My story of Agios Christoforos (Saint Christopher)
Meeting Agios Christoforos AKA Saint Christoper
One day while heading to Arachova from Athens via the old road, our friend who kindly gave us a lift stopped at the Church of Agios Christoforos (Saint Christopher) to light a candle. He told us that Agios Christoforos was a patron saint for travellers and we did see several truck drivers parking their trucks on the side of the road in order to pay their respect at this simple little roadside church.
I warmed to Agios Christoforos as soon as our friend mentioned that he was a giant! I didn’t warm to our friend’s version of the story though because it seemed to contain a bit of stereotyping that giants were bad and needed taming, and the fear-based teaching that God punishes the wicked. I later looked through the internet and found other versions of stories. Who knows what really happened? I remember the priest whom I studied with, after my many questions and seeing my frustration, he told me to learn from the stories and that whenever things seemed too complicated, the only thing I needed to know was that ‘God is love’.
What I believe is that God doesn’t punish because God is love. All living creatures are God’s children and therefore we are perfect and God is (annoyingly) patient and lets us take all the time we need to learn through our mischiefs. I love learning through stories and I’ve dreamed up my own version of story for Saint Christopher, also known as Agios (Saint) Christoforos in Greece. I favour the Greek name because it tells us half the story already. PhotoMan (my husband) deconstructed the word for me – Christ is obviously Jesus Christ, and in Greek is ‘Christos’; ‘foro’ is a verb which means ‘to bring’ or ‘to bear’. Agios Christoforos is hence the saint who brings/bears Christ.
In the story, I included a simple way to connect with God/Source/Higher Self, or whatever you choose to call the immense loving creative energy, that I learnt from Mario Radinger. The Turtle changed it a bit but you can probably find the original version in Mario’s website or Facebook Page where you can find many helpful insights.
My story of Agios Christoforos
Once upon a time, amongst the nature lived a magnificent giant. He was as tall and strong as you could fathom but no, he wasn’t called Christoforos or Christopher at this point. According to the other legends, he did have a name but only God knew why he had a name then when he was all by himself. How he could learn to speak languages and how he was there without a family etc. etc. etc. Yes, many loopholes in this story so let’s just say, a miracle happened and this giant appeared in this place one day, fully grown, as if he had been there for a long time and he got all the necessary programs installed including languages and how to survive in the wild. For ease of narration I’m going to refer to him as The Giant.
Like elephants which are the largest land animals on Earth right now, The Giant ate only vegetations. Raw and organic! Depending on the seasons he picked and ate his favourite fruits and leaves and grass as he took a walk in the beautiful forest that he lived in. All Zen and peaceful so far but there was a little problem.
As you could imagine, The Giant could be quite lonely at times since there were no others like him in this beautiful place and to pass the time, he would pick up a tree branch and swing it around for fun. Whenever he did this, all the animals and birds ran or flew for their lives and they also made all sort of sounds to warn each other. All that went on greatly amused The Giant and he continued to amuse himself especially when he was feeling melancholy.
His other hobby was to catch animals and then to tickle them while watching them squirmed. Sometimes he played so hard that animals were injured and even died! Oh and The Giant did the same with people who crossed his path because humans were just some funny little things that wriggled and made funny noises, no difference to his other toys.
There was chaos in the forest almost daily. The animals tried to move far away from The Giant but he had giant strides and walked miles and miles without any solid destination. All animals including the predators were exhausted and they decided to have a meeting amongst themselves to see what could be done. There were talks of having an elaborate battle but in the end, to avoid having more casualties, all animals agreed to send over a representative to try having a peaceful negotiation with The Giant.
Curiously, it wasn’t one of the dominant predators who was voted as the representative but a turtle with a calm presence. During his election speech he said he had been observing The Giant and knew he wasn’t evil. Perhaps he was just bored and needed something to do. The Turtle thought what The Giant needed was sympathetic listening and that he was the right candidate. He didn’t have fangs or claws to fight but he had a hard shell for protection and the patience for the right timing. With the blessings from all animals, The Turtle set off slowly towards where The Giant was last spotted by the birds.
The Giant vs. The Turtle
When The Turtle finally reached where The Giant was, The Giant was playing around with a tree branch, delighting in the mayhem that he created single-handedly. The Turtle calmly retracted into his shell next to some large rocks. This wasn’t a cowardly move. As one Chinese proverb says, ‘Take a step back: ocean vast sky boundless’. Within the safety of his shell, The Turtle was able to relax and refresh himself till the important encounter with The Giant.
Soon The Giant slumped against a tall old tree, exhausted not from the activity but the ever-expanding emptiness that he was no longer able to fill with his mischiefs. His eyes became vacant as if all the light had left him and he looked more dead and lost than a drift wood in the sea. The Turtle eased his way in front of The Giant where he could be seen without The Giant craning his neck too much.
‘Hello! Hello! HELLO!!!’ The Turtle shouted with all his might till The Giant noticed him.
‘Er… Hello?’ Replied The Giant hesitantly. This was the first time The Giant had any sort of contact with another creature.
‘Hello! Mr. Giant! How are you?’
The Giant knew what ‘giant’ meant although he thought the word referred to someone a lot larger than him. He quickly learnt the concept of perspective and seeing how small The Turtle was, he meekly accepted this title.
‘Hm…. Not that well…. My inside is hurting although I feel all hollow and I don’t know how something could be hurting when there is nothing. The games I play don’t amuse me as much as they used to and I don’t know what else to do to fill up the void.
It is very good of you to ask me how I am. This has never happened before and I didn’t know it could happen and why didn’t it happen sooner.’ Tears started streaming down The Giant’s face as he spoke. Whoever said ‘big boys don’t cry’?
‘There are many of us here whom you can connect with. However, we usually hide from you because we don’t like the games you play.’
‘Why not? Why didn’t anyone tell me?’
‘Because you hurt us on the outside like how you are hurting inside. We were too busy running away from you and we didn’t know you would listen to us so willingly. I’m rather surprised myself that we are talking with each other at ease. Surreal, but nice.’
‘But I am nice! And I create the best games to play! Will you come and play together sometimes? I can find you a small twig to swing with. I can also pin some squirmy little things on the ground for you to tickle. Two of us can double the fun!’
‘Er…. Actually, I am one of the squirmy little things. I don’t want you to do that to me and I don’t want you to do that to others. Imagine someone ten times the size of you pins you on the ground and tickles you, or uproots a whole tree to throw at you, would you like that? Will you think they are nice?’
‘Oh!’ The Giant opened his eyes wider and wider till his eyeballs nearly dropped to the ground as he imagined himself being tortured by a (from his perspective) proper giant. He could almost feel his outside hurting as much as his inside. Finally, he understood what The Turtle had come to tell him. Unbeknownst to him, he had been the villain whom everyone feared. Suddenly, remorse, guilt, regret and despair filled him up and The Giant fell onto the ground, wailing like his whole world had crushed down.
‘What’s wrong, Mr. Giant?’ The Turtle was concerned.
‘The darkest cloud has swallowed me up. I’m so sorry for what I’ve done.’ Said The Giant while brushing off his tears and snots.
‘Come on now! Whatever happened had happened. Let’s not feel sorry anymore for the past. You didn’t knowingly hurt another being and now that you understand what havoc you had created, you will never hurt anyone ever again. Maybe one day when you learn to exist with all living creatures in harmony, everyone will grow to love you and want to connect with your magnificence.’
‘But how do I do that? Will you teach me?’
‘I’m not sure if I’m the right teacher for you. But right now, perhaps you could save the praying mantis and the beetle from drowning in your snot.’
‘Oh oh oh I’m sorry!’ The Giant leaned over to pick the praying mantis up with his fingers.
‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’ Cried The Turtle just before The Giant crushed the praying mantis into a speck of dust. ‘Gentle! Gentle! Gentle!’
The Giant halted just in time and had his fingers resting next to the praying mantis and the beetle who both took a chance and held onto his fingernail. Slowly and calmly, The Giant lifted both insects up to his eye level in order to offer his sincere apology. The insects had crawled onto his finger and The Giant heaved a sigh of relief that they were both alive and well, although not anymore because The Giant’s breath was like Typhoon number 10 for them.
‘Gentle! Gentle! Gentle! Mr. Giant, be gentle!’ Cried The Turtle once again. And this was the first reference of the phrase ‘Gentle Giant’.
‘Phew!’ Finally, The Giant could breathe easy again after returning the praying mantis and the beetle safely on the ground. ‘So much to learn! What else? What else will I do? More snot so I can save more lives?’
‘Er…. No…. That would be like directing your own drama series. I don’t know what you can do but why don’t you ask the all-knowing God who created us all? God made you the way you are because They have special plans for you.’
‘How do I do that? I don’t know who God is. Where can I find God?’
‘No one really know who God is but it’s okay because God knows us. God is everywhere and the easiest way to make a connection with God is through the heart while you sit quietly. I can guide you through it if you want and we can do it now.’
‘Yes, please! I can’t wait!’
Chatting with God
‘First, find a comfortable place to sit. Perhaps you could lean against this big old tree here. When you are sitting comfortably, let me know by closing your eyes gently.
‘Now, place one hand or both hands on your heart and bring your focus on your breathing. Notice that your chest and your hands rise and fall as you breathe in and out. Let your breaths become so smooth and so effortless. Do this for a little while so that your body and your mind can relax and quiet down.
‘Imagine that you are now breathing in through your heart and that your heart is breathing in the Source energy, or the all-encompassing love of God. Every breath you take in, you breathe in this loving energy, and every time you breathe out, the loving energy circulates everywhere in your body. Do this for a while and let God’s love flow through you. It’s the most relaxing and wonderful feeling.
‘Continue to breathe in this way and let your sorrow and other yucky emotions flow away and be replaced by love. You may also ask the questions you have in your mind. Remember to relax into your breathing and the answer will flow in easily together with the loving energy. Use your discernment though, your conscious mind might interfere and produce an answer. For me, God’s words come through the top of my head. When you practise often, you will figure out how God communicates with you and you will get a stronger and stronger connection with God.’
Perhaps because The Giant had a massive heart, God came through on his first try as a booming voice and The Giant was able to have a conversation with God while relaxing in God’s love.
‘Hello, God! Are you here?’
‘Yes, our child! We are here.’
‘Oh, you are plural?’
‘We are just the One although we are immense and everywhere. Singular is fine but we can avoid the gender debate when we use plural form, you know, “they” instead of “he” or “she” or “it”.’ Suddenly sparkles appeared everywhere as if God made a joke and winked.
‘Oh okay! Hm… God, what can I do to ease my loneliness?’
‘It depends what you enjoy doing. Do you know?’
‘All the games I used to play are no longer fun for me. I don’t know what else I can do.’
‘What have you ever done that gave you long lasting joy?’
‘I’m not sure about long lasting, but chatting with The Turtle gave me this warm feeling inside. I would like to chat with more creatures and see what happens. But there is a problem: everyone is hiding from me. They don’t know that I no longer want to hurt them.’
‘That’s fine. The birds are listening and they will spread the good news that you are now everyone’s friend.’
‘Really? Thank you, birds!’
All the birds in the forest beamed with delight from The Giant’s gratitude and they set off to spread the good news.
‘There is another problem, God. What do I do with the rest of my body, now that I am careful to not harm another creature?’
‘There are many things you can do with your magnificent body that bring harmony to the forest. We give you a suggestion to begin with: See the river there? For many humans and animals, it is wide and treacherous. Many lives had been lost in this river and there could be more. If you wish, you can walk up and down the river and help whoever wants to cross it. It takes you only a few steps to cross the river but your assistance is much needed for many travellers.’
‘Yes! Thank you! This is what I would like to do. Why didn’t I think of it? And I thought my body could only bring me and others misery.’
‘Our child! We made you in your uniqueness so that you can bring harmony to the world in your unique way. All you need is to focus on what brings you long lasting joy and to create harmony within you and around you. We love you no matter what you do and we are delighted that you no longer need to live in loneliness for you are never alone.’
Tears streamed down The Giant’s cheeks as his loneliness melted away. He felt good again, knowing that he was loved despite his mischiefs. He thanked God for their time and guidance and set off for the river. He invited The Turtle to go with him on his shoulder so he could practise being gentle. The Turtle happily accepted this invitation and was very pleased that his mission was accomplished much better than his expectation.
It wasn’t an easy start for The Giant. Some of the animals were still weary of him from the past trauma and were hesitant to connect with him. Some of the more courageous animals, or the more observant ones like The Turtle, initiated contact with The Giant so as to cheer him on his choice of a new way of living. Some of these animals were injured because The Giant had yet to learn how to maneuver all his limbs gently.
As for humans, at the beginning, all who saw The Giant either fled or fell down on their knees immediately to beg for mercy. The Giant never took it personally but waited patiently for the people to get over their prejudice before approaching them to offer his help. He still remembered the days when he used to cause harm to all living creatures and he was forever grateful to The Turtle who saw through his aggressive exterior. He often looked back at his youthful mischievous self with love and fondness and thus was able to accept everyone as they were and their actions.
One day, The Giant found a little boy standing in front of the treacherous river. The boy seemed calm and wasn’t fazed by the river or The Giant’s presence. In fact, his face lit up with a bright smile as soon as he noticed The Giant and all the creatures in the forest could feel his beaming love.
‘Greetings! How are you, Mr. Magnificence?’ Hailed The Boy.
‘I’m very well! Thank you!’ The Giant was delighted to be recognized as how God had described him. He noticed that The Boy was just as magnificent as he was, if not more, although his body was tiny in comparison. ‘May I offer you a lift to cross the river?
‘Yes, please! You were exactly whom I didn’t know I was waiting for! It is true that we are never alone, isn’t it?’
The Giant crouched down in order to lift The Boy up to his shoulder. But wait – The Boy was so much heavier than The Giant estimated and he almost broke his back! What was happening? With much effort, The Giant finally settled The Boy onto his shoulder.
That was probably the most difficult task that The Giant had ever done. He took great care with each of his steps in order to keep The Boy on his shoulder. He felt The Boy’s weight was something very special although he didn’t ask The Boy about it because he knew some humans were sensitive about their weight. The Giant carried The Boy across the river and asked if he wanted him to accompany him further. The Boy said he wasn’t in a hurry just yet and would like to explore the forest on foot.
After The Giant carefully helped The Boy go back to the ground, The Boy stood facing The Giant, smiling, as if to thank him. The Giant also had great gratitude for The Boy because no gifts could be given unless they were received. No words were exchanged but the love The Boy and The Giant had for each other was paramount and was felt throughout the forest as if there was an explosion of love.
Soon, words spread in the human world that The Giant was there to help all who wanted to cross the treacherous river and he would accompany them to travel much further if needed. They also knew that The Giant never asked for anything in return but if anyone wanted to express their gratitude, the best way was to enjoy their journey because he loved hearing travellers’ tales.
Super Hero Name!
Last but not least – the name! It turned out that The Boy was Jesus Christ and he was heavy because he carried a lot of light for the world and The Giant felt it all as he carried the little Christ on his shoulder. So there you go: Agios Christoforos: the Saint who carried Christ on his shoulders. And that was how our hero in this story got his Super Hero Name.
You must be wondering how anyone found out that The Boy was Jesus Christ who turned out to have done major stuff? How anyone knew this little encounter between little Christ and The Giant? Yes, many loopholes as always in this story. Let’s just say, God knows everything and birds like to spread good tales and the people who decided who got to be saints agreed that even though Agios Christoforos didn’t die a horrible death, he definitely would continue helping all who prayed to him so why not? One common thread between all the Saints is that they love to help, right?
What Agios Christoforos did seem small but it was important: if he wasn’t there at that time doing what he did, Jesus Christ and many others would still be at the river waiting for a lift! If you ever wonder whether your existence has made a positive impact to the world, remember the story of Agios Christoforos. To this day, he is still not sure why he is considered a Saint, when all he did was using what he had to produce long lasting joy for himself while making many friends!
What kind of drama do you create when you are feeling restless? What do you do that brings you long lasting joy? Have you found out how you could contribute to the harmony of the world with your talents?