It was a day of farewells, the first of at least three such days this week. Pelagia and George had us over to dinner, along with Mena and Kostas (looking radiantly healthy). It was a delicious meal with many dishes, all fasting-compliant. All one had to do was eat appropriate portions, which was not easy. And of course the company was outstanding. Such loving, kind, good people! How quickly, once we had met, we all became so very close! We will miss them.
We arrived home just after five in the afternoon (Yes, dinner is always at midday.) and rested until six. Then, back to the surprised florist for the second time today, because you always try to bring flowers to your hostess, and on to Anastasia and Stelios, who live just two blocks away. They had invited us for “coffee” which turned out to be tea in the English style, capped off by my favorite, baked quince.
It is a lot of fun to talk with Anastasia and Stelios, for many reasons, first because they are so dear, but also because they form something like a Greek chorus as you tell a story. It’s a little like being in a black church where the congregation utters encouraging words to the preacher. Anastasia and Stelios will say things like, “Oh, you were in London! Beautiful city! Yes – “You stayed a whole week! How nice for you!” – “Your friend, Thomas, yes, the one we met…” Or if what you say is sad, they will say something like, “How difficult for you! So frightening. Yes, yes…”
When they tell stories, we tend just to listen and to smile and glow inside. Here’s the one they told us tonight.
A man in Stelios’ village had a daughter who had something in her eye that kept growing. The man took his daughter to a specialist in Kavala, who told her, “We’re going to have to operate tomorrow, my child.” So she was hospitalized to await the surgery early the next morning.
During the night, the father had a dream in which the Theotokos appeared to him. She told him to go back to his village, ask a certain man to donate a certain corner of his property, and to build a church there. “And your daughter shall be well.”
When the man awoke, he was in some confusion, because of course the Orthodox do not put much stock in dreams, ordinarily. (Although of course we recognize that some dreams are of divine origin, such as that of St. Joseph, directing him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt.)
But then the man saw his daughter’s eye, and the large growth was gone, and the eye looked almost normal. By time the surgeon came, the eye was normal. The doctor pronounced it a miracle and cancelled the surgery.
The man and his daughter went back to Stelios’ village, went to the man who owned the property he had dreamed about, and asked for it. The property owner immediately said, “Of course,” and turned over that corner of land. Today a church stands there.
There was some question what sort of Theotokos icon to put in that church, but the iconographer, a monk, had a dream of how he should paint it, and he did. It shows her holding a handkerchief, with which to wipe away the tears of the world.
Anastasia told me she was once privileged to carry that icon in a procession.
She sent us home with a laminated paper print of it – and a jar of her baked quince.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007