A few months ago I was in Cyprus, standing in the courtyard of the Monastery of the Holy Cross just outside the town of Omodos in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains (altitude 900 meters). I was on the island to film an episode of Born To Exploreon an incredible archeological dig of the birth temple of Cleopatra's and Julius Caesar's son Caesarian. The monastery was an unscheduled stop along the way.
As we stood in the courtyard marveling at the intact Fourth Century architecture, a Greek Orthodox priest in a blue robe and a black chimney pot hat approached me. Speaking through my interpreter, he asked me if he could help us with anything. Because he had a welcoming smile and because I was caught up in the sanctity of my surroundings, I asked him if he would bless our project and, if so, whether we could capture it on film.
To my relief -- it could have gone either way -- he agreed and he gave us his blessing with a solemnity befitting the moment. His short speech was peppered with Latin and finished by the traditional sign of the cross.
Filming people while traveling is always a sensitive issue. I always ask first and, if the subject demurs, I thank them politely and quickly put my camera away. But some people are happy to pose, amused at being the center of attention and also curious about the outcome.
It was clear that this priest fell into the latter category. After I had thanked him for the blessing, I asked him if he would like to view the still images my cameraman, John Barnhardt, had taken on our Canon D7 camera. Yes, he nodded, he would. So we set up the external monitor in a shady spot and began the slide show. I expected a reaction, but not a shout of astonishment (from the priest). The interpreter explained that the priest thought the photo was a miracle. I thought that perhaps he was astonished to see his face frozen on a screen.
But when I looked into the monitor I understood. Centered on the image of the priest's face were the crosshairs of the lens' focusing system.
What he saw was a cross, a sign from God.
Enjoying his reaction and touched by the innocence of the moment, I wasn't about to shatter his illusion or correct his mistake. And who knows -- maybe he was right.