6. Jan, 2015

A tale from Greece

After a late shift on the ward, it was a welcome relief to open an email from my dear friend who is visiting her family in Athens.  ‘Today felt like Sunday,’ she began, ‘as everyone seemed to have a day off work to go to church and down to the beach for a swim in the not so warm sea.’ For those of you who celebrate the Epiphany, you will know what comes next.

     ‘I woke to hear the church bells ringing and the dogs in the valley barking in harmony, well that’s the poetic side of it, some would say howling or ruder in fact.

I decided it was time to get up and face the day with my morning cup of (not sweet) tea, well you know how it goes you just can't get going without that cuppa to wake up your senses.

     Determined not to miss the ceremony, I decided to leave the rest of the family and said that I would meet them down at the usual coffee bar where it's the norm to meet up with friends and family over a coffee (tea in our book).

     So I trotted down the hill passing the beautiful orange trees that line the pavements along the way, the sun shining and not a cloud in the sky, however it was a mere 4 degrees centigrade and a chilling feeling through  ones bones.

     Arriving at the church I did not see the activity I thought, had I missed the service?  Venturing towards the church I could see a child running around with her father in the background, but thought no more of it.

     The doors of the church were open but people were standing outside the doors, as the church was full. 
An old lady was in charge of looking after the candles with a heady scent of honey. I realised that the candles were made from bees wax and this has a lovely warmth to the light it gives off.

     I could hear the Priest in the background saying prayers and readings in between the holy chanting, frankincense is wafting around and just when I thought the service was at an end, as people were spilling out into the open, I decided to venture forth and enter the church to see the wonders of what lay inside.  On doing so I felt as if I was against the flow of people so stepped to one side, little did I know that I was now in the line of procession to step to the altar to be blessed by the Priest.  Oh my lord I said to myself, I may have been confirmed and welcome the Holy Communion, but got a little concerned when it was all In Greek.

      The Priest had the most wonderful robe of blue silk the colour of the sea with golden threads woven in ornate designs.  With a large bunch of basil in one hand and a rather large silver cross in the other, I wondered what I should do.

       I decided that the best thing was to step aside into the pew and gaze as to the protocol of what goes on, thinking that I could step back into the line.  Much kissing of the cross, and priest’s hand, and a flounce of the bunch of basil on the head of his flock, I decided that I might give it a miss and just look on with the privilege of being able to witness such an occasion and look upon the icons and ornate gold artefacts around.

      However, I did wonder at the fact that when I was waiting to go into this little church, how come there was such a queue of people?  There must have been a few late arrivals or, arriving just at the right time for the blessing. Because, sure as hell I can count, and there were more people than ever, they must have been queuing around at least three blocks!  Ah well by the time we all flowed out of the church the holy water was waiting outside in a silver urn, so that anyone who was not able to attend could take some water back to them.

      Following the rest of the flock, we all gathered by the sea waiting for the Priest to arrive with yet another blessing and waiting for him to throw the cross into the water, where many of the men from the village wait for this ceremonious occasion to dive into the water and retrieve the cross in a bid to become the village hero.

      And that my friend was the event this morning, finishing up at the coffee shop to meet up with the family. I ordered a cup of sweet tea for you but you didn’t turn up, so I guess those waifs and strays and that kind and unassuming husband of yours, have taken up all your time. The vegetarian menu wasn’t up to scratch so you didn’t miss much in the way of food.......

Thank you my dear friend for that entertaining tale from Greece.