I’m in Patmos. I’m sitting in my oratory. My oratory, the name I’ve given to the small chapel a few minutes from my house. Maria, my cook, cleans and maintains the chapel. She keeps the key, and so I have the key, I have access. The foundation is old, it must date to late antiquity. The frescos are in a poor state, yet still visible. The iconostasis is particularly worn, aside from the grand and imposing icons. It’s a place full of energy and atmosphere, both powerful and positive. The few I have brought here can all feel it.
I’m seated in the stacidia, at dawn on an early summer day. A ray of sunlight enters from the window beside me, casting light upon the smoke that rises from the burning incense. Candlelight flickers against the icons. I begin my morning ritual of prayer and meditation. Motionless and upright, I face the wall opposite me, without seeing it. I empty my mind, I let serenity fill the void. I think of the others, those that I love, and those that are in need. I reflect upon my work and upon my troubles. It’s a time dedicated to solitary analysis and examination of all that is happening around me. It is a time to take a broad view of our world and the times in which we live. My past returns to me. At 77 years of age, my past is long. It is full of images, of memories, of persons and personalities, and myriad scenes and events. I am calm yet stimulated. I feel confident and optimistic. I find myself anxious to undertake all that the day has to offer, to know what lies ahead.
My intention is to share with you all that comes to me during these early morning séances.
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The reception in Athens on the night of October 27, 1940, was a great success. Greek government officials met with the posted ambassadors, including Emmanuel Grazzi, the envoy of Mussolini. The atmosphere was cordial. The Greek prime minister and dictator Metaxas went to bed early.
He was up at three o’clock in the morning. Emmanuel Grazzi was demanding to see him, it was urgent. He dressed quickly and met the ambassador, who presented the dictator with what amounted to an ultimatum. Italy was demanding permission to occupy certain strategic yet unnamed locations throughout Greece. Greece was given three hours to comply, or hostilities would commence.
Metaxas’s response was a simple no, “Ohi” in Greek, which quickly became a patriotic symbol of the Greek resistance. At six in the morning the fighting began, culminating in a most humiliating defeat for the Italian army. The meager Greek troops were able to push back the Italians all the way to Albania.
Most historians claim that this ultimatum came as a surprise for Greece, and for Metaxas, but this is false, and I have the proof.
Photographs by Justin Creedy Smith