It was Sunday morning, before any parishioners had arrived, and the church caretaker was bending down to light candles at the altar.
That’s when Athena Metropoulos saw them — two glistening streaks beneath the eyes of a painting of Virgin Mary. Ever since, they’ve been coming in droves to Holy Trinity Hellenic Orthodox Church on the Northwest Side to see it for themselves.
“Oh yes, don’t ever doubt that — it’s real. I see it and I have goose bumps,” said Maria Mandalios, 73, who lives in Morton Grove, but made a special trip to see the “tears” of Christ’s mother.
As somber Greek chants echoed in the cavernous church Monday, Mandalios stared in wonder, along with a dozen or so others — many taking videos with their cell phones.
What does it mean?
Mandalios said they are tears of sorrow for the plight of a congregation that’s about to lose its church. The church, at 6041 W. Diversey Ave., is about $8 million in debt, in foreclosure, and unless a lot of money can be raised quickly, the building will be sold, said the pastor, Rev. Nick Jonas.
Jonas and others from the church have a date with a federal bankruptcy judge Tuesday. Jonas said he’s hoping the judge will give them just a little more time. The church has a potential investor.
“He’s a Roman Catholic fellow who feels sympathetic toward us and wants to help,” Jonas said.
And what of those who say the tears are fake — a ploy to generate even more sympathy and possibly more cash?
“The cynics will say that,” Jonas said. “My response is, look. There are no pipes hooked up to drip water.”