Greek-American Stories: A Religious Experience

March 2, 2017

By Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

John, Dimos, and Kipreos had arrived early at Dixon’s that Sunday afternoon. John, anxious to report on what he’d seen in church this morning, set down his hot cup of coffee, and began. “You won’t believe it – you’ll say it was, probably, a lookalike – but, it was him, alright. George was in church this morning. He was with his wife. I had to look twice but there he was. I made my cross.”

Dimos, equally surprised, asked, “What brought him there, I wonder? He’s not religious. Was there a memorial service?” John shrugged. “No, there wasn’t. I thought, maybe his wife made some kind of threat – making him go. So, I am guessing she dragged him there. She performed a miracle, I’d say.” Their conversation was cut short when George, coffee in hand, was seen approaching their table. Elation brightening his face, he sat down.

After the usual greetings, Dimos asked, “You look particularly euphoric this afternoon, George. Any reason for it?” Assuming his experience of having attended church and found it very fulfilling was the reason for his happy expression, John asked, “My wife and I happen to see you in church. Does it happen to have anything with having attended church this morning, George?” Nodding, George told him, “Yes, it has. A very satisfying experience, I have to admit. In fact, I’m beginning to believe in small miracles.”

Surprised at this response, all three gazed at him with astonishment. John said, “I’m glad to hear it, George. Was it something in Father Athanasios’ sermon that impressed you?” “No! It was something else.” Kipreos said, “I know! Just being where you experienced an ethereal feeling – you felt that, in this world of trouble, we can believe in hope for the hopeless. Isn’t that right?” Smiling, George admitted, “Well, Hope for the hopeless? Not in this case. Some things remain hopeless, I think.”

Dimos, curious, asked, “was it something you never expected to find in church?” “Yeah, I have to admit I witnessed something that was gratifying.” George said. Then he confessed, “In fact, I’m beginning to believe in divine retribution.” After observing the entrance, for signs of Yiannis and not seeing him, George decided to tell them about his most delightful experience in having attended church that particular day. “I happen to be sitting with my wife, Helen, a row behind and more to the right where I had a good view of Yiannis who was sitting next to Areti.”

John interrupted. “That’s right! I saw them there, too. But, they’re usually in church on Sunday.” George went on. “Then, the collection plate began to be passed around. I watched as Yiannis fumbled with his wallet, looking nervous.” John nodded. “I bet you thought he’d go to the men’s room at that moment. Or, decide to light another candle outside until the plate had passed his row.” Humor dimmed, Dimos asked, “Don’t tell me he did any of those things, George!” “No, I watched as he shuffled through his pockets as Father Athanasios said to the parishioners that charity and giving is a most rewarding feeling. He said, ‘give, give, give. It’ll make your heart glad. The giver receives more satisfaction and reward in the act of giving than the one who receives.’ That’s when I watched a man behind Yiannis hand him a twenty dollar bill. Surprised and delighted, Yiannis took the money and thanked the man” Dimos asked, curiously, “That must have made Yiannis extremely happy.” Then, looking doubtful, said, “I hope you’re not going to tell us that Yiannis didn’t place that twenty in the plate.” “Oh, he did!” responded George.

John, astonished, asked, “Yiannis – our Yiannis placed twenty dollars into the collection plate?” Leaning back, George explained, “It gets better. I watched as the fellow behind him explain that that twenty dollar bill was his own money. He told Yiannis, ‘I saw it fall out of your wallet.’ Yiannis checked his wallet and looked about to cry. He got up, looked around to see where the collection plate had gone. About to get up Areti grabbed his sleeve and pulled him back down.” Taking in a deep breath George said, “a very satisfying experience.”


VENICE – The Greek Orthodox Community of Venice, the Hellenic Institute of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Studies, and the Metropolis of Italy, in collaboration and with the help of the Embassy of Greece in Rome, are organizing a concert with the performer Kleoniki Demiri on Sunday, June 16, 8 PM.

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