Archimandrite Paul Papadopulos

She woke up every morning and before doing anything she went where she had the icons. She made the sign of the cross slowly, piously. She took with her right hand the glass she used as a vigil light and put it in the left one than she made again the sign of the cross. Then she left the glass on the table that was there, opened a small box where instead of jewels she had incense, charcoal and wicks. Then she added some oil in the glass, changed the  wick and lit it singing: `It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God.` then she put it back in the middle before the icons.

She did not throw the old wick and napkin to the trash. She had a bag especially for that and when it was filled she took it and burnt it at the end of the yard of her house.

Every day when her son woke up saw her before the icons changing the wick from the vigil light. He  always went hurriedly to the bathroom to wash himself and dress and then to go to his job.

His father had left them many years ago. And it was better that he had left them because his poor mother suffered a lot because of his drunkenness and debauches.

He saw her every day, every morning chanting, incensing the house, saying good bye to him with the censer in her hand and making the sign of the cross over him many times while he was leaving. Then he saw her how she drew slowly the curtain from the window and looked at him as he got in the car.

After her son had left she dressed and went to the church to hear the low voice of the priest who sang the Matins. In the church she stood near the painting with saint Catherine. Sometimes she leaned on the pew, closed her eyes and said the Jesus prayer. After the Matins ended she waited for the priest to receive his blessing. She bowed, kissed his hand and then left.

In the afternoon when her son came back tired from his job he found her reading the lives of the saints or praying. She gave him to eat and didn’t ask him many questions, only if he was fine, if he wanted anything and if she could offer him that. She sat at the table with him watching him eating. Looking at him she felt satiated too, being glad when he ate everything from the plate and she was even gladder if he asked her for more.

Every time he looked up saw her smiling, quiet, peaceful, careful. After he finished eating she made the sign of the cross. After they stood up he went to the living room, switched on the TV, listened to the news and the sport news. Many times he fell asleep there. In the evening he dressed and while opening the door said: `Mother, I’m leaving…` Her voice was heard from her closed room as an echo that reached the entrance door: `Be careful, my child!`

She stood for a while near the closed entrance door, alone and quiet. Then after a while she went back to her room. Near her bed was a small rug where she knelt down. Her gaze remained nailed to an icon of Theotokos she had on her nightstand. You could not hear anything from her mouth, no whisper, but if you had been there you would have seen how her eyes filled with tears that rolled down on her cheeks to her neck and disappeared under the necklace with her cross.Time passed, two, three, four hours and she was still on her knees on that rug in her small bedroom.

She never gave lectures to her son. She never asked him where he had gone, with whom he had met and what he had done. She turned her worry into prayer.

She heard the key in the door. Her son was back. She made the sign of the cross then bowed her forehead to the floor and stayed like this until her son got in his room. After he had gone to bed she tried to get up, but many times that was hard after so many hours of kneeling down and she could not feel her legs. Sometimes she hardly managed to get up and lie in bed but many times she remained on the floor, stretching her legs and waiting for the blood to flow again into her veins.

The next day the door of her son’s room opened again. Going to the bathroom he saw her again changing the wick from the vigil lamp. And she had used to do that thing for so long, always with discretion. They had a mutual respect, a mutual understanding, a perichoresis.

Time passed. Her son met a beautiful, simple and kind girl. He loved her and she loved him too. He brought her home. They told his mother they wanted to marry. The mother got up, made the sign of the cross and said: `Be it blessed, my children!` knelt down, took the hands of the girl and kissed them. She kissed them and watered them with her tears of joy.

A few days passed and the daily routine was still unchanged in the house. Until that morning when he woke up and didn’t see his mother anymore. He stopped and stood still for a while. His eyes filled with tears and his lips whispered slowly a word while heading to his mother’s room until his voice became a loud cry: `mother!` and he cried again and again and ran to her room. When he opened the door he saw her sitting on her knees on the small rug, still, quiet, leaning on the edge of the bed. The lamp was still lit and before her was the icon of Theotokos.

He knelt down near her. He stopped crying. He stayed there motionless like his mother. After a couple of minutes he turned towards her, looked at her, caressed her hair, kissed her eyes, those eyes that were still wet from the tears of her prayer. And his eyes became red because of the salty tears. But his face was as peaceful as her mother’s. He stood up, went to the icons, took the vigil lamp in his right hand, changed the wick and made the sign of the cross.

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