Magical! Mysterious! Exotic! These words describe the city of Istanbul for me and my husband, Dennis during a recent vacation to the Eastern Mediterranean. And the Grand Bazaar, a sprawling warren of arch-covered passageways dating back to the mid 1400’s, was where I found a treasure most precious. We were introduced to Nick Merenyan, a calligrapher who has been working in the Grand Bazaar as a tradesman since 1968. As I walked into Nick’s tiny cave-like shop, it was like walking into a sacred space. Crowded with religious items, glowing candles and meditative music, I found that one-of-a-kind gift for my congregation of Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Westminster. Nick specializes in the delicacy of calligraphy on dried leaves. He carefully selects leaves from Dieffenbachia plants (also known as the “Prayer Plant”), praying, he tells me that “they will be guests in homes in various countries of the world”. He dries them for one year in an elaborate process and then applies the art of calligraphy to each dried leaf. Each one stunningly and uniquely depicts works from the Islamic, Christian and Judaic cultures. Nick explained softly and reverently that the subjects of his works are “love, peace and tolerance messages”. I was struck by one that I felt spoke the blessing I wanted to convey to the parish: The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make His face shine upon thee and be gracious to thee. The Lord lift his countenance to thee and give thee Peace (Numbers 6: 24-26). The inscription is surrounded by intricate and colourful scenes. Beautifully framed in Lucite, it made the perfect gift!
But one gift was not enough, so as we continued our vacation on our cruise from Istanbul to Venice, a stop at the lovely Greek island of Mykonos provided another golden opportunity. A stroll along the maze of narrow, cobblestoned walkways brought me to a small privately owned shop where the owner, Vickie, hand paints on Jerusalem wood reproductions of Byzantine icons. I selected a lovely icon of the Virgin Mary and Child as my second gift to the parish. Among the icons in our side chapel, I felt we needed a woman! On September 23rd during our Sunday service, I offered these two precious gifts to the congregation and The Ven. John Bailey blessed the presentation.
Speaking of John, he is excited about an upcoming pilgrimage he and Brenda will lead following in the Steps of the Apostles April 17-May 6, 2013. The tour begins in Istanbul before moving inland in Turkey to visit sites of some of the earliest Christian communities. Returning to the coast at Ephesus the tour embarks on a three day cruise of the Greek Islands ending in Athens on Greek Orthodox Good Friday. Holy Saturday is free to allow Pilgrims to attend Easter liturgies for a second time (Greek Easter is on a different day to that in the west). Easter day the tour concludes with a visit to Corinth and other sites on the Peloponnese. Information is available at Rostad.com
or the Holy Trinity Cathedral office (604-521-2511).
Images: The Venerable John Bailey blessed the gifts and The Reverend Christine Magrega told the stories of the two pieces of liturgical art at Holy Trinity, Cathedral, September 23rd, 2012.
PHOTOS: Susan Stensgaard