Profound moments take you by surprise and remind you that life's mysteries can appear anytime, even on days that look like shaping up to being very ordinary. Today was one of those. I spent an hour or so in a local cafe writing, as usual, trying to breathe life into a new character. It was pleasurable and absorbing, but I reminded myself that, if this new novel was to have any authenticity, I needed to find out a bit more about the Greek Orthodox tradition. With a church just down the road, I thought I would find out the times for Mass and, one day soon, slip into a back pew. I've always been attracted to the physical attributes of this church. At night, when the candles are lit, the frescoes and gilding are a wonderful sight. So I took advantage of a beautiful day and wandered around. Just one car outside, so I was confident that I could discreetly look through the glass doors and admire. I reeled back when I saw that there was not just a single worshipper who had dropped in for a quick prayer, but rather, a priest in full Orthodox regalia, two women kneeling in front and a couple sitting in the pews. I turned to flee when an elderly woman came out and asked me to come inside. Intrigued and embarrassed I accepted. As I took a seat at the rear, the priest stopped mid-prayer and asked me what I wanted. 'Is it all right if I just pray?' I said. He looked at me for a moment, 'What is your name?'. I told him and he wrote it down. 'Come here,' he beckoned and pointed to the front pews. The young girl who was partly hidden beneath his long stole did not move, nor did her mother kneeling behind her. I took my seat, suddenly stricken with the thought that my mobile phone was on 'loud'. For the next ten minutes I was part of a Greek Orthodox tradition. The priest prayed over the girl and her mother and every now and then read out my anglo-name, along with names of the others present. Holy Water was squirted over me from a plastic spray bottle. When it was over, and the girl emerged from beneath the stole, the priest asked me if I felt anything. 'Oh yes, I do,' I said, not sure what to say. 'Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of this.' I sat a bit longer. The girl and her mother stayed at his feet, but relaxed into easy Greek conversation and I was struck by the contrast between the very formal proceedings and the familiar manner in which they all spoke at the end of it. The priest, I realised, was an integral part of this community. Sadly, I couldn't understand what they were saying and began to feel a bit awkward. I stood and thanked the priest once again and made my way out. In the street I paused. I felt as though I had been transported to Greece and that I was indeed one of the characters in my novel. I marvelled too that on this ordinary day, I had received such an unexpected blessing. 

AuthorAmanda Apthorpe