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Παρασκευή, 15 Απριλίου 2011

Anecdote: The Great Lent in Saint Karitsa

In the very early years when Karitsa was taking shape as a village in the slopes of Southern Parnon, the first Karitsiotes built a few stone-made, slate-roofed hovels around the main spring, and a bit further up close to a lookout dominated by a big cedar tree they built stonewalls to enclose the cemetery and nearby, next to a patch of scrubland, they built their main church Agia Paraskevi.
Something, of course, they they could not possibly imagine even in their wildest dreams, was a school. So all villagers, even the priest, were illiterate.  The priest, they would say, left his shepherd’s crook along with his sheep and goats in Tsouka to take up the priestly stole and look after the flock at Agia Paraskevi.  The blessed man, however, did not know how to read, nor write or even count.  That is why he chanted whatever liturgies he knew by heart or even jumbled up.  As for the Gospel, he preached whatever he recalled from his childhood days.  But, what mattered most was that in one way or another he somehow managed, though the dates of significant religious feasts were always a headache.  He just could not work out the dates for Agianniou, for Christmas or even for Easter. 

The biggest headache of all, needless to say, was the Great Lent, the forty-eight days and nights before Easter, from Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday) to Easter Saturday which passed ever so slowly because the whole village was fasting.  So to count down the passage of the season of lent, on Kathara Deftera the priest used to put forty-eight beans in a pocket of his clericals and eat one every morning.  He figured that when he was down to his last bean Easter Saturday would dawn; at midnight he would announce Christos Anesti (Christ is risen); and, the following day they would be celebrating Easter.
One day, however, as his wife was patching his clericals she noticed the beans in a pocket and thought to herself that since he liked them so much she would add another handful, just to please him. 

Hence, whilst the priest would eat a bean every day to keep track of the countdown to Easter, the poor Karitsiotes endured the hunger pangs of never-ending fasting, forty-eight and some more, no-one knows how many, whole days and nights, of the extended Great Lent. 

And so, one morning, before the crack of dawn, the priest got out of bed, had his daily bean, mounted his donkey and headed for the neighbouring town, Geraki, to attend to some matters.  He moved down through Trokles, a very rocky track, stopped at Agios Nikolas to light a candle, followed the mule track heading for Geraki, passed by Agios Giannis at Variko where he made the sign of the cross and a little while later, as he was coming into Geraki, again crossed himself at Agios Thanasis.  There close by, on the ground, he saw what looked like scattered old red egg shells, a little further on some more, once again red; while further still the red egg shells strewn all over the place made him realise that he had to return to Karitsa with all haste before he was noticed. 

It was almost midday by the time he returned to the village where the locals, despite the hunger pangs of the never-ending fast, were enjoying the wonderful spring sun that Karitsa is blessed with at this time of the year. To call the villagers to Agia Paraskevi the embarrassed priest rang the bell hanging from the big cedar tree.  When the locals came rushing into church, they were agog with curiosity.  Facing them, in front of the alter, dressed in festive liturgical vestments, stood the stunned priest holding a large lit candle, at which point the bewildered parishioners asked, “What’s happening Father?” 

“What could be happening,” he replied and at the stroke of midday began to share the Holy Light to all parishioners one by one whilst chanting:  

(Translated only for meaning)
“Better late than never,
Come receive the Light,
Easter’s here, Easter’s there
Easter’s also in Saint Karitsa!”

Anecdote as related by Vangelis Ioan. Katsampis to his son Giannis
From the collection:

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