I will miss Ana's country. The first photo is a tetraevangelion, I forget the date, but at least 800years old. We went and saw a church that grew out of a Roman-era site (the site goes back to the early Roman occupation, the church is Constantine-era). It is small, the nave is maybe 3 or 4m wide, the apse is circular, perhaps 12m diameter, and the narthex is partially enclosed, of a later date, and is rectangular. It is now surrounded by a government building housing (among other things) the ministry of science and education and a casino (which is not, to my knowledge, a government ministry).
The museum of archaeology is fascinating. The collection spans neolithic artifacts on down, with much space given to the Thracian culture, the Romans, Byzantines, and the local kings, some of whom were highly cultured and, at times, very powerful. Ana liked going bump-bump up and down the stairs, and some of the artifacts might have interested her, it is hard to say.
I was thinking about the pagan minds that made the art and cult objects, many of which are extremely beautiful and well-done. Mostly they focus on the gods; whether those be employed as objects of worship or ornament is a separate question. But you have Herakles, (demi-)god of strength, Apollo in war, Heros in hunting (god or man, not sure), Athena for wisdom, Eros and Aphrodite for love, Adonis for beauty, Zeus for command and power, and the list goes on. There is a simplicity of a sort here - strength is this strong god guy, you want strength, you pray to him. Same deal for love, wisdom, victory, what-have-you. And then the pagan culture is swallowed whole as though the earth opened up beneath it, and these pagan art and cult objects are replaced wholesale by Christian art and cult objects. There is even a scholarly argument that St. George and the dragon was a Christianization of Heros (or the Thracian horseman, if those are differentiable), and the likeness there is striking (this comment based on personal inspection of the artifacts today).
But the gods are gone.
In their place is this absurd figure who is claimed by these Christians to actually BE strength, wisdom, power, and even love and beauty. Where the pagans simply made an image of what they thought godlike strength was (and Herakles, while strong-looking, could also be called tubby), Christians pointed to this dying God and claimed that yes, here are all these things most truly found, and here alone.
The earth did open. Paganism is swallowed by death because this Jesus has himself swallowed death. No Orpheus negotiating his bride's release he, no, he who spoke the world out of nothing, who was born humbly of a virgin, who died on the cross, who walked out of a tomb afterwards to ascend to his Father's right hand - this Jesus who is called Christ - he commands the grave to give up his bride and leads her triumphantly from darkness into light. He may look at her. She may, nay must, gaze on him, for he is no Cupid to leave her - besides, she has broken many of his kind commands, but he forgives her in her repentance.
Paganism couldn't handle this.
We had such a nice walk that we were out for about two hours. When we got back we talked to Mama and Co., then Ana ate and Papa ate. Dinner was about 170kcal, putting us at about 480kcal today, which is satisfactory. Diaper output is pretty regular, with smaller #2 being directly correlated to the composition of her food (the potato+spinach food was noticeable, the banana+mango not so much).
We said goodbye to our American friends at the hotel, had a washcloth bath for Ana (which she really liked), a shower and shave for Papa (always makes security people happier if you smell nice), and are settling in for a short sleep. Up at 0400 and back to the USofA by 2100! Not bad until you add in the nine hours of time lag. Still, o ly thirty hours of travel to go between eastern Europe and the western US is pretty amazing, by any standard that considers human history.
Thank you again for your prayers! You may not hear from us for a little while, as there will be lots to do back home, but check back - when we have time, we will be delighted to give praise for God's continued work in Ana and in our family.
In Christ, who is our victory,
Papa and Ana