Christ is Risen! " Why seek you the living among the dead?" What a weekend. I hope those of you that celebrate Easter got a chance to spend time with your families and friends. More importantly, I hope you found joy in His Resurrection and what it means to us all. We went to church on Saturday night, it was cold, windy and there was plenty of snow on the ground yet, it was packed to the gills. At two in the morning after taking Communion, we found ourselves in sea of lighted candles headed for home. When we got there, I burned a cross above the front doorway with the candle then we lit the oil lamp in front of our family icons with it and Anna censed the house. After fasting from meat and eggs for the forty days of Lent, we broke our fast by breaking eggs dyed red and savoring my wife's famous Mageritsa. The recipe has been passed down from mother to daughter for generations. It is a family tradition to come home from the Resurrection service and slurp this delicious egg lemon soup made with rice, assorted spices such as dill, and the broth of chunks of lamb organ meats that float in it. It is especially good with an Easter sweetbread called Choureki and Kaseri, a cheese made from sheep's and goat milk. I passed out at 3 AM and woke up three hours later to hold reveille on my wife. The lamb was on the souvla, dressed out and ready to go in the garage. All I had to do was move it outside and crank it up. I like to rub pepper, salt, and oregano into the carcass. Then I sew up the stomach to keep the juices in while cooking. Our 40 lb Lamb took about eight hours to cook. I like to baste it constantly with a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, fresh crushed garlic and assorted spices.
My cousin Evy waited on line outside a Greek market in Peabody, Massachusetts with a bunch of other Greeks, all holding their receipts in their hot, little hands and waiting anxiously for their freshly slaughtered lambs. Her brother delivered the lamb to my house, carrying it like a baby, grinning from ear to ear. Harry is the "McGyver" of the family. There is nothing he cannot fix or create from scratch. Back in my younger days, before I could afford a nice souvla, I had one made in exchange for a case of beer. Suspended between two poles over an open pit full of charcoal it had to be turned by hand for hours. Harry decided that that was simply unacceptable and decided to devise a pulley system attached to an electric motor. Unfortunately, his first attempt was a failure because the souvla started whirling around so fast I thought it would disintegrate. Not to be defeated, he retired to the garage and started throwing things around looking for the right component. He emerged victorious with a solitary bicycle rim, which he attached to the end of the soulva. The large wheel slowed the souvla's revolutions down to the perfect speed. We spent the rest of the day appreciating his invention, drinking beer, content in the thought that Archimedes himself would have been proud of such a beautiful ingenious contraption.
I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that our dining room table was groaning from the weight of all the food on it. Anna does not believe in skimping when it comes to cooking for guests and our friends and relatives did not come empty handed. After our two parish priests blessed the food and thanked the Lord for his bounty, we got down to the serious business of eating. This party was boisterous, joyful, kids of all ages and sizes running to and fro. The oldest person there was 90 and the youngest was two weeks away from his or her estimated date of arrival. Our quiet, sedate middle class neighborhood is not quite accustomed to so many loud Greeks in one place or the smell of lamb meat wafting in the air however, life in this world and the next, is meant to be celebrated and enjoyed in the company of family and friends.
The table is fully laden (thanks to my wife Anna, Mama, my sister Katina and the rest of the ladies).
After dinner, I kicked my legs up and sipped on a glass of wine. I was exhausted but it was with a sublime sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It was a good day. The four year old daughter of my friend and priest ambled up to me and asked me if I wanted to hear the song she had learned recently. I nodded and she starting singing the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." I smiled and said: "Sweetie, I think you are too young to be a sinner." Exasperated, she put her hands on her hips, looked me in the eye and replied, "I'm FOUR years old, I am too old enough." From the mouths of babes.