#communion #easter #good-Friday #sinners
We got up a bit late that Saturday. By the time all three of us met, it was about 11 o’clock. Pete and I were up late the previous night as had become our Friday ritual. We were now in university and loved the perks of social engagement more than the opportunity to broaden our horizons. My cousin Perry was still 16 and was forced by his mother to join us. So there we were; we were going to the big church to receive communion. Pete had even fasted for the Holy Week. But beer didn’t count.
The crowd at the two popular churches had formed a queue all the way to the sidewalk. Pete asked some girls (it was always girls) how long they’d taken to receive communion. They said over an hour and a half. Pete looked at them. “Does it hurt standing and waiting on 3-inch heels?” My cousin couldn’t stop laughing at how good Pete was at starting conversations with the most inane and mundane lines. The girls actually answered that question, Pete got a phone number, and then took a deep breath at the thought of waiting in those long queues.
“Isn’t Agia Sofia open,” I asked.
“We can’t go there. It’s those weird old calendar Greeks. They haven’t progressed, as my mother says, Pete said half-hesitantly.
Perry broke the tie and off we went to the old calendar church. The doors were open. You can hear low voices in the background. “Hello? Anyone here,” Pete said in a slightly pitched voice with his hands around the sides of his mouth.
“Wait in line, please,” the old priest said, “I’ve got one sinner ahead of you.” We wondered if we were sinners. This priest was very old school. I remember my mother paying him $20 to bless our house a few months earlier. He threw holy water on my Ozzy Osbourne poster and said “even a big devil-worshipping sinner like this guy can be redeemed.”
Perry looked serious and prepared to receive communion while Pete and I knew it wouldn’t be that easy. So Perry went first. A 20-second event took about 10 minutes. The old man had told Pete and me to wait for him while he “redeemed” Perry. “What’s this fucking idiot doing to the kid,” Pete said, somewhat concerned while still smiling. We were sitting on individual pews and I didn’t care how long it took. Until Catholic priest stories came to mind. Just as my concern was rising, out came Perry, looking as if he’d read the riot act.
The priest said that the boy had confessed and we needed to confess as well in order for all of us to receive communion. I was next.
“So have you sinned a lot? ”
“Hmmmm….. not that much. What do you mean by sin? ”
“Stolen. Lied. The works. ”
“I guess I lied ”
On and on we went, all of the ten sins. He even asked if I coveted my neighbour’s wife.
“Do you do it? ”
“Do what? ”
“You know. With girls. Or boys. That’s worse. ”
“With girls, ” I said.
“Do you play with it? ”
“With what. ”
“You know. To relieve yourself, ” he said and made the motion with his hand.
“Sometimes. When I don’t fornicate.”
He stopped and leaned forward from his pew across mine and looked me in the eyes and said “you’re a bigger sinner than I thought. ”
I had no time to react as he said “but I’ll give you communion anyway.”
Pete went in. Perry looked sad. We were asked similar questions. Pete came out snickering. “What an idiot. He’s probably a child molester who’s going to sin after we leave. ”
While this true story of a Saturday before Christmas is true, I want to point out that I didn’t think the priest was abusing anyone. He just thought he was doing his job. And I believe that most priests, like most people, are decent human beings. So please don’t judge Good Saturday and the Greek Orthodox church by this anecdotal story. But it has become a mainstay, almost lore.
The moral I guess would be to stop trying to take shortcuts. Either way, I hope everyone has a great Easter.