The ladies of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church got their first-hand look at the icon that supposedly has been weeping in a New York church for a month. And their verdict is . . .
"I don't really know what the verdict is," said a laughing Rose Tsakalos, who saw the icon yesterday with 41 other women from St. Nicholas, in the Greektown section of Highlandtown.
"Without scientifically analyzing what's there, you can't be sure if the icon is crying or not, but it looked like there were tears in her eyes," Tsakalos said last night, minutes after returning home. "It looked like she had wept about a minute before, like tears had been running down her face and chest. But they weren't running when we looked."
The painted wood icon of St. Irene, which is encased in glass at St. Irene Chrysovalantou Greek Orthodox Church in Queens, N.Y., reportedly has been weeping since Oct. 17. The icon is said to have begun shedding the tears over the threat of war in the Persian Gulf.
St. Irene is the patron saint of peace and the sick.
Since the tears were first sighted, thousands of believers, skeptics and curiousity-seekers from as far as Chicago have converged on the tiny church to see if the icon is actually weeping or perhaps just giving off condensation.
Tsakalos said her group did not encounter long lines at St. Irene's yesterday, but they still had to line up to inspect the painting. The ladies got in line three times, she explained, because they had to keep moving on each pass.
"You see the icon for a second or two," said Tsakalos. "You have people behind you, so you continue walking. It's dark where the icon is, but someone holds a candle near it so you can get a good, clear look."
Even if the icon wasn't clearly crying, some of the ladies from St. Nicholas wept when they saw the painting, Tsakalos reported.
"We believe there's something there. And yet," she added, "we wish we could be 100 percent sure. Perhaps they are real tears. It was still a very emotional experience for us, and well worth the trip."
Are the ladies considering a return visit? Tsakalos didn't sound optimistic. "The icon has been crying for, what, a month now?," she asked. "How much longer can she keep crying?"