Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hand of Peace

St. Irene Chrysovalantou reliquary,
basil & jasmine

I was accidentally drawn into an outdoor Astoria procession with an icon and holy relic held on the shoulders of many men.
Chanting and incense wafted into New York City police cars. Locals sipping Sunday coffee at a cafe stood up as the silver-encased hand of St. Irene Chrysovalantou processed under the subway tracks on the familiar pavement, full of somber faithful instead of traffic.
Long ago, St. Irene was renowned as a young monastic leader who saw clearly into the future. She was born in Cappadocia, which is now in Eastern Turkey, and refused marriage to Empress Theodora's son in Constantinople (now Istanbul). (Bios on Wikipedia & local church Website.)
The local icon of "St. Peace" and the reliquary (at right), are surrounded by yellow coins and jewelry left by prayerful penitents.
Participants in the procession wore traditional Greek garb. The rest received a lapel sticker, apple slices thought to work miracles, and sweet bread laced with mastic and orange. At the end of the procession, the icon was passed over the faithful, who lined up on closed streets for a blessing.
Several ducking under the flower-framed image were clearly ill and in need.
The St. Irene Chrysovalantou Greek Orthodox church and monastery in Astoria, New York were plagued in recent years by scandal, detailed here.) The church reports directly to the Patriarch of Constantinople, who defrocked the founding leaders in 2012 and assigned new ones. More in my other post here.

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