The person before me rose up from a venerating genuflection and moved on; allowing me to step forward. Unlike he, crutches and two full length leg braces-the remnants of polio, denied me genuflection. Reverence would be offered, by this ten-year old, while standing with head bowed as a substitute for kneeling.
Mrs. Pagona Catsounis was praying before her Icon of the Blessed Mother of Jesus, in her Island Park home on the evening of March 16, 1960. She noticed a tear drop coming from the left eye of the image and rolling down her cheek. On March 18th she called Fr. George Papadeas, the pastor at St. Paul. After seeing the tears himself he called Archbishop Iakovos who arrived at the home on March 21st. By that time a small tear crystallized in the corner of the eye. She was in tears for three days then stopped. A month after, another Icon, owned by Mrs. Antonia Koulis, began to cry.*
To pacify the doubters, reporters and non-believers, the second Icon was removed from its frame to see from where the tears were emanating. There was no source of tears or moisture on the back of the lithograph. A major New York paper asked to have the tears analyzed at a laboratory. The results: “The tears were of an oily nature which could not be classified among the known elements.”*
Permission was granted by the archbishop to allow a showing of one of the Icons, “The Lamenting Panagia,” at the Church of the Archangels in Stamford, Connecticut; Which is why I now stand before it.
The attendants, in seeing my condition, grasped the corners of the pedestal that supported the Icon, and tilted it toward me. As I looked upon it I could see my reflection in the glass cover along side the image of the Blessed Mother. It was as though she and I were encased in the frame together. I venerated the Icon with a kiss, then respectfully lowered my head as replacement for the genuflection that could not be.
As we left the church and were making our way to our cars, I overheard the discussion among my parents, uncles and aunts; who completed our entourage. All said they had not seen any visible tears nor evidence of past stains of wetness. I and my cousins said not a thing. We got into our cars, by the prompting of our parents, thereby curtailing an impromptu game of hide and go seek among the parked cars.
That night as my mom and dad helped me off with my braces and tucked me into bed, I do not remember either of them asking me to describe what I may or may not have seen. I suppose, since I offered nothing, they assumed I witnessed nothing. [And from that day forward, as we resumed our everyday lives, I don’t recall the subject being mentioned.] Although unwilling to admit fatigue, as most kids my age would declare-to extend the joys of the day, drowsiness overtook me. As I lay there awaiting sleep, I relived the most memorable event of my day… I clearly again could see Her beautiful loving face, adorned with glistening red tear drops upon Her cheek.
When a child is told he/she is going to attend a circus, that child expects to see a circus. The child is not yet burdened by the skepticism of adulthood to believe otherwise. So then, why should a child brought to see a picture that is crying, not expect to see it cry?
I have yet to understand, why I witnessed what I have. Those who have had the opportunity to view the Icons, on any occasion, have not reported the same. This was confirmed to me by Fr. Poulos, the then pastor of the Church of The Archangels.
(To follow: Eye Of The Beholder- Pilgrimage)
*Information gathered from St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church, Hempstead, N.Y.