Friday, July 6, 2012

At the Areopagus in Athens

Parthenon under restoration
by Rev. Laura Barclay

The last stop I’ll mention is Athens, Greece, where a depressed economy and overpopulation were evident in the anarchist graffiti and crowded streets throughout the city. Atop the acropolis, the Parthenon and other buildings, including the Temple of Nike were undergoing restoration. Walking around the Parthenon, our guide Greg, pointed out the very first theater ever created where plays like Oedipus and Antigone would have been performed.

Location where Socrates was tried

In the rubble of the agora, or marketplace, our guide located the area where the philosopher Socrates would have taught his students, as well as where he was tried and sentenced to death. Socrates was devoted to logic and was a critic of the state. He was tried for corrupting the youth with his ideas and chose death over exile and ingested hemlock.

Areopagus where Paul preached

On the hill called the Areopagus, rising above the agora, noted speakers would address the public. Paul preached to the Athenians, and began a very respectful interfaith dialogue, noting that they were wise because they even had a temple to an unknown God. Paul claimed to be there to discuss the unknown God. Paul was well received, and even though his ideas were not as popular there as other locations, he was treated well and engaged in positive dialogue.

At the end of the week, I couldn’t help but feel that I was much closer to the roots of my faith, having walked where Peter, Paul, John, and Mary had reportedly walked. Readings from the Bible and history books became real as I imagined Paul engaging the crowds, Peter at his crucifixion, Mary in hiding mourning the loss of her son Jesus, John starting a fledgling community of faith, Socrates refusing to compromise his convictions, gladiators and animals fighting and dying in droves for the entertainment of the mob, and people walking, surviving and living as they’ve done for centuries, connecting us in a long chain events.
If you ever have the chance to make history become real, tangible, interesting, and relatable, please take the opportunity! I will never read Paul’s letters the same way, gaze upon a picture of Mary without thinking of her after life the death of her child, watch movies like “Gladiator” without thinking of the real tyranny of the emperors who played with lives like toys, or think of the Vatican without thinking of the countless Christians martyred before all the beautiful columns and marble were laid.

Where would you like to visit and make history more real and personal to you? Why that particular location? Whose footsteps would you want to follow while you are there?

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