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Nino Abakelia: The motif of Communion with Eternity in Georgian tradition


  ( According to the iconographic programmes of Georgian temples and the folk sacred poetry)
In the Christian studies the motif of eternity, everlasting time, infinite time is straightly connected with the idea of Paradise. The decline of man from the divine heights caused the ontological change of him and consequently divided the entire world into two parts: temporal and eternal.
Since that time the mankind’s insistent wish is to recover the paradise condition. Spiritual literature considers Christianity the realized paradise (J. Danielou.). Jesus Christ represents the Tree of Life and ( or) the Spring of Life.
In Christianity the divine entirety is symbolized by the City – the Heavenly Jerusalem. According to the Church Fathers   Heavenly Jerusalem is the prototype of Church itself. The first century basilicas as well as cathedrals of Middle Ages repeat the model of Heavenly Jerusalem (M. Eliade, T. Burkhardt). There grows the Tree of Life in the center of Heavenly Jerusalem and as a sacred symbol of axis mundi, it reveals the entirety of the Universe.
The border symbolism of the above – mentioned worlds is based on the cosmological system, it originates from it and forms the image of the Universe.
The models of temples and cities, as is known, are “ transcendental” for they preexist in the sky. Temples and portals share the same symbolism for they are both open to the other world. The main function of them is to link cultic (mundane) and divine (heavenly) spheres. This is common for almost every culture and this idea developed throughout the world. That is why the expression –“divine portal” implies both: temple as well as portal. They are interchangeable symbols. Temples resp. portals have their archetypes in Heavenly Jerusalem and this concept is also general in Christianity.
We tried to show how the celestial model of Heavenly Jerusalem together with its emblem of the Tree of paradise “lowered from the sky” on the earth and revealed itself in various local simplified forms such as marani  (i.e. the house of wine), nishi (literally – the sign of epiphany) and its most simplified variety – the sacred tree.
Thus, according to the symbolism observed locally, the above – mentioned local “divine portals” are considered to be the places of “break through” into another world through which and by means of which one can transfer from the category of time into eternity.
The pattern of decoration which so frequently places peacocks, hares, deers, etc. in conjunction with grape or spring is analogous to the men (in the sacred poetry), standing under the sacred tree and tasting the grape or in other cases,
with the righteous , drinking pure spring water under the sacred tree in the center of Heaven.
Both iconographic programmes and imagery patterns of the sacred poetry coincide and express one and the same idea that of communion with Eternity at the “divine portal”.

February 5, 2009 Posted by | Ethnology of Georgia | Leave a comment