Orthodox Byzantine Chants
Holy Mount Athos
It was the day before the Epiphany from 2000 when it is blessed the high holy water. In Piliuri, a village from the Northern Epyr (Albania), the priest gets down from the car which transports him and gets ready to bless the houses. They drove for an hour and 15 minutes for reaching that place. That village was hidden in some beautiful mountains but the road till there is steep and dangerous. The car tried to get out of the mud made by the rain. The priest was new in the village and he had been ordained only two months before. He had come from Greece with three students to help him at the choir and carry the necessary stuff for the officiation of the holy service in the neighbouring villages and anywhere else it was needed.
Their first visit was at the church which was at the entrance in the village. The atheist regime turned it into a `house of the people`then in a storehouse. It was a painful sight. The steps were full of weeds and the door locked. There was no sign of life. It seemed deserted and derelict as if to be destroyed all traces left by the atheists. The children ran to knock at the doors of the houses to announce the arrival of the new priest. After a while all the villagers gathered up. The women told to each other the great news:
`For the first time after so many years a priest has come to bless us !
And they were saying these with tears in their eyes. Some women put carpets at the entrance of their houses and others cut the most beautiful flowers from their gardens for welcoming the priest. They all waited at the gates. Even the dogs shared the joy of their masters, cause their barking was different now, full of joy.
At Your baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, echoed in the whole village. The clothes of the priest became full of mud. The shoes of the students got dirty with mud but despite this they were all glad.
Three hours passed until he blessed all the houses. Only a house was left which was at the far end of the village. Some offered themselves to go and bring holy water in that house saying that the priest was tired. But the two women, an old woman and her daughter were waiting for him. When the priest arrived they kissed the Cross with love and piety. They led the priest and his companions through all the rooms of the house. In one of these there was a young girl who lied in bed.
`Father, this is my niece…She is 18. She’s a very good child. She is facing a hardship but God is great.`
The mother was near her and was sobbing quietly. Both women wanted to tell something to the priest but they hesitated.
`We’d like to ask you for something, father. The girl you sprinkled with holy water is cripple, quadriplegic. She was baptized three years ago. Since then she has been severely fasting and she doesn’t eat any meat. On Wednesdays and Fridays she doesn’t eat with oil. She is praying and has been waiting for a priest to come and confess her. We thought maybe you could let her commune tomorrow.`
`Tomorrow is the Epiphany…it is a great day. There will be a lot of people. They will commune then we will throw the cross in the sea. You understand that we are going to be quite late.`
`It doesn’t matter, father. We’ll wait as much as necessary. When our girl finds out she’ll start fasting and she won’t even drink water. This is her great desire. So what do you say?`
The next day the same car with the same men was going to the village. Nobody talked on the way. They walked quite a lot till they reached that house. In front there was someone going with a burning candle. On the lateral staircase of the house the two women were crying of joy bowing down for showing their gratefulness. They both made the sign of the cross and led the priest in the room of the girl.
The servant of God …partakes of the precious and holy Blood of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ unto the remission of her sins and life everlasting.
But the priest stopped before giving the Holy Eucharist to the girl. Something was happening. He closed his eyes and opened them back as if something was troubling him. After he dropped the spoon in the holy chalice he rubbed his eyes which had become dim. He asked himself what was going on. Elephteria’s eyes who looked at the holy chalice were shining. They were shining so brightly that the priest amazed could not see her face well. A very bright light becoming more and more intense was spreading slowly in the whole room. He was feeling that the light was surrounding him and he felt its warmth. He got scared. That light didn’t have the color of a flame, it was white, intense and delicate but not dazzling. It was so powerful that the priest couldn’t see the girl’s face and mouth.
Being overwhelmed by amazement and trying to keep his hands from trembling the priest gave the Holy Eucharist to the girl keeping in his mind the image of her face. He realized that he was giving her the Eucharist only when the spoon touched her teeth.
`Thank you, father!` he heard the voice of the girl.
Then the priest wanted to consume what was left in the holy chalice in the room where was the iconostasis of the family but it was impossible. He said good bye to his hostesses quietly and showed obviously to the students who helped him that they had to go. Then they asked him to stay there overnight, but the priest did not seem to hear them. He was holding the Holy Chalice in his right hand and was heading quickly towards the forest which was near the house. His body was crossed by creeps. He stood and thought about what happened then consumed quickly the Holy Eucharist.
`Father, are you feeling all right ?` the students asked him.
`Yes. Let’s go cause we are late.`