As my family and I stepped inside the Church of St. Andrew in the town of Patras, Greece, we immediately observed its huge interior with frescos and mosaics in brilliant colors encompassing the walls and ceiling. The large space was cool, and our feet shuffling on the marble floors echoed through it. Straight ahead was the narthex, or foyer of the church, and further in, the nave. There were chairs on either side of the aisle leading up to where the marble-laden icon screen stood, beautifully ornamented with the altar in the center. Large crystal chandeliers hung down from the lofty ceiling, where in the center, the Pantocrator (Christ – ruler of all), painted in the dome, gazed down and blessed us.
Eventually, my sons and I, along with my mother, came to the white tomb where St. Andrew’s head lay under a silver and glass enclosure. Vases with beautiful flowers were on either side of it. I kneeled on the step before the tomb and bent my head, saying nothing at first. A glorious, mystical fragrance permeated the air around me. At first, I thought it was the flowers next to me on my left and right, but I leaned over and inhaled their scent, and none of them had this wondrous aroma. The smell closely resembled flowers. Gardenias, perhaps, but it wasn’t. It was emanating from the relic below the silver and glass box covering it. Moved to tears, I struggled to swallow the lump that had formed in my throat. Just then, St. Andrew’s life and ministry flashed through my mind like a motion picture. His pain at his crucifixion swept through me, and I caught my breath. I asked St. Andrew to pray for us , kissed the glass dome, and crossed myself.
Housed in wood and glass next to the marble sarcophagus were the original pieces of the cross on which St. Andrew was martyred. As I had done a moment ago at St. Andrew’s tomb where his head lay, I kissed the glass encasing the remnants of the wooden cross. My faith was affirmed and strengthened that day.
This is a piece written for my Introduction to Creative Writing Class back in early 2015. This is a true encounter I had with St. Andrew at the Cathedral named after him in Patras, Greece. Below is a picture of my husband, sons, and I in 2010 standing in front of St. Andrew’s Cathedral on our trip to Greece in May 2010.
(Inside the nave of St. Andrew’s Cathedral)
Have you ever had encounters with Saints or the heavenly hosts?