A Pascal Mystery
It was early afternoon, bright and windy, with the sun sparking off the waves as I waited on the cement quay on the harbor of the Greek island of Naxos. It was spring and Greek Easter was coming. The sea was rough and my boat was late.
There was a scattering of Greeks, also waiting, with luggage and pasteboard boxes tied with twine. The Greeks were quiet. It was always strange to me to see Greeks being quiet. The only other foreigners are an older German couple, the man smoking a large, malodorous cigar. I sat on a box, upwind of the cigar. In the distance I see the dark speck of a boat.
A car arrived -- large, black and of unfamiliar manufacture -- flying the double-headed eagle flag of the Orthodox Church. It carried two black-robed priests in their flat-topped, cylindrical hats, their dark hair pulled back into a small queue.
The priests, seeing the boat, stood by their car, waiting. The Church flags on the front fenders snapped in the stiff breeze.
I assumed they were awaiting someone’s arrive on the boat. Why did they have flags on their car? It is Holy Week in the Greek Church. Had they come to meet some important cleric?
The boat comes alongside the quay. The priests rush on board, intent upon their mission. For whom were they waiting? A priest, ancient and pious? Or perhaps an abbot or archdeacon or archimandrite. Or some bishop or prelate, some primate or patriarch.
Surely, I think, this must be no mere black-robed papa, but a be-chasubled primate garbed in a gold-threaded Phenolion -- crowned with a Mitra and bearing in his hand the serpent-headed staff of a Pateressa -- preceded by acolytes with torches and thurifers swinging censers to cloud the air with great billows of dusty rose, as the faithful rush forward to cross themselves with pious exclamations. A crimson carpet will appear, and from the town will come the peal of bells and unseen voices will raise the Thrice-Holy, the glory of this holy man’s presence a reflection and reminder to those on earth of God’s glorious kingdom in Heaven.
The priests reappear. The largest of them, a black-bearded bear of a man, carries across his shoulders the object of their mission: a trussed lamb for their Easter meal.
Was I expecting too much?
(More Easters in Greece to follow . . .)