Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Following Ignatius through Antioch

by Steve Ray on April 17, 2007

Just now I get a chance to write. After two days of flying from Detroit to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Istanbul and then Istanbul to Adana, we were exhausted but had to start early the next morning. We even missed Mass since we were in the air on Sunday and in Istanbul we never got out of the airport and there was no Mass available. We did get a dispensation from our priest Fr. Ed  before leaving! 

First day we jumped in our minibus and drove the two hours from Adana to Antakya (Antioch). We headed straightaway to the old Roman aquaduct that is up the mountain and now used as a bridge in a very dense neighorhood. They don't realize what it is I guess, since they call it the breasted gate. Why? Because over two thousand years the water dripping has caused big mineral protuberances that give it the appearance of having many breasts. Anyway, it is the only remnant of Ancient Roman times — even though it was the 3rd largest city in the Roman Empire. 

Then we spent 3 hours trying to finalize our permits, even though I've been working on them for over six  months. Walking into many smoke-filled rooms, waiting and waiting, then being sent to another building filled with smoke-filled rooms and bureaucrats who don't want to commit to a signature. Anyway, we finally got our final signature and headed to Senpierre Kilsiesi, the Church of St. Peter, which is an ancient cave where the first Christians of Antioch met for the liturgy. Peter and Paul were here, as was Ignatius. It is the oldest church in the world. 

Next we headed to the muddy, mucky Orentes River. It was certainly cleaner and nicer in Ignatius' day but now it is full of trash. People just dump piles of trash over the edge into the river and it stinks. We walked along the edge and filmed a segment about how Ignatius was probably baptized in this river and most likely baptized his people in the river after he was bishop. Usually I try to get in water but this was too nasty, like stepping into a sewer. 

We ate late — but it was good. Authentic Antiochan food. Very healthy Arabic food — since Antakya is only a few miles from the Syrian border and during biblical times was actually the capital of the province of Syria. We crashed into bed late. 

Today started too early according to our poor body clocks that are loudly protesting. But we did some fun scenes of me on the bus heading to Seleucia on the Mediterranean Sea. It was from this port that Ignatius was boarded upon a ship in chains and sent to Rome for his execution by lion. Sixty years earlier Paul had left from the same port at the beginning of his first Missionary Journey.


It was very windy and you can see a bit of where we are in the attached video clip. I had to jump off a step hill/cliff and it took about six takes. My hands and knees were bloody and it took an hour before I got all the thorns and thistles out of my hands. But it was a great shot! Back to Antakya to film the segments about the Eucharist and Holy Orders in the only Catholic Church left in Antioch. It is a house converted into a beautiful church. Fr. Bertogli is a good friend of mine and the author of the marvelous book entitled Antioch on the Orentes.

Rain cut our work short so we have to go back on the morning before leaving again for the airport in Adana. We all ate dinner together and headed for bed exhausted. The crew is really great. Joe Reynolds, Mike Riley, Tray Goodman and the newbie Chris Noah. Of course Janet it my mainstay, my brains, my director and best friend. I couldn't dream of doing this without her constantly at my side.  

St. Ignatius, pray for us! On to film segments in Ephesus and Smyrna for Justin Martyr, Clement, Polycarp and Ignatius.