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!”
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.
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 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.
Walking along the main road leading to the harbour, I heard the gentle lapping of the waves against the wharf in the distance. After a brief walk, the main road suddenly opened up into a beautiful Venetian harbour. To my utter wonder, I was greeted by a splendid panorama of buildings arrayed in an myriad of earthy hues. As the first rays of sunset shone forth the splendour of renaissance facades sparkled before me. I paused and looked out in silence; for to truly acknowledge beauty one must be silent. Somewhere in the distance a church bell rang; the sound merely enhanced my reverie.
Walking along the Venetian harbour, I felt at ease. The sun cast its radiant glow over the blue water lapping against the yellow sandstone walls. The picturesque walk was complemented by a lone man selling sea sponges on a boat bobbing gently in the water. From early morning to late afternoon, he would be ply his trade; despite rarely ever selling anything he was blessed with a radiant smile full of joy. I was drawn to this man with whom I struck up a friendship, talking to him every day. Harris as he was known was a sailor, having travelled extensively around the Greek islands, and settled long ago on Crete where he had raised his family. He had seen times of prosperity and more recently adversity. I offered to pay Harris to take me around the Greek islands, knowing that he had difficulty making ends meet, however he answered, “My boat is in disrepair, nevertheless I would take you around for no money whatsoever”. One cold winter day he asked me if I wanted to have a drink of schnapps with him. Out of respect I said yes. I admired the heart of this man, even though schnapps was not to my liking. Harris then proceeded to order a couple of drinks from the restaurant across the street from where his boat was moored alongside the harbour. I was deeply touched yet saddened, as Harris was willing in a moment of sheer hospitality to spend several days wages on a couple of drinks in order to please me. I remonstrated with him not to order any drinks, as I thought that he had the drinks within his boat. He asked “Why not, it’s fine! Are you worried about the money?”, as he noticed the concerned look on my face. After reassuring him that it was okay he finally relented. Suffering had merely tempered his beautiful heart, and in this man I sensed a deep sense of humility and serenity despite providing for his family in difficult times. How could one not love such a man? Never before had I experienced such hospitality amidst adversity. I told Harris “May God bless you, and you forever trust in Him ”. Harris responded with a sad smile of conviction. “And that’s the greatest gift that one can ever wish for in life”
The faint echo of my footsteps disappeared into the profound silence that manifested an aura of sanctity about the monastery. The buildings seemed archaic, yet the passing of centuries had merely enhanced their beauty. Decaying yet dignified, the monastery walls and church were marvellous to look upon in their simplistic beauty. As I stood looking upon an archaic facade, a monk with flowing black robes suddenly came up to me full of joy and smiling. He talked in such a beautiful melody, rich and resonant. I could not help but look upon his face in wonder. The thought crossed my mind “Is he slightly mad?”. After a few moments, looking upon the purity of his disposition, I felt ashamed of my thoughts and merely stood in silence. The monk radiated a childlike innocence and joy, yet his words were filled with wisdom and love as he gave me his blessing and wished me well upon my journey. I stood for a long time in silence, not wanting to leave, sensing that I was in the presence of someone special. It was with a heavy heart that I eventually walked away deep in thought. I often think of this unknown monk. The purity of his warm eyes and loving words have left me a lasting impression. A monk living a simplistic life dedicated to prayer and fasting yet somehow filled with profound peace and joy.
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. 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 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 and defiant in it’s timeless beauty, it captured my imagination. 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.
The Venetian bay was calm, as the sun cast forth its luminous rays upon the quiet town stirring in the early hours of the morning. The beauty of the Renaissance era was manifested splendidly against the calm deep blue of the ocean. I paused in awe and looked out yonder in profound reverie. In a moment of serenity, I pondered at how the creative beauty of mankind blended so perfectly with the majesty of nature