Walking along the cliff edge overlooking the caldera, my heart was full of joy as the sun’s rays peeped over the horizon, illuminating the earthy colour of the stone houses perched along the cliff face overlooking the ocean. The sweet smell of baked bread permeated the morning air. A few more steps and I entered a bakery barely visible, a hidden gem amidst a sea of white washed buildings. An elderly lady looked at me with big beautiful eyes, warm and pure with a childlike innocence yet sad with wisdom born of pain and suffering of years gone bye. She fixed her eyes on me, and for a few seconds all I could do was look with reverence at her face. Eventually I spoke in basic Greek, “Good morning aunty”, a term of respect and reverence for elderly women, reserved even for strangers. “Good morning and how may I be of service to you” she replied with a warm intonation looking into my eyes while smiling. We spoke at length exchanging pleasantries before I politely asked for some bread. After paying, I noticed some sweets and looked at the change in my hands. “Aunty how much are the croissants?” She looked at me with compassion “Please take one my behalf”. I was deeply touched and responded “Aunty I have money to spend please, I would also like one for my wife. She responded without hesitation “Then take one more for your wife and don’t worry about money” I was deeply touched in my heart, and I walked up to her pleading “Please aunty I would prefer to pay”. She looked at me with those warm beautiful eyes “You have a good heart that much I can see; please take what I offer with all my heartfelt pleasure. I responded “No aunty it is you that has a beautiful heart and not myself; I pray that God blesses you in every way”. Slowly, she came out from behind the counter and reverently pulled out a bible and said with her warm voice, “This is what I read in my spare time; the grace of God is what grants me hope and strength to continue in life”. My soul stirred and my heart rejoiced with sheer joy. Holding this beautiful person at arms length I embraced her and kissed her cheeks. This elderly lady whose face manifested hardship and suffering had the capacity to love a perfect stranger. “God bless you aunty, and may the love of Christ sustain us in all things” I uttered while holding her within my arms and resting my head against her beautiful face. Her arms clasped me lovingly as if I were her own son.
The soft sound of my muffled footsteps upon the stone courtyard, punctuated the stillness of the air. The monastery was silent, yet there was a profound beauty in such silence. I stood in awe surrounded by sweet solitude and serenity. Before me beautiful archaic facades of paved courtyards and roman arches, met my childlike gaze. Although well worn, their vibrant earthy colours filled me with wonder. I paused by a wooden door on the side of the monastery wall beneath a stairwell. A bell hung nearby, rung to call the monks to prayer and celebration of the divine liturgy. After long moments I pondered in awe recalling the psalmists words “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
Looking up at the archaic wooden door of the monastery, I read with a sense of awe the ancient Greek and Latin inscriptions chiselled into the archway. 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 constant and superficial distractions. The monastery emanated serenity and an aura of reverence. Besides the rustling of leaves as the wind danced amidst the treetops, I was all alone. As the sun hid behind the clouds I gazed upon the facade of the church wall. Forlorn, decaying yet defiant in it’s timeless beauty it captured my imagination. An inscription carved in the entranceway of the monastery in ancient Greek read, “Let the love of Christ be the light of your life that guides you” seemed to have presented a mirror mirror before me.The words “What is the meaning of life and what is my purpose”? seemed to echo within the depths of my soul.
Solemnly approaching the cliff edge, I was acutely aware of my insignificance, a lone figure surrounded by the vast expanse of Heaven. The silence had a depth that merely enhanced the tapestry of profound beauty that lay before me. Wisps of wind gently caressed my face as I gazed yonder awestruck. There are times when mere words are unable to reflect reality. Somehow Dostoyevsky’s words “Beauty will save the World”, reflecting a loving God as manifested in the majestic beauty and gift of Creation resonated with vivid clarity. All that is required is purity of heart, born of humility and love for such words to penetrate the depths of ones heart and soul
Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. (John 8:12)
There are brief but cherished moments in ones life whereby one rejoices in the sheer beauty of Creation. Precious moments, pure in essence, filled with awesome power, that manifest a loving God, allowing the psalmist’s words to penetrate the depths of ones soul.
The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
Crossing the busy road, I walked briefly up a narrow path before suddenly turning right. The transition was amazing to behold. An archaic cobblestone street opened up into a beautiful square. Ornate buildings from the Renaissance period, complete with antiquated wooden iron gilded doors plunged me into a bygone era centuries ago, that I deeply yearned for. A beautiful fountain caught my attention. Moving slowly towards it, oblivious to the sounds around me I gazed at the depiction of “The Baptism of Christ by St. John the Baptist”. The solemnity and reverence in the statues’ expressions struck a chord in my heart. For long moments I gazed upon the figure of Christ, He whom I loved most and reflected on the most beautiful manifestation of sacrifice and pure love. Eventually I turned away and was greeted by a most beautiful facade. The cobblestone street gave way paying homage to a large archaic wooden door magnificently framed by multiple roman arches. The facade stretched superbly heavenwards, simplistically but elegantly ordained.
The veil of darkness that clung on desperately prior to sunrise was broken by the soft moonlight that managed to filter through the treetops illuminating the earth beneath my feet as I slowly made my way up towards the mountain summit, weaving my way between an almost invisible mosaic of rocks, stones, tree roots and bushes. The cold winter wind was surprisingly gentle that night, and as I gazed up towards Heaven itself, bright stars and a full moon cast their beautiful glow. I momentarily paused to appreciate their beautiful radiance. They seemed as precious jewels strewn across the galaxy; a divine tapestry of celestial beauty. With difficulty I withdrew my gaze and resumed my trek up the steep incline with renewed vigour, anticipating the splendour of sunrise. As I neared a cluster of huge boulders I climbed the imposing rock edifice steadily; suddenly I reached the mountain summit. Standing in reverent awe, I looked out eastwards towards the horizon, stretching out my hands in praise. My heart stirred, full of joy; a silent prayer resonated deep within my soul, rejoicing at the beauty of God’s creation, as the first rays of sunrise cast forth their divine beauty across the face of the Earth.