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OUT&ABOUT: The beauty of Greek churches

Tuesday August 22 2017

A church in Crete near Knossos. PHOTO| ABIGAIL

A church in Crete near Knossos. PHOTO| ABIGAIL ARUNGA  

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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August 15 was a celebration in Greece for the commemoration of the death of Jesus' mother, a holiday called Tis Panagias. It means Saints of All Saints. The religion I grew up in barely acknowledges her role past his birth but in Greece, which is largely Orthodox, there are not one, but two, major holidays, in her name - this past one, almost dedicated to her life post Jesus, meaning married women are supposed to celebrate it, and the one in November, her birth, for the virginal. Ok, unmarried, at least.

There's a church every 200 metres in Greece, and they're all pretty much gorgeous. I love Greek architecture but their churches, often coupled with little white graveyards, are morbidly and mournfully picturesque against a backdrop of country living.

A church in Crete near Knossos. PHOTO| ABIGAIL

A church in Crete near Knossos. PHOTO| ABIGAIL ARUNGA

I can almost see the whole town making pilgrimages and penance all year long, to this that binds them together.

Our amazing Airbnb host, while bringing us back from the rocky beaches of Tsoutsouros, deviated to take us to the churches in the village she grew up. We passed by the one belonging to the Orthodox Santa Claus, Agios (Saint) Vasileos, and the one for Mary, Panagia, where a line of people fed into an craggy outcropping to worship outside a church that was once a cave. 

Agios Sophia church. PHOTO| ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Agios Sophia church. PHOTO| ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Its dimly lit inner sanctum felt hollowed out - hallowed, actually, with simple pictures on its natural walls of saints and flowers of offerings left before them.

There's something integrally moving to me about the reverence of ritual, the repetition of symbolisms that reassure the soul and speak to the hope of a future. You could say I have an inborn veneration gene for the sacred.

I wanted to take part, to kiss the portraits and make the sign of the cross, and to reflect on whatever it is that has gotten me this far.



Agios Vasileos church. PHOTO| ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

Agios Vasileos church. PHOTO| ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

How can you not want to submerge yourself in something so ancient and so potent?

And how can you not, for a brief, blinding second, lose yourself, willingly, in it?