This past weekend was full of gloomy, rainy days. Me and three other girls were supposed to go to the Greek island Mykonos, but the Mediterranean decided to have a hurricane and we had to cancel. It was four days straight of rain, I left my apartment once to do a little souvenir shopping with the group. The most interesting part of my week was our class visit to a Greek Orthodox church service on Tuesday 10/2.
Upon entering the Greek Orthodox church, I was stunned right away with the beauty and vibrancy of the building. The beautiful weather combined with being surrounded by so much color made me feel joyful and revived after the dark, gloomy, and cold weekend I spent in Athens. I compared the building to the last church I visited, a Baptist church in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where the building looked more like a school and the altar like it was the front of an assembly room. It was so bright, big and spread out that you did not get the same spiritual feeling that the Greek Orthodox church gives. There were also no painted pictures on the walls, and only a handful of crosses. “How boring” I thought as the Greek Orthodox church sharply contrasted with this description.
The first thing that caught my eye was the icon of a woman holding a child on the left side, this particular one was decorated with real flowers that smelled heavenly. I immediately thought this icon must be special from all of the others, but my professor explained that someone from the congregation must have decorated it and it did not mean anything to the church specifically. I couldn’t help but wonder why someone would put in so much time and effort for this one particular icon, it must have been more important to this individual than others for some reason. This showed the love and dedication that followers of Greek Orthodox have for the icons for their own personal reasons.
The exvotos that were tied to the icons were little pendants of eyes, legs, and entire bodies, we previously learned in class that they were offerings that people gave that represented what was sick and needed healing. I wondered why I didn’t see any hearts. I admire all of the symbolism that is a part of the Greek Orthodox church. In particular, my attention was brought to the alpha and omega letters that were on either side of the altar, and I was intrigued to find out the symbolism behind them is that “God is everything. He is the beginning and the end.” There are so many subtle ways to convey messages like this through symbols in Orthodoxy, this is not something I have found in Catholic and Baptist churches.
This upcoming weekend I will finally be visiting an island, Naxos! Stories and pictures coming soon!