Orthodox Byzantine Chants
Holy Mount Athos
In the center of Thessaloniki cars come and go. The motorcycles are sneaking among the cars that are jamming the streets of the city, trying to reach faster their destinations. The city buses are crowded. The city is thronged with people of various ages who work, look for work, go shopping, go to have a coffee, go to schools or universities. The noise of the city is amplified by horns, mufflers, talks, mobile phones ringing insistently and weirdly.
The traffic light turns red.
The window of a car is lowered down and the young man who is driving enjoys the noise of his city. The radio is playing softly. The young man is listening to Byzantine chants, praising God, asking for His mercy and giving glory to Him. He is a psalt singer at one of the churches from the city.
The traffic light is still red.
A taxi comes near him. He has his window open too. There is no passenger inside, only the taxi driver, a middle aged man. He is keeping a hand on the wheel and with the other he seems to point towards the sky. He looks upwards, he doesn’t watch the traffic lights. His mouth is moving. He is saying something. No! He doesn’t speak on his mobile.
The young man tries to understand what he is saying.
The traffic light turns green.
He is honked from behind and he has to leave. But at the next traffic light they are next to each other again. With their windows open they breathe the same air and listen to the same noise. But what is this taxi driver saying? He looks insistently at him, trying to catch his words with his eyes. He turns off the radio quickly. Now he can listen to him. The taxi driver is saying aloud without shame: Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, the sinner. Over and over again the same prayer. Sometimes he says it aloud, other times in a whisper.
The traffic light turns to green.
They start driving again but at the next stop they are next to each other again. The taxi driver is lost in his prayer. He looks neither left nor right. He is not looking for clients, the only thing he does is to say his prayer. He suddenly takes a small rosary in his hand. He seems out of the city, though he is right in its middle.
The young man looks at him breathlessly, as if he sees a hermit from the desert who was thrown in the middle of the city. Having the windows open, he heard the prayer uttered rhythmically. A guy on a motorcycle stops near him. His helmet doesn’t impede him to hear the prayer. He turns to the taxi driver and looks at him insistently, as if he were a lunatic in full crisis. He makes fun of him, tells him some insulting words and leaves. But the taxi driver looks only ahead. He closes his eyes. He hears everything but it seems as if he doesn’t hear anything. He waits till he is honked from behind to open back his eyes and leave. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, the sinner.
The traffic light turns to green.
The cars are honking their horns, but the taxi doesn’t move, it remains in place like a chapel that doesn’t move but sends its worshippers to heaven. The young man remains in place too. He doesn’t want to leave till the taxi driver leaves. They remain both of them in the middle of the city. One of them praying ceaselessly and the other one sharing the grace the first one gets, only by watching the scene.
The taxi driver opens his eyes. He turns the lever in first gear but before pressing the accelerator turns his head towards the young man who looked at him in amazement. Finally their eyes met with their windows widely open like their hearts. In the middle of the noisy city, in the middle of all the insults and curses, in the noise of the honking horns of the hurried ones, of the mufflers, of the mobile phones, of the mockings of those who are near, he stops from saying his prayer. He stops for telling something to the young man who is next to him, before losing him for ever: “Thank you for being with me even if only at these traffic lights.” He smiled at him as if he embraced him and pressed the accelerator. The street is empty and the taxi has vanished. But the young man remained there.
The traffic light turned to red.
He remained alone again with his window open. Near him another car stopped, where two young girls were listening to some noisy worldly music. He sees them and they see him too but there is no communion. He turns his head forward and closing his eyes says for himself: “What kind of people live here!” People who work for their daily bread and pray like hermits. People from cities who live like hermits. Common people who experience states above the earthly ones, in their taxi, in their shop, at their work, at their home.
The city has already changed its look in his eyes. It is like a saints’ shelter, like a spiritual arena. He is already breathing another kind of air, full of divine oxygen. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, the sinner, he started to utter himself.
And the traffic light turns green…