In the week that followed Easter I spent a few days on the island of Kalymnos.
On the Eve of St. George
In the week that followed Easter I came by boat to the island of Kalymnos where, walking along a hillside street above the port -- the houses all being shut against the wind -- I looked up onto a porch and saw, looking back at me with an expression of innocent curiosity, a lamb. He was pure white, with a ribbon around his neck and a spot of bright red on his forehead. He was tethered to a porch railing with a bowl of food before him and radiated that child-like pleasure of life that lambs are blessed with.
But the red spot on his forehead had a disconcerting, sacrificial overtone which, once I became aware of it, infected even the ribbon around his neck. But Easter had been a week before. Were he a Pascal Lamb he should not be around after Easter. It was a pet, I decided, decorated by some playful little girl to whom the spot of red was only a spot of red.
It was years later, reading this in my journal and knowing then more than I had known at the time, that I noticed the date and was brought up short. It had been the 22nd of April. The next day would be the Feast of St. George, the day when by tradition shepherds would begin to move their flocks to mountain pastures, the festive day when they took lambs -- decked with ribbons and a spot of blood red on their forehead -- to the church to be blessed, and then slain as a sacrifice, cooked and eaten in a common meal, for the health and good fortune of the community and to the honor of St. George, patron of shepherds.
That, I am sure, was my lamb’s business as he watched me with his innocent curiosity on that windy day on the island of Kalymnos on the eve of St. George.
(Easter in Greece continues . . .)