Holidays, national and religious, such as that of the Virgin Mary, the Panagia on August 15, are rooted in deep wisdom. Human life would be difficult without them.
Toward the end of summer, with the sun still burning and the song of the cicadas stirring, with the fruits musky and juicy, with the meltemi whistling and raising visible waves in the Aegean – but also with an eye towards the return to everyday life in September, this holiday offers a great – last – opportunity this year for physical and mental rest.
And the combination of these two is liberating.
It is the last chance for family excursions and carefree moments. For enjoyment.
Last year I had the great fortune to be in Chania on such days. This beautiful city on Crete, certainly one of the most beautiful in Greece, while enduring partial restrictions due to the coronavirus, was full of people. From all over the Planet – not just all the Chaniotes who live in other places – as well as from other regions of Greece. After all, Cretan hospitality is world famous.
As the Panagia feast approached, life took on a calm, slow pace. The mind relaxed. The tsikoudia liqueur healed the body and soul and loosened the tongue. The plans for where everyone would spend those days were complete.
Some would spend at home with family and friends and others in the villages and beaches of Crete – truly a blessed place.
The fifteenth of August is the feast of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ, the patroness of Mount Athos, the Theotokos to whom we turn and beg for protection, for help, for support, who doubly heals our souls.
Perhaps, with her ‘mother’ image, we feel her to be more accessible than Jesus. That makes it easier for us to ‘talk’ to her. She dwells in our imagination and we constantly see her in icons, tenderly holding her son and our Savior, Christ, and we feel that she sees us too. And that she understands us. And that makes us feel good. We do feel better when we pray to her. And we gain faith and courage to continue fighting the fight of life.
She is our Panagia. Her grace is great.