This week’s story is inspired by an eerie photograph taken in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria on February 10th depicting a faithful group of Orthodox Christians lighting candles attached to jars of honey at the Holy Mass for the “sanctification of honey”, which apparently takes place each year during at the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin church. Hope you enjoy this bitter-sweet tale. Happy Sunday!
Jars were placed on the cross-shaped table from all over the countryside. The sacred substances emitted their own unique lights, amber angels, I thought, as I placed our pot amongst the many others. When there was no more room for another pot, the priest rose from his place, pressed his hands together palm to palm, a sign he was ready for the sacrament to begin.
Amidst the flicker of candlelight on familiar faces, I wondered, which among us would be this year’s sweetest sacrifice?
The ceremonial candles dimmed with each roar, but faithfully they all remained lit. Silence, followed by sighs of relief each time the priest blessed another pot. Hugs and held hands, which quickly quieted as the priest moved past.
“It will all be over soon, Papa.” The creases in my father’s forehead were deep furrows that seemed to darken the closer we came to February’s honey sacrament.
“Hold me tight now, child,” father whispered as the priest bent to bless our honey pot. Mother’s chipped, white bowl lifted into the air, broken, yes, but we couldn’t bear to part with it. The roaring outside continued, as well as the buzzing tension inside the vestibule as the priest whispered his words of wisdom then dipped a pointer finger into mother’s pot, placing honey on his tongue for a tasting. Father squeezed my hand with a force that verged on pain. Surely God would not take his only child, I thought. I’m the only bud left on his vine.
When the priest rose, he lifted our pot into the air, and the room rumbled in applause.
Father fell to his knees. Sobs throbbed from his chest, even as the crowd closed in to pat him on his back, to offer us their thanks and added blessings.
“Come with me now, child.” he mumbled, but I bent to give father my final kiss.
“No, Papa, don’t worry. You have been doubly blessed. God is good.” I said the words expected of me. The priest gripped my arm tightly, ushered me towards the sacristy, a space where I would be quickly cleansed with holy water before being brought to the alter.
I would offer no resistance. After all, I was the villages’ savior, this year’s sweetest sacrifice, chosen by God to keep the beast at bay one more season.
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Photograph: Borislav Troshev / Anadolu Agency / Getty