In 2005 , “The Little Red Chair,” an autobiography of my life with Polio, was published. I began work on the book after taking early retirement due to the late effects of Polio, and at the urging of my mother; just prior to her passing in December of 2002. In its writing I found much peace and comfort. Many wonderful memories surfaced, in the process, that I had shared with my family, but especially with her.
One of those memories was the incident described in the previous post; “Eye Of The Beholder-Witness.” Interest was rekindled as I reminisced about the topic. So much so, that I researched the whereabouts of the Icon, with the thought of once again seeing it. The vivid image of what I witnessed as a youth still remained in my memory.
I discovered that two of the three existing Icons were enshrined at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Long Island. I called the Cathedral to make arrangements for the visit. Prior to my visit I found that Fr. Poulos was still the pastor of the “Church Of The Archangels,” in Stamford. I paid him a visit with hopes of getting answers to some questions. Questions I never would have thought of asking when I first saw the image. One of most importance was, which of the two Icons was the one displayed at his church in 1960?
On a crisp fall day in 2005, accompanied by a friend who agreed to assume the driving duties and help me with my wheelchair, I embarked on my pilgrimage. When we arrived at our destination, we found the cathedral to be an aged but beautifully designed building. The interior was Byzantine-like and adorned ornately with statues, stained glass and walls covered with tiled depictions of biblical events.
On pedestals, in the far left corner of the altar area, encased under protective shatter-proof glass, were the Icons. Some forty-five years have passed since my first viewing. Strangely, I was a bit perplexed. However, we have come this far. And to turn back without fulfilling the purpose of the trip was not a real option.
The access to the altar area, where the Icons were on display, was inaccessible to my wheelchair. The gateway was too narrow-reminding me of a bible passage; “How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!” – Matthew 7:14.
Steve, my friend, located someone from maintenance, hoping that there may be another means of access. Sadly, there was none. The maintenance person offered to cast light on the Icon with his flashlight. With it, I recognized the image as that of the lady displayed in Stamford. But, I did not have the best vantage point. Steve inspected the Icon at close range and described what he saw. He was able to verify that their was evidence of past wetness on the image’s cheek. I hesitantly asked about red tear drops. His negative reply, was the answer I, in my heart, had already known.
As we traveled home, Steve expressed his regrets that I could not view the Icon from a close proximity. In all truth, as previously mentioned, I had been torn between making the trip or not. Perhaps it might have been best to leave the image etched in the mind of the child undisturbed.
In the end, the pilgrimage was a revelation. I know now that even if I could have gotten close enough to kiss the Icon, as I did as a child, I would have seen no more than my friend.
For I would have looked upon her face with the aged eyes of one jaded by the realities of life-that encourages doubt; rather than the youthful eyes of innocent faith-filled expectation.
“…blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.” – John 20:29