Passing through the archaic gateway of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Crete, one is met with profound silence and reverence. An inscription at the entrance inscribed in ancient Greek reads “Let the love of Christ be the light in your life that guides you”
The power to forgive and love despite suffering is the most powerful manifestation of Christ’s commandment “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” which reflects ones love for God. Let me share a beautiful story of personified grace that manifests such words.
The famous German writer Erhart Kästner acknowledged the following:
“In 1952 I visited Athens for the first time after the war. In the German Embassy, when they heard that I intended to go to Crete, they suggested to me that I pretend to be a Swiss, because it had only been a short time since the German Occupation and the wounds were still unhealed. But I knew the Cretans. From the very first moment I said I was a German and not only did I have a good time, but wherever I went, I experienced the legendary Cretan hospitality.
An afternoon, at sunset, I visited the German Cemetery in Maleme. It seemed like it was empty; only the last sun rays fell on it. But I was wrong. There was a living creature there. It was a Cretan woman dressed in black. To my greatest surprise I saw her lighting candles to the graves of the German soldiers, who died during the battle of Crete, and she was going methodically from the one grave to the other. I approached her… and I asked her:
– “Do you come from here?”
– “’Yes…” she replied.
– “And why are you doing this? Those men killed so many Cretans during the war…!”
The woman replied:
– “Son, your accent proves you to be a foreigner, therefore you probably do not know what happened here from 1941 to 1944. My husband was killed in the battle of Crete and I was left alone with my only son. Germans took him as a hostage in 1943 and he died in a concentration camp (KZ) in Sachsenhauzen. I do not know where my son has been buried. But I know that each of these men was son of a mother like me. And I light candles to their memory, because their mothers cannot come down here. I am sure that another mother lights the candle in memory of my son.”
And the German finished surprised: “Only in Greece such an answer could have been given!”
There is a unique allure about the Greek Islands. Uncomplicated, yet full of elegance and sophistication, the inherent natural beauty and rich culture are perfectly complimented by the warmth and hospitality of its people.
Walking along the deserted street, I paused, admiring the mediterranean facades of earthy hues decaying yet defiant in their timeless beauty. Scarlet sandstone walls with elaborate coloured wooden doors contrasted brilliantly against well worn blue cobblestones. In the distance the ringing of Church bells, slowing brought me out of my reverie.
Climbing up a narrow cobblestone street towards the summit, the thought of exploring the unknown treasures of the island stirred my heart with childlike enthusiasm. Walking along, admiring the white washed buildings precariously hugging the cliff face, my attention was caught by a splash of colour. Located on the cliff face overlooking the ocean, almost hidden, was a stone building with its white washed walls and blue staircase. Pausing, I admired the simplistic and elegant beauty of an era that my heart deeply yearned for.
The smell of burning wood permeated the cool winters morning. Walking a few steps, I noticed a staircase. Archaic and worn with the passage of time it was nevertheless beautiful to behold in its antiquity. A flurry of activity suddenly caught my eye or was it merely an inner sense as I caught the momentary glimpse of a monks’ flowing robes. There was a profound stillness and aura of peace pervading the monastery. In deep reverie, the poignancy of the psalmist’s words stirred my soul.
The little winding paved side street wound gently through the quaint picturesque town. I stopped by this gorgeous cafe arrayed in radiant colours with its bright green wooden door. The aroma of traditional Mediterranean food mingled with the melodic relaxing sound of music. Stepping inside, I glanced at the staff, whose genuine warm smiles and open hearts were ready to welcome a stranger with traditional Greek hospitality.
The morning air was fresh as I walked along the street winding its way down to the harbour. The sound of my muffled footsteps disappeared amidst the gentle splashing of distant waves. Suddenly, I stopped by a sand stone wall with a resplendent red door. The passing of centuries which had left their marks of decay, merely enhanced the simplistic, elegant beauty of this colourful facade.
The old town’s cobblestoned paths meandered through whitewashed buildings, ascending towards the cliff. Reaching the summit, I looked out towards the ocean, overwhelmed at how effortlessly the magnificent splendour of creation blended beautifully with the elegant creativity of mankind. A white staircase ascended towards an abandoned windmill, simple yet striking to behold. It was as if time had stopped, reminiscent of a bygone era uncomplicated, yet timeless in beauty.
The distant lapping of the water splashing against the wooden moorings of the archaic Venetian bay, mingled with the sound of seabirds. As I walked along the cobblestones, the sun cast its vibrant rays upon the distant horizon. Pausing, I looked into the distance, yearning to capture the magnificence of this sunrise. Amidst the silence I perceived the beauty of a moment in time, powerfully engraved within the depths of my soul.
Looking up at the archaic wooden door of the monastery, I read with a sense of reverence the ancient Greek and Latin inscriptions chiselled into the archway. An inscription carved in the entranceway in ancient Greek read, “Let the love of Christ be the light of your life that guides you”. I stood in awe and silence. The words resonated within the depths of my soul and my heart stirred with sheer love for whom I loved most, Christ Jesus. Eventually passing through the doorway I felt an immense sense of tranquility, as though I had stepped from modernity into a bygone era devoid of superficial distractions. The monastery emanated serenity and an aura of reverence. Besides the rustling of leaves and the wind dancing amidst the treetops, I was all alone. As the sun hid behind the clouds I gazed upon the facade of the monastery. Forlorn, decaying yet defiant in it’s timeless beauty, it captured my imagination.