Thursday, September 19, 2013

Closer to "God" high in Georgia

Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly; Yasmine Hafiz (Huffington Post Religion, 9-19-13)
Katskhi Pillar, high in Georgia, with its one-man hermitage (Amos Chapple)
(Maboroshi Productions) Early documentary trailer about the monk who now lives atop a 140 foot rock pillar in the central Imereti region, Georgia. He is the first to try in 600 years. Research will culminate in a short documentary out soon.

One of the men helped by Qavtaradze
The Eastern Orthodox Christian monk Maxime Qavtaradze is literally close to the heavens [space, the akasha deva loka]. The 59-year-old monastic lives atop a limestone pillar in the Eastern European Republic of Georgia.

He has to scale a 131-foot ladder in order to leave or return to his lofty home, reports CNN, the CIA/MIC's trusty American "news" outlet. Photographer Amos Chapple ascended the cliff to document his life there.
The Katskhi Pillar (wiki) has long been venerated as a "holy" place by locals in the area, although it has been uninhabited since about the 1400s. In 1944, when climbers ascended it, after centuries, of isolation, they found the ruins of a church and the 600-year-old bones of the last "stylite" who lived there.

(Paul Brian) "!" (comedy/documentary) follows the experiences of a volunteer English teacher in a small-town in the Republic of Georgia looking at the traditions, character, and quirks of rural communities in this small and proud nation where medieval meets modern and the hilarious exists side-by-side with the humbling. Nothing ever goes the way you expect in Georgia, but there's always more adventure (and alcohol) around the corner.

Waiting for the space saviors to return
The stylite tradition is believed to have begun in 423 when St. Simeon the Elder climbed a pillar in Syria in order to avoid worldly temptations. But the practice has since fallen out of favor. Nevertheless, Qavtaradze is a modern devotee.
Qavtaradze on ladder to heaven
Although isolated, he is not a total solitary yogi-hermit. He comes down once or twice a week to counsel the troubled young men who come to the monastery below for his help. After all, he was once one of them. He may now live at the top of the world, but Qavtaradze found his vocation when he was the lowest he had ever been -- doing time in prison after he "drank, sold drugs, everything" as a young man. But it's okay, for as we at Wisdom Quarterly say:
"Every saint has a past, every sinner a future."
He took monastic vows in 1993 and has been working to rebuild the monastery complex, chapel, and hermitage for the last 15 years, according to the makers of "The Stylite," a documentary about Qavtaradze and his community.

Yasmine Hafiz
Yasmine Hafiz, editorial fellow for The Huffington Post's Religion desk, holds a B.A. from Yale Univ., and co-authored The American Muslim Teenager's Handbook. Hafiz is a former State Dept. intern and a founding member of the Arizona Youth Interfaith Movement. She was a 2008 Presidential Scholar and has extensive public speaking experience regarding religion in America.

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