped the church think through the doctrine of the Trinity. These Cappadocians along with Athanasius focused on one iota in their teaching: Christ is not a similar substance/essence as God the Father (homoiousios in Greek) but rather the same substance/essence (homoousios). Anyhow, Cappadocia was the place where these three theologians as well as a huge swell of the other Christians congregated back in the day. Monastics, ascetics, thinkers and all manner of other believers holed up here, quite literally in fact. The landscape of Cappadocia is made up of cliffs, caves and towers of rock. Over the centuries these spaces have been burrowed out and inhabited–a kind of Christian ant farm, with a huge variety of facilities and amenities. Our mission centered on discovering the churches of the region and what we found made a big impression on us.
So how did this trip relate to the theme of the my fellowship? In Cappadocia we saw a very unique way in which the church has related to the land. ‘Why build a worship space when you can chisel it out of the ground?’ you can hear the Cappadocians Christians asking. There are beautiful cathedrals the world over, but somehow Cappadocia makes me think that worship, at least for these early Christians, was a matter of necessity in their lives. So inspired were they by the story handed down to them that they scoured the created earth in their neighborhood for spaces to give praise. And so you can imagine that they buzzed around this ant farm of sanctuaries, discovering God in contemplation and in liturgy. The caves and cliffs of Cappadocia reveal that the earth does not necessarily need to be quarried and stacked into a basilica to be a holy space. Holy spaces were already provided here in the rock and simply awaited those who might show up for church.