Sunday mornings have taken on new life since moving to this apartment. I find them slow and easy, with many shops close and traffic a little less chaotic in the surrounding neighborhoods. It seems this respect for Sunday as a day of rest – for some – is unique to Greece and its Mediterranean compatriots, as many of my European, non-Greek friends say the rest of the continent is open for business every day of the week.
Why do I find Sundays slow and easy? For one, church services are inescapable, if you’re willing to let go of your schedule for the morning. If you’ve ever been to an Orthodox service, you know there’s no rushing it, ever, which is in many ways a real world example of the struggle between our human desire for control and the call to relinquish our lives to God (hmmm…). I find so much beauty in this tension.
There is a the very small church on my street. Seating is limited inside the church (η εκκλησια), but for any given service a small overflow crowd gathers outside and actively participates, waiting patiently for the opportunity to go inside and receive communion (and to warm up, if I’m being honest, since winter has brought single digit temperatures to Athens). The liturgy broadcasts to all in hearing distance via a small but mighty PA system – to the cab drivers waiting for hotel guests, for the civil servant sweeping the street, to residents in nearby buildings. I wake to the sound of church bells and chanting on Sunday morning, and the mystic in me can’t help but be drawn to this ancient call.
There are 17 churches – both big and small – within walking distance of where I live. I welcome the opportunity to stop in and light candles whenever I come across a new one. I encourage you to always step inside (if properly dressed with covered shoulders and legs) and identify to whom the church is dedicated. The Mother of God is a popular patron for churches across the world, and you’ll sometimes find miraculous stories of dedication or protection in the humblest of places.
Another characteristic of Sundays that I love? While every day welcomes a trip to the local cafe, Sunday greets the opportunity with effortlessness. Perhaps I don’t feel the stress of making the most of every hour. Since I’ve given my morning over to the length of liturgy, I am less pressed on all sides. To call Sunday a ‘me day’ sounds cliche, so I think of it as a day of expansion. A day to slough off any unnecessary weight I’m carrying from the week and stretch my wings, my mind and my soul. This comes in many forms, but today I sat in the shadow of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation (home to the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece) reading An Apartment in Athens and staving off the cold with a warm cappuccino μέτριο. Simple, peaceful, slow and easy…just like Sunday morning.
I finished the morning with a walk around the Acropolis and a sense of absolute contentment in having come to Greece.
History Note: According to Tradition, Christianity in Greece spread mainly through the Apostle Paul and his followers Luke, Timothy, Titus, Silas and others starting around 49 A.D, and through the Disciple of Christ the First Called Andrew, the Apostle Philip and the Apostle Peter.