Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Sister Visits for Holy Week in Greece

Xristos Anesti! Christ is Risen!

Dear Friends,

Its so nice to be writing you now basking in the joy of Christ's Resurrection. Although many of you have been following me on facebook with the pictures and video's I have posted, I have not shared the words that were spoken by my mind and my heart when my wonderful adventure with my dear sister began a little more than a month ago.

The majesty of Orthodoxy Christianity in Greece cannot be explained, it must be experienced. This is because the metaphysical experience and rush of prayer, combined with emotions of repentance, love, and joy that one experiences in their spiritual life with God, while idiomatic in its personal expression and at the same time shared by all, lacks when speaking of Orthodoxy from a view from the exterior. This spiritual life, combined with the traditions of the faith in arguably its native land, where Saint Paul first sewed the seeds of Christianity has no equal.

If you haven't experienced an Orthodox Christian Pasxcha before, it is a culmination of our faith. A revelation of the kingdom of God, that occurs once a year, but also every week, and to some, every day. Though the period of one week we remember the entirety of Christ's life, and we ponder, wonder, and mourn, on all the things Christ taught, his love for us, his humility and his passion. It is a whirlpool of emotion for those who choose to truly live Great Lent and Holy Week, in which the resurection of Christ surprises us with complete joy at a moment when we suspect all is lost.

Although I wish to share much in explicit detail, as to share the delicious smells before a feast, or the last sip of coffee at the end of a heartwarming chat, yet I must advance with some haste or we are in danger of losing our programmes of the day.

And so my sister came.

She came to me to be flustered by many things, the beauty, the love, and the physical and emotional expression of Greece that is so different by the standards of Western culture.

To see my sister again was a joy that I have never experienced, as seeing each other sporadically after being separated from the days of our youth seemed so unnatural, that when I saw her after being apart such a long period of time, although I expected it, I couldn't help but be shocked to see her.

It was so nice to be with my sister, my first friend. The one that I had practiced love and hate, spite and adoration, laughter and tears, and in retrospect, much of this I had experienced with her in my youth for the first time. But when you are united again with a sibling, it is so easy, and nice to throw ages out the window and blind ourselves to what we have become physically and become what our eyes still reveal: that we are still kids experiencing a siblings' romance . Our eyes don't show age, nor our minds, nor our hearts.... and yet we grow young again.

And so our first moments together were like the mystical emotions after claiming first place in little league, capturing the lead role of the school play, and getting a new pet and bringing it home. It was so fun to be with her again, old, but new.

We spent one night in Athens, and with view of the Parthenon from the balcony, it gave birth to fantasies of what might be revealed in the coming days.

We awoke, and Natalie immediately had her first frappe pronounced (frap-ay) and a few jokes with one of my friends and we were off to the bus station at Kifisos. After claiming our tickets it was funny to hear Natalie, acknowledging the strength of the frappe she drank by stating "What the hell was in that?". I laughed, as any newcomer after their first Greek frappe would likely say the same. I have overheard somewhere that there is a secret ingredient that is added in the Nescafe in Greece - one that either makes it toxic, severely addictive- or probably both.

During our 6 hour bus ride, we had some amazing talks, as we viewed the coast of the Gulf of Corinth, shared a few jokes, filled in my sister of some of my joys and trials of Greece, and even had time for a nap. This was Natalie's first time in Europe, and as I remember my first time in Greece, I was as wide eyed as a newborn baby.

As we rolled through the city of Patras, memories came back to me about my time in this town, and we were greeted by Greece's largest Church, Agios Andreas (Saint Andrew).

Although the bus was not scheduled to stop , my sisters heart did stop as we passed the Church and she scrambled to snap some quick photos. It was such a pity that we didn't go inside, and we both flashed a look of befuddlement to each other and proceeded to give a sigh of missed opportunity.

The short ride to Kilini was charming, as we were greeted with the joys of springtime flowers and warm sunshine that was deemed by me as being the perfect temperature. The ship that was to take us and about 500-800 others was inviting people and cars in a fashion of organized pandemonium as per the usual experience in Greece.

We shared the 1 hour boat ride, with a couple of greek coffee's ( I take mine "metrio" medium if anyone is taking notes) and 2 small bottled waters and shared the with Natalie the incredible discovery that the Greeks have made, that one must drink water with ones' coffee, and the theory behind this. This information was all taken on the deck while we enjoyed the smell and sight of a deep blue sea paired with a light blue sky.

We were greeted at the port of Zakinthos town by a dear friend of mine, a Monk-Priest from the monastery of Agios (Saint) Dionysios, who has treated me with the most love and respect that I have ever experienced. He waited for us at the port after we experienced a long 6 hour bus ride from Athens and 2 hour boat ride from Kilini. (My sister had been traveling for over 36hrs!)

We stopped to see and venerate Agios Dyionysios, who's relics are fragrant and whole. My relationship with him is what originally brought me to this beautiful island, for that I am eternally grateful. (I will add a blog of my first encounter with him, and the miracles and people that surround my life today because of his prayers)

After venerating his relics we stopped by the gift shop, as our friend picked out a few things for us that gave us a taste of the monastery and of the island. He saw that we were clearly exhausted, and we hastily made off for home.

I call it our home because that is how our host family presented their home to us, and our hosts surely provided quite an impressive accommodation with lots of amazing food, drink, all the sleep we desired, and more love that we could have fathomed.

Here is a few pictures that describe our approach to Zakinthos and give a little light on how our first day was there.

Please click on the box below, then press SLIDESHOW in the left hand corner :)

First Days in Zakinthos 3

Alas, this is all I can offer you for now, we have so many pictures and stories to tell that it couldn't be done all today, I will write shortly to you so that you can enjoy some of the beauty that we were able to see!

to be continued soon :) Thanks for reading!

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