Xanthoulla’s Secret

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When we overlook what love appears like, or perhaps we by no means knew, then we forget about what it’s miles to be human. When we are saying to our cherished ones, "You supply my life which means", what we’re really saying is Love offers our lifestyles that means. Yet pushed on the matter, we find it very difficult to explain what love is. It is at the identical time one million various things and one easy issue, the most impossible to describe but the easiest to fall into. I take into account a story of a woman who lived in Thavma, the little Cypriot village which within the antique days was full of clever and appropriate people. They used to say of Xanthoulla, "She has by no means recognised love." When I first heard this it made me very sad, to assume that any single individual might be so described, as in no way having known love. To my thoughts, it is step one closer to insanity.

Her name changed into Xanthoulla, the old hag who discovered Artemis Papayiannis, when he was only a lad, in her barn in a compromised nation with Eftimia, who changed into the beautiful adopted daughter of the local priest. Xanthoulla became certainly old through this factor, old and ugly, and now not handiest did anyone say about her that she had never acknowledged love, however that she had never been stunning. In truth some even doubted she had ever been young. Nobody recalled ever knowing a young, fresh-faced, brilliant-eyed Xanthoulla, best the miserable, vintage, ugly cockroach who tootled across the village poking her nose into every person’s commercial enterprise.

The incident regarding Artemis changed into handiest one in every of many. At the time the village supported Xanthoulla’s outrage and grew to become on the young lad. When they heard the vintage crow’s panic-afflicted screams their superstitious fears had been roused and they demanded the boy’s expulsion, but in later years they might look returned and say Xanthoulla over-reacted, that her hysterical and damning reaction to finding the younger couple in her barn approximately to kiss was because of jealousy. She changed into jealous due to the fact she had never regarded love, so she invoked all of the curses of her black and demonic spirit on the pair who thereafter had little hazard of ever locating lasting happiness.

Long earlier than the cataclysmic occasion inside the barn, Xanthoulla have been acknowledged for her sullen and doom-encumbered nature. Any susceptible man or woman who changed into unfortunate sufficient to move her course on that or any other day changed into an acceptable target for her dire prognostications. If it as a younger pregnant bride, Xanthoulla might be there to problem severe warnings over her; if a person had started some thing new, Xanthoulla could make certain to bring the devil into it and curse the mission; she would bitter any glad event with her every day visions of disorder and death. People might lose sleep over something Xanthoulla stated to them. The antique crow dished out sleepless nights like awful medication. She could shriek such horrors that any who heard them, whether in the middle of the day or the lifeless of night time, could right away move themselves and begin a sequence of counteractive measures, which includes flinging salt over their shoulder or making sure their kids had on their shielding bracelets.

Needless to say, the village feared Xanthoulla. Just passing her in the street turned into sufficient to present them chills. People had lengthy ago given up any hope of converting her for no person had the courage to confront her. Even the bull-like Alexi Antoniou, who feared no guy, might not pass her direction without nodding his head humbly and bidding her a fond yiasas. What made her all of the extra formidable changed into her dismal get dressed code. She wore no different colour than black, like the vintage widows inside the village, yet she had by no means been married. She wore the identical dress for days on stop, till it become included in dust and dirt and the hem turned into ripped from countless treks through her fields, and smelt horribly. She hardly ever washed.

Yet, in spite of these items, Xanthoulla become by no means made to feel unwelcome. Quite the opposite. The population of Thavma in those days were now not best clever and God-fearing, however additionally, like maximum Greeks, extraordinarily hospitable. They believed that everyone, irrespective of what their failings, deserved to be handled well and supplied a place by means of their hearth. So it was that Xanthoulla, in spite of her fearsome popularity for causing mayhem, become never overlooked of pranyeparations for a marriage, or a christening or a birthday. She would be ordinary into the agency the manner the everlasting presence of the satan became commonplace, with resigned wariness. At such dos she would take a seat herself next to the priest, the simplest person on the birthday celebration who become secure from her witchery, and assert herself just like the honoured visitor. She in no way confirmed any sensitivity concerning the matters people stated approximately her however stored her head excessive and her eyes extensive open, because she changed into sturdy in her religion. Xanthoulla would say handiest high-quality matters to the priest, for her passionate religiosity persuaded her that the priest had been anointed by means of God. Though she become tough on her fellow humans, she became an angel within the presence of the Lord. Some referred to as her a hypocrite as she scuttled to church each Sunday, or whispered humble imprecations before the icon of the panayia. She turned into the primary to reach in church so she should arrange the seating and the candles, and the last to depart, short and beaver-like approximately the clearing up. In the presence of the local priest, Pater Theodosi Charalambides, she was like a playful kitten, fortuitously searching up at him with doleful eyes and attending to his each whim with sharp, efficient movements. If his sleeve or stole wanted adjusting, she could do it, or if he wanted a glass of water, she will be the first to fetch it. More than as soon as she became seen on her knees in the front of him, no longer begging, however cleaning his shoes with her very own spit.

After church she could accept any invitations for lunch that were presented, and he or she acquired some because the villagers considered it as a sort of penance in the eyes of God to place up with Xanthoulla. Later she could retire to her little cottage feeling mightily pleased with herself, happy that her responsible popularity inside the village changed into secure and pleased with the robust footing on which her everlasting soul rested.

Having Xanthoulla to lunch become a blended blessing. On the one hand you needed to put up with her sharp tongue which issued words like barbed arrows coming directly from Satan’s bow, and on the other you’ll be humbled by her pious sentiments, which have been commonly verses from the Bible. She regarded to have a knack for both, at the identical time keeping you for your region in the dust and elevating you to a top of heavenly blessedness. "Didn’t Christ do the identical component?" Petro the shoemaker asked as soon as on the hilltop kafeneion, and become greeted through a circle of quizzical stares.

So while, inside the wake of the scandal regarding Artemis and Eftimia, the various villagers regretted the outcome which separated the younger fanatics and kept them aside for decades, they blamed Xanthoulla and demanded a petition be signed forcing her also to leave the village. But due to her non secular standing she had many supporters who believed it’d be an affront to God to deport one of His staunchest allies. Overnight, the village have become divided, the ones on the one hand who have been bored with being cursed by using the old crone and made to feel guilty for dwelling their lives like normal humans, and others who feared some kind of retribution if they became in opposition to her. For months only one element turned into the subject of dialogue within the houses and the coffee-shop, what to do with Xanthoulla?

Whatever Xanthoulla changed into, she was no longer stupid. She could have been vintage and ugly and a bit bit smelly, however she knew precisely what went on in every nook of the village. So when the concern of her fate turned into being mentioned, she became no longer oblivious to it. Of course, she never took element in any of the discussions. Whenever she entered the room communication suddenly ceased, however she become astute sufficient to recognise what the challenge of the communication have been. It did now not harm her emotions, for her emotions were frozen via piety; rather it made her sense even more crucial, as although her destiny turned into connected with outstanding issues of destiny. For it turned into no longer just a query of getting rid of an antique lady or letting her stay. Far extra severe issues impinged on these secret discussions, subjects which had to do with the maximum essential mind ladies and men had ever had because the beginning of time, philosophical and non secular. Whether you believed Xanthoulla became a saint or a demon, whether you believed she should be sent away or kept at home, and there had been enough adherents to both aspects to maintain the problem in a excellent balance, reflected to your ethical view of the world, and that in turn shone a light at the recognition of the village of Thavma itself which had constantly been 2nd to none.

How did Xanthoulla reply? She might have been expected to retire to her little cottage and hold her peace. She might have gone out into the streets and tried to win over allies to her facet of the argument. But she did neither. She did the handiest thing Xanthoulla knew a way to do, which become to hold on being Xanthoulla. She have become even more vocal in her abuse of backsliders, and even extra stolid in her spiritual devotions, as a consequence enflaming both aspects of the argument.

In the cease divisions had been so entrenched that half the village stopped speakme to the alternative 1/2. Arguments broke out at all times of night or day among friends and own family. There had been talks of a wall being built down the center of the rectangular to hold Xanthoulla’s allies on one side and her enemies on the opposite. The scenario quickly grew out of all percentage and everyone, not least of all Pater Theodosi himself, have become thoroughly depressed. What had simplest lately been a satisfied and blessed vicinity to live had become a smoking cauldron of slighted sensibilities. Mothers were not speaking to sons, brothers often drifted into fights with sisters, neighbours raged at every other proper via the night time! They have been not arguing approximately Xanthoulla anymore, nor even the popularity of the village, however the very salvation in their souls.

Since it have been his selection in the first place to deport Artemis, Pater Theodosi Charalambides took it upon himself to provide you with an answer. He prayed and prayed till his knees have been worn through after which the miracle happened. He obtained a letter from his old friend, Pater Costa Pastinaki, thankfully informing him that he became approximately to be elected Patriarch of the entire island. At first Theodosi regarded the information with a few reserve, gratified to a small diploma, but not overly so because he had continually been jealous of his friend, Costa. That pious workaholic had usually been the one most in all likelihood to make it to the pinnacle and though he have to have been glad for his friend, in all honesty all Theodosi ought to feel become a feel of bitterness that he had not accomplished so properly in his profession, specifically because the spiritual morale in his own little parish changed into at an all-time low. He had to spend numerous nights in prayer beseeching the Lord to forgive him his conceitedness, satisfaction and envy.

It became following this sort of prayers that an concept popped into his head, like a divine present. A plan fashioned like a super Easter cake growing within the oven. Theodosi would invite Costa Pastinaki to Thavma to honour his elevation through the ecclesiastical ranks with a party. Without hesitation, Theodosi penned his invitation. In this letter he also referred to in passing a local lady whom half the villagers notion to be possessed and that he would value Costa’s opinion on the problem. He flattered Costa with a few fulsome compliments and knew that Costa’s ego could no longer allow him to refuse the mission of coping with a possessed soul on the grounds that it might offer him with the best opportunity to show off the strength of his spiritual convictions. Theodosi finished the letter with the aid of announcing that if anyone should cure negative Xanthoulla it become Pater Costa Pastinaki.

Within days the Patriarch in ready answered definitely and shortly the information unfold to all quarters of the land that Thavma become approximately to be graced through the presence of a person who become as near God as it was feasible to be. Preparations were straight away set in movement. Thavma had by no means earlier than been so honoured and pleasure reached fever pitch. It changed into an possibility for all to show off their devotion to the Church. When the huge day arrived the streets have been decked with flags and snap shots of the Virgin Mother had been hung from each constructing; tables were specified in an extended line every weighed down with meals. The pretty village appeared like a bride ready for her groom. Only one factor interfered with their suitable spirits – Xanthoulla!

Xanthoulla had appointed herself leader critic of the proceedings, lambasting every body together with her screams of despair on the sight of any shortcoming. "That’s not how this ought to be!" she yelled a hundred instances on the bad innocents doing their best to set up the lace on the tables or marinate the red meat, or any other of 1000 important obligations. Everyone concerned that Xanthoulla could spoil the whole lot. In order to boost their spirits and at the same time satisfy Xanthoulla, Theodosi announced that she would take delivery of a special duty. Xanthoulla would present the Bishop with a posy of plants collected from her own fields. The announcement changed into greeted with approval by way of the villagers and with a scream of pleasure through Xanthoulla herself, who rushed off at once to gather the bouquet. It became an fantastic way of making sure she behaved herself.

The Bishop arrived seated on a donkey, like Jesus getting into Jerusalem. He had a large mournful face and his eyes had been permanently raised heavenward as although in prayer. Behind him changed into a retinue of servants and administrators on horseback or in carriages. It was a cautiously managed exposition both of his strength and of his humility and the villagers had been certainly inspired. They bowed their heads and made the signal of the pass. Candles were lit and a direction turned into unfolded before the cleric main instantly to the church, wherein the procession sooner or later got here to a halt. Theodosi became there waiting, at the head of the welcome birthday party which covered the village chief, the faculty trainer and every body else who had a identify. As Costa dismounted he opened his arms to his friend and the two embraced reverentially. The villagers have been silent as the 2 essential men exchanged happy courtesies, however despite the silence, each single heart become loudly pounding with love for this unique second within the records of Thavma. What a notable man this Bishop become! What a effective air of secrecy of religion surrounded him! Not one soul that day didn’t sense the chill of the Holy Spirit going for walks through them and via all their houses, blessing them and their offspring ever after. The prayers the two monks said together as they approached the church were solemn and significant, and people of the group who stood closest to them sobbed openly as they were pressured via the Spirit to admit their sins.

Finally the instant absolutely everyone dreaded arrived. Xanthoulla stood via the church door with her posy in her palms. It was a stunning bouquet which simplest served to spotlight her ugliness. She looked wizened and bedraggled in her filthy black garments. Why had no one idea to influence her to place on some thing prettier? When she smiled the black gaps in her enamel confirmed and there crackled the flames of mania in her eyes. Would she get through this unique second with out shaming all of them?

Pater Costa noticed the old girl with the posy by way of the door and acquired a muttered caution from Theodosi that this was the female they were worried approximately. But Pater Costa appeared now not to listen him. He seemed to have long past into a trance. Seeing this it become right now assumed that the demon internal Xanthoulla’s soul had transfixed the Bishop and that a spiritual struggle was approximately to take vicinity. The crowd pressed closer to get a higher view of the motion. The silence turned into damaged by hushed whispers of situation. The second regarded to remaining all the time. People waited for the priest to utter some words of absolution, some thing sacred from the historical scripts to terrify the devil and send him packing, however Xanthoulla nonetheless smiled and the Bishop remained entranced. His first phrases were no longer designed to exorcise. His first phrases had been, "Xanthoulla, is it genuinely you?"

He had dropped his regal bearing and slumped forward like a youngster at a loss over conflicting emotions. "Xanthoulla, can or not it’s? I remembered the call and was hoping it turned into you."

At the identical time, Xanthoulla stopped smiling. Her face straightened and her eyes warmed. Witnesses could later swear they noticed a light shining around her.

"After these types of years, to meet like this!" the priest went on, and the coolest men and women of Thavma exchanged curious glances, thinking what all this can suggest.

"Costaki mou," Xanthoulla cried. "How can this be?"

"It is so, my sweet. Have faith and it will be introduced to you. I misplaced you once, but I will never lose you again."

At that he lunged forward and pulled Xanthoulla into his fingers. A gasp went up around the crowd.

"It’s been goodbye," Xanthoulla stated. "How are we able to flip returned the years?"

"It is finished," Costa declared, admiring his sweetheart with seems of undying love. Some may even have called it passion. "It is as although we had in no way parted."

"But you’re a priest!" Xanthoulla complained.

Costa looked down at this robes. "These imply nothing to me," he said, "compared to the love I sense for you. Seeing you once more has made me experience so young. Young and irresponsible. Wait! Is it my robes that hassle you? Then I will take them off. Right now. Watch!"

In the front of his administrators and servants, in front of his antique friend Pater Theodosi and the whole population of Thavma, the antique priest began to strip, flinging off his vestments left and right until he had not anything on however a pair of crisp white lengthy johns. Xanthoulla laughed hysterically.

"Do you continue to have your barn?" he asked her with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

"Of route!" became her response.

"There was the final time I noticed you, and there we will renew our vows!"

Then he took her by means of the hand and together they skipped off inside the direction of the barn, she in her shabby black dress and he in his crisp white long johns. The correct and wise human beings of Thavma had been left to appearance on in wonderment, content material that in their presence a miracle had just took place of such unequivocal significance that not anything in their lives would ever be the same again.