Gina de Vries

Funny encounters with priests, and why I keep St. Lucy around

Filed By Gina de Vries | June 09, 2008 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Greek Orthodox, icons, Orthodox priests, st. lucy

I've always adored Russian and Greek Orthodox art. I have a little Russian Orthodox carving of the Blessed Mother, the Christ child, and (grown up) Jesus on my altar; the portrait of Saint Lucy on my altar is Greek Orthodox. I bought the Mary-child-Jesus carving for $6 at Archangel Bookstore (a Russian Orthodox book and religious supply store) in the Inner Sunset. The priests who work behind the counter at Archangel are both very sweet and very deadpan.

I went in Solstice night 2006 with Melissa, after we'd done some rituals at Ocean Beach, and we had the most hilarious conversation about saints I think I've ever had with a priest. I was looking at all of the amazing icons at Archangel, and explaining to M. that I'd found this eery and gorgeous portrait of a female saint holding a set of eyes on a plate at my parents' house; that I was pretty sure that it was Greek Orthodox, but that I had no idea how the hell it had come into my family, since they're Italian-Catholic.

The priest behind the counter just jumped in "Oh, that's Saint Lucy! Do you know her story?"

"No, what is it? Tell me!"

"Well, a young man was in love with her, and told her she had beautiful eyes, so she pulled out her eyes..."

Melissa and I were both a little taken aback at this, but the priest was... Well, deadpan. Maybe he got some joy out of grossing us out? He continued:

"...As if to say 'These bodies we're in, they're immaterial, they don't matter compared to the soul! Here, have the eyes, I don't need 'em.' That's why her eyes are on the plate in her pictures."

"Um... Wow. That's so..." (horrifying?!) "Intense!"

As we left the store, honey-scented candles and icons for our altars wrapped up in wax paper, the priest called out, cheerily:

"Merry Christmas, girls -- or, you know, whatever you celebrate!"

Horrifying or not, I keep St. Lucy around. The portrait is beautiful, and having the patron saint of sight around feels helpful, especially when I think about "sight" in a less eye-specific way. Sometimes I need help seeing clearly, discerning what I'm feeling. Sometimes I need to be reminded that I see just fine, that I can trust my intuition. And Lucy seems like the right saint for that.


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Wow - that's so random, but totally fascinating.

Saint Lucia is a favorite in Swedish households as well.

Do you have any idea how much I want to see this portrait? How can you do a post this bizarre and not include a picture with it??! My mind will explode waiting...

Haha, thinking the same as Bil.

What an interesting story!

That's a beautiful story. They're building a Greek Orthodox church in my neighborhood - we've been watching them put it up. The main building has a huge round tower that's gold! I don't know if it's "real" gold, but it sure is beautiful! I've never been to a Greek Orthodox service. I've been to their festivals but not to an actual service. Since it's so close to my house I do plan on attending a service to see what it's like. My high school in the Bronx was across the street from Fordham University, which I believe is run by the Greek Orthodox church. Anyway, we used to see the priests get on the bus with us - these older men with long gray beards, and those big hats (I dont' know what you call them) and lovely crosses hanging down their chests. It was all very ornate and exotic looking to me. I'm anxious to go to a service.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 10, 2008 8:44 AM

If you want real grossout stuff visit the Vatican and observe the bodies under glass at St. Peter's.