I bear the wounds of all the battles I avoided. —Fernando Pessoa
I pause and light a candle as I enter Saint Charalambos, whisper a small prayer, something that might match the smell of incense and stillness. I am alone in this church so I sit in the nave, under the dome, under hundreds of eyes, the bodies frozen in moments of wonder, or awe, or torture, or merely life on each inch of the walls. Outside the wind rips against the marble but the Theotokos sits still as a cat in the apse above the altar, her baby with one arm raised like lifting a tiny flag, as two angels with arched backs flank the pair, their bodies manifesting the questions we all have. So, how do we endure this suffering? Charalambos flayed alive, thanked his torturers for scraping off his old body and renewing his soul. And though this saint can protect from the plague the walls here are spotted with mold already eating at the gowns and the stiff floating bodies, the paint peeling like small wounds. And since I am alone, I consider these wounds, spores lodged inside us. This is when I can’t see the whole, only cell next to cell, next to cell. Like the row of images on the iconostasis, each their own story of suffering, so specific, part of all suffering, why we remember decapitated heads and severed arms, saints who lost their eyes, their breasts, their tongues. What is our suffering then? The voices of workers on midday break filter in with the clerestory’s light as they take a beer or two in the nearby café. And the swallow still glides like a blessing under the groin vault of the portico, her babies calling with gurgles liquid and joyful.