Megali Tetarti or Good Wednesday is also a very important day in the Greek Orthodox religion, as it is then that the priests during the evening service bless the oil. Oil that is used to bless people and protect them against sickness of body and mind. To bless the oil the priest will read 7 gospels and announce 7 wishes. After he blessed the oil he will put with the oil a cross on the believers forehead, cheek and hands.
In several places in Greece also eggs, flower and salt is taken, covered in a basket, to church where it will be blessed by the priest by crossing it with the wooden holy Cross. The eggs will then be colored on Good Thursday and the flower and salt will be used to make the dough for the ‘prozimi’ or yeast that will be used to make the Easter bread, as also in the bread that will be made in the following year.
It’s Catholic Easter today and Palm Sunday for the Orthodox church. It’s cold in Crete (14° C) for the time of the year, but I decide anyhow to go for a walk to the monastery of Agios Panteleimonas, a distance of a bit more than 3km from where I live in Fodele. The path goes up and after a while I start having stunning views, over the village, the orange groves, the mountains, the olive trees, I see the flowers of the Cistrus Creticus everywhere, so I really enjoy my walk up.
After half an hour I reach the Monastery and my good mood is swept away when I see this
There is an entrance fee to pay! I am so disapointed….., I don’t understand, this is a small monastery, with a great history , yes, that you can read inside, but there is no museum or anything else that you should pay for. This is a religieus place, a place for prayer. I visited the Notre Dame in Paris last winter and there was no entrance fee to pay.
I went inside, sat down for a while to listen to the psalms, I took some crosses specially made for Palm Sunday and I left.
Today 30 January 2019 we celebrate and honor in the Greek Orthodox Church the Three Hierarchs.
The celebration of the Three Hierarchs started in the 11th century when Constantine III Monomachus reorganized the Law School of Constantinople. At that time there were three Saints who were seen as the Saints of education namely Gregoreios the Theologian, Ioanis Chrysostom and Vasileios the Great. During the reorganization the reorganizers could not decide which one of the Saints to place on top and this resulted in a division of the Christians so the ones were called the Gregorites, the others the Ionanites and others the Vasilites.
Until John Mavropos, who was then the Metropolitan of Euchaite, had a vision in which he saw the three Saints. They told him that they are equal to eachother and that they can’t be seperated, that between them there is neither the first nor the second, but if you see one, the two others are next to him. So John Mavropos gave orders to stop the quarrels and stop dividing them for they cannot be seperated and so these three Saints became the Three Hierarchs, the three Saints of education and on the day of their celebration all schools are closed.
From the 11th century on you can also see them together on icons and they are honored every year on the 30th of January.
I have published earlier the story of the lepers on the island of Spinalonga, but what exactly is leprosy?
Well, it is a disease that exists already for over 2000 years and its name is as a matter of fact greek, it comes from an ancient greek word that means ‘peeling of’ or ‘peel’. The bad guy here is a bactery called Mycobacterium Leprea. This guy can live in the air for a few moments when he is breath out by someone, during sneezing, coughing, speaking or via nasal droplets. When he lands on your skin and you are not imune for him (95% of the people ARE imune) then he will settle on your skin and after a few months or even years (up to 20 years) the disease will start bothering you. Another way of getting the disease is by birth when it is given to you through your mothers placenta (that is why some of the children born on Spinalonga had the disease by birth.)
What happens when the disease comes out? Small stains appear on the skin and the bacterium destroys the nerves in the skin at these places ; your earlobes become thicker and you feel numb in your hands and feet. If the disease is found and treated early, then there will be no permanent lesions. If not, there will be paralysis and possibly also blindness.
Because the lepers had no feeling in certain parts of their body, they could not feel it if they had hurt themselves there in such a way that larger injuries were caused by infections, that were not felt and therefore not treated. As a result, it was sometimes necessary to amputate these parts of the body.
The Irish scientis Vincent Barry from Cork, played a very important role in the battle against this diseas, it was him who synthisesed a compound called Clofazimine that we find in the combination of drug treatment against Leprosy. He was leading at that time ( the 1870’s) a team of 9 scientists who were searching for a treatment for Leprosy.
According to infromation that was given to me by an official greek guide, there should exist mutated genes in the human body that adopt this bacterium, so only the people who have 1 or more of these mutated genes can have the disease. (and these would be the other 5%) This should be a theory that was given by experts in 2012. I have not been able to confirm this theory on the internet or anywhere else so I do not know if this is realy so, but as soon as I find a confirmation of it I will let you know.
2018 is gone and we are the start of 2019. A lot of Cretans have celebrated the change of the year with a game of poker or with playing the dies, for money so that they will have a wealthy start of the New Year! (not for the loosers of course but who knows who is going to lose or win at the beginning of the game…)
Before they start playing the family gathers together around the table for a dinner of greek specialities and of course also the melomakarona and the kourabiedes, these two “cookies” are made especialy for these days and everybody loves them, in nearly every houses these cookies are baked and they give the house that special Christmas and end of the year smell, as all Cretans say, you can’t celebrate the end of the year without this smell.
After dinner Agios Vasilis or Santa Claus comes around with gifts for the children, as the first of the year is the name day of Agios Vasileos the great or Saint Vasilis (Basil)
You see that a lot goes on on New Years eve in Crete, it is a party in which the whole family participates, young and old!
Yesterday in the early evening I was talking over the phone to a friend of mine when the church bells started sounding, wondering why, he told me that on the 3 of November Saint George methystis is celebrated. A bit a strange name for a saint as ‘o methystis means’ the drunk one.
I know, the Greeks have a lot of saints, they have more than one saint Georges and even more virgin Maries etc… The story of this Saint George is quit simple, the 3th of November is the day that the wine barrels are opened as the wine is ready to be consumed and has to be tasted. The 3th of November is also the celebration day of Saint George and as the Greeks celebrate this day with tasting wine this particular Saint George is called now Saint George the Methystis as a lot of people get drunk on that day So Yamas!
I’m sooooooo exited today, I went for a short trip to the Melidoni cave and village with a friend of mine, we were only away for 3 hours but we saw so many beautiful and unexpected things, that I’m thinking about making this trip one of the short (up to 6 hours) excursions I’m preparing for next year!