Holy, Holy, Holy ...
BUSINESS WAS POOR for the Coptic priest in charge of the hindmost of the two tiny, domed, pillared chapels that stand back-to-back within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He kept on darting out from his place and signaling without effect to the tourists and pilgrims who were dutifully lining up to enter the bigger, more accessible Greek Orthodox chapel in front. Finally, I took pity on him. I entered his little fretted hutch of marble, ablaze with candles and hanging brass ornaments, reeking of incense. I bent down to see what he was pointing at. In front of me was the oblong end of a slab of black granite: one end of the sepulcher on which Christ’s body was supposed to have lain. To my left was a wooden box in which were scattered some five-dollar bills, ten-pound notes, a few Swiss francs. The heat was stifling. I added a coin to the collection. The priest promptly said a prayer over me, and sprinkled my wrists and the back of my neck with holy water. He gave me a candle, too, as I stood up again, and I planted it in a stone candle-holder. When I had visited the chapel two years previously, I’d got nothing for my money. The priest on duty then had stood quite still, showing no interest in me, none in attracting other tourists: he had merely blinked sharply at the candles every now and again, as if pinching off their light between his lids.
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