Confession of a Ghost. 38.3.2. Liturgy in Nea Roda

a novel by Alexandra Kryuchkova


*****The LITURGY in NEA RODA*****

Somewhere in the Mist

“What is the meaning of your life?” Andrey asked me in a cafe.

“I write stories and leave my mark on Earth with books.”

“Well, you write, well, others write something, wrote and will write. Could this be the goal of life?”

“Each of us performs various assignments of God, which we are not always aware of. I definitely need time to correct my poems and prose as much as possible. If I leave them uncompleted, I’ll suffer after death, you know?”

“No,” he exhaled. “Firstly, I have never seen a soul separated from a body at the moment of death. Secondly, I personally cut and sew up people on the operating table to save their lives. I have also brought up two sons, kindly left to me by my actress wife who ran away to her lover. And what are books?”

“What did you want from a military surgeon who had spent most of his life in the atheistic Soviet Union?” Ray chuckled.


I was standing at the icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in the fireplace room.

“What are you doing?” Ray asked.

“I’m talking,” I exhaled. “I visited Jerusalem at night, asked for help. I remember, Ray, the icons themselves choose the people they go to serve. So they say on Athos. And the icons carry themselves, they lose weight when moving. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I agree, it’s much easier to negotiate with the Saints than with people on Earth.”

Suddenly, we both froze. The icon of St. Nicholas began to flicker, then it was covered with a misty cloud and … disappeared!

“Ray, have you see that?” I screamed, jumping up and down. “He has found a new home! They hear, they hear me!”

Nea Roda, Athos, Greece

The village of Nea Roda came to life on the feast day of the miraculous icon of Skoupiotissa. A fair was held there, merchants of various things used to come and sell everything at low prices in tents along the seashore. Local residents from all over the peninsula came to the one-day market, combining shopping with a festive liturgy. The church was surrounded by police. On the right at the entrance, there was the icon “Pantanassa”, donated by Socrates. The icon of St. Paisios by Janis’ family was inside on the left. The liturgy had not yet begun, but the queue to the miraculous Skoupiotissa, according to legend written by Luke the Evangelist, already went long outside the church. During and after the liturgy, usually served by the Patriarch of Athos, from 19:00 to 22:30–23:00, including the procession with the icon around the village and the return to the church, people would continue to come up to the icon in an endless steam.

I approached the icon. Alive Being was looking at me out of the silver frame. “Help me, Mom!” as usual, I whispered and returned to the wooden bench, towering above the others, in the last row to the left of the entrance, from where it was better to see the liturgy. The temple was flooded with sunlight, from time to time I photographed what was going on and recorded the deep mountain singing of the Athos monks choir. Finally, the icon was placed onto a portable wooden carriage and taken out of the church, and a giant procession immediately lined up behind it.

Most of the visitors – both Greeks and tourists – were celebrating the holiday not at the liturgy, but in cafes along the sea, watching the procession from the side. The boys walking in front of the icon beat off a frightening drum roll, “The Virgin Mary is coming to see what is happening here, make way!” Firecrackers flew into the sky, a stunning firework in honor of the icon began, and local residents stood on the balconies of two-story houses with lit candles in their hands. The icon was huge and very heavy, carried by six men at once. At the first stop (they used to go around the perimeter of the village, making 4 stops in each corner), while reading the prayer, they would be replaced by the next six, and then the men would change in turn. Only priests and men might walk in front of the icon, while women looked at its second face. The reverse side was almost impossible to restore, but three figures were clearly visible. Janis said, it was either the crucifixion of Christ, or His removal from the Cross. The procession with prayers at the 4 cardinal directions lasted 30–40 minutes. Then the icon was placed directly above the entrance to the church so that everyone, after the prayer of the monks, could crawl under it, bending over. A crowd of people who wanted do that surrounded the church from all sides, everyone was looking forward to their own miracle.

I stood on the lower steps right behind the monks, periodically raising my hand to photograph the icon. Then I crawled under the icon, returned to the church, where at the altar the priest was already giving out prosphora, the bread, as the people of Athos called it. Scrolling through the photo, I found a giant creature in the pictures of Skoupiotissa located above the entrance to the church. It was either the Virgin herself in full growth, or an Angel with a halo, and right in the center there was a pillar of violet Light, going into the Sky. In several pictures, the Light was pouring from the face of the Virgin onto a man in the queue of those wishing to crawl under the icon. At 23:00, Dimitra and her husband took me home by car, because the last bus to Ouranoupoli had passed around 19:45 (there was no exact schedule for intermediate stops), and one couldn’t get home without car or taxi. I showed Dimitra the mysterious footage, but she laughed,

“It’s the light of the lantern! You seem to be a grown-up, and you believe in miracles!”

Tower of Ouranoupoli

“Today you are smiling for the first time here,” Joice greeted me.

“It’s a miracle! Miracle, you know? The icons have heard me and started moving to those who need them here and now! I’m addressing each Saint individually, not all are gone yet. And I have books to deal with. Tomorrow morning I’m going to the Metochion of Vatopedi to talk with a monk and be back to the Full Moon party in Ouranoupoli in the evening. Then I have an exam in the abandoned building. There is a huge labyrinth with lots of doors. Once, at Raisa Akhmetovna’s seminar, we had to find the answer to our question in one of the rooms of the Temple of the Soul, but there might be not enough time to find the right door. What do you think is hiding in that abandoned building?”

“Your memories,” Joice supposed. “You erased the memory, but in reality it’s alive and stored at the bottom of the Well of the Subconscious. People talk about skeletons in wardrobes. I think it’s common for skeletons to come to life on the Full Moon, especially of those who moved to Hell, since the Full Moon is the time for Evil to rampant, Alice.”

“God, I completely forgot about the Hell!”

“And what about the Court? What direction does the Scales point?”

“Yesterday, the left bowl greatly outweighed the right. The last of the accusations is hacking the Matrix. I was wrong, Joice! The Clock is untouchable. Its hands cannot be moved by human hands. I wanted the best, but there are only 2 nights left, and will anyone else come to put in a good word for me? Besides, the balance is not enough, the right bowl should outweigh.”

“Perhaps if you manage to move the icons and books in time…”

“It will count, but how much? The skeletons in the wardrobe can easily bring all my efforts to zero. I’m scared, Joice. And what will happen then? Will Ray take me to Hell with him, or can I stay with you here on Athos? I have nowhere else to go back. My flat will be inhabited by godless people eager to burn my icons in the fireplace.”

“Christ took the repentant thief to His place. You shouldn’t give up hope either.”

Library of the Universe

“Moony, tell me, have you been in wardrobes?” I asked thoughtfully.

“It depends on in which ones,” he answered evasively, curling up into a ball.

“In which skeletons are hiding,” I sighed.

“Skeletons surround us everywhere. They don’t hide themselves from anyone. Many people just don’t notice them.”

“Why don’t they notice?”

“They don’t want to.”

“The snow this year is of that kind… because of the late Easter. People are angry, they demand spring, and I walk under the snow, alive, it’s beautiful, like in a fairy tale. Winter, spring, summer, autumn – Thank God for everything.”

“I went There, through the familiar abyss to my monastery. I approached the monk. He nodded as if he knew why I was there. The ‘Book of Knowledge’ appeared on the table (general, not mine). Its pages were empty. I mentally formulated a question, and it appeared on the page of the book, the letters were written by the power of thought. And instantly I got the answer, but it was not me writing it. I understood that I had to move on. Higher. I got up, thanked the Monk and left through the Heaven of the Fire color. I asked to show me the City in the form of a Cube. I passed through some areas and saw the White City, everything was shining there. The City of the Sun. I understood that was not the right place for me. In the dark blue space, I saw a staircase, the contours of it. I flew up. It was like a portal in that place, a door frame without a door but with two giant guards on both sides. I mentally asked, ‘Open? May I go further?’ They let me in. I got up higher. At some point, I stopped, looked at the screen of the Universe and asked, ‘Where is my mother?’ The words were automatically displayed in beautiful handwriting in golden letters on the screen. I repeated the question twice. No one answered, but from afar something began to approach me, flying up. This was a ball of energy of a dazzling white color, without inclusions. It was glowing all over. One couldn’t touch it, but it was very gentle, kind, affectionate. Photos of my mother appeared and disappeared on the screen of Eternity on the sides of the stairs, but not the ones I got in my album. They showed me a video, some fragments from her life, my mother was saying something on the screen (what she had said at that moment in the Past), but I didn’t hear what exactly. The lump caressed me, my astral body, as if trying to touch my cheeks, stroking me, I felt it as a flow of energy of Love. Suddenly, I discovered that my astral body had disappeared, and I was just the same lump ball. We started dancing – not the right word, but I couldn’t find another. At some point, it was as if we merged and became one for a moment. Then my mother said goodbye and left. I asked them to show me how people come down and go back. I saw a continuous flow of white balls – some were going down to the Earth, others – back. It reminded me of a starfall in both directions. And they show me a concrete example of the soul formation.”

“Little by little, with long breaks, I’m building in my head the 3rd novel about the Other Reality, the most difficult one, like Gemini, forked, within 40 chapters. Pictures from Another World come in addition to what was shown to me a few years ago. But how to describe something that has no form, but it thinks, moves and communicates with its own kind? The action takes place beyond reality, ‘before’ and ‘after’, in parallel. The reason isn’t important. Everyone can have their own. What matters is the conclusion. There are many conclusions. A sad thought came to my mind, which I shared with my son, who will appear in the Court for your sake, and whether there will be something unequivocally interpreted as your good Self-less (!) deed.”

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© 20.11.2023г. Александра Крючкова
Свидетельство о публикации: izba-2023-3667383

Метки: Nobel prize award nominee, Mount Athos, Ouranoupoli, Greece,
Рубрика произведения: Проза -> Художественные переводы