Σάββατο, 17 Νοεμβρίου 2007
ΚΑΠΕΤΑΝΙΟΣ ΑΓΙΟΓΡΑΦΟΣ: ΦΩΤΗΣ ΚΟΝΤΟΓΛΟΥ - CAPTAIN ICONOGRAPHER: BY PHOTIS KONTOGLOU
ΣΑΝ ΣΗΜΕΡΑ Χριστούγεννα, στὰ 1864, ἔκανε μεγάλη φουρτούνα μὲ χιονιά. Στ’ἀγριεμένο πέλαγο δὲν φαινότανε πουθενὰ πανί. Μοναχὰ ἕνα μικρὸ καΐκι πάλευε μὲ τὸ χάρο ἀνοιχτὰ ἀπὸ τὴν Τῆνο. Ἤτανε ἑνὸς καπετὰν Γιώργη ἀπὸ τὴ Νάξο, φορτωμένο κρασιὰ ἀπὸ τὴ Σαντορίνη. Ὅλη τὴ μέρα ἀγαντάριζε στὸν ἀγέρα, μὰ σὰν σκοτείνιασε, ὁ βοριὰς σκύλιαξε κ' ἔσπασε τ’ ἄρμπουρο, ἔβγαλε καὶ τὸ τιμόνι ἀπὸ τὰ βελόνια. Οἱ ἄνθρωποι προφτάξανε καὶ ρίξανε τὴ βάρκα στὴ θάλασσα καὶ μπήκανε μέσα. Δὲν εἴχανε ἀλαργάρει ὥς μιὰ τουφεκιὰ τόπο, καὶ βούλιαξε τὸ καΐκι. Τὴ βάρκα τὴν ἅρπαξε τὸ μπουρίνι καὶ τὴν πήγαινε ὅπου ἤθελε μέσα στὴν πίσσα τῆς νύχτας. Οἱ τρεῖς νοματέοι ποὺ βρισκόντανε μέσα, ἤτανε ὁ καπετὰν Γιώργης κι' ἄλλοι δυὸ γεμιτζῆδες, σὲ ἐλεεινὴ κατάσταση, βρεμένοι μέχρι κόκκαλο μὲ κεῖνον τὸν χιονιά, πουντιασμένοι ἀπὸ τὸ τάντανο, δίχως καμμιὰν ἐλπίδα πὼς θὰ γλυτώνανε. Πιάσανε καὶ κλαίγανε σὰν τὰ μωρά, καὶ τάξανε κ' οἱ τρεῖς νὰ πᾶνε νὰ καλογερέψουνε, ἂν λάχαινε νὰ γλυτώσουνε. Κι’ ὁ Θεὸς ἄκουσε τὶς φωνὲς ποὺ τὸν παρακαλούσανε γιατί βγαίνανε σὰν τοῦ Ἰωνᾶ μέσα ἀπὸ καρδιὲς ἀπελπισμένες, καὶ κεῖ ποὺ δὲν ξέρανε ποῦ βρισκόντανε, σὰν ξημέρωσε, εἴδανε πὼς ὁ καιρὸς καλωσύνεψε ἀνέλπιστα, καὶ πὼς βρισκόντανε κοντὰ στὴ Σύρα. Ἤβγανε γεροὶ ὄξω καὶ τοὺς μαζέψανε κάτι ψαράδες, δὲν ἀρρώστησε κανένας. Καθίσανὲ δυὸ τρεῖς μέρες στὴ Σῦρα, κ' εἴπανε πὼς ἒχουνε χρέος νὰ κάνουνε τὸ τάξιμό τους. Πουλήσανε τὴ βάρκα, καὶ μὲ κεῖνα τὰ λεφτὰ μπαρκάρανε, καὶ πήγανε ἴσια στ' Ἅγιον Ὄρος καὶ γινήκανε κ' οἱ τρεῖς καλογέροι, δίχως νὰ εἰδοποιήσουνε τὰ σπίτια τους πὼς γλυτώσανε, ἀφοῦ εἴπανε πὼς εἶναι πιὰ πεθαμένοι γιὰ τὸν κόσμο. Ὁ καπετὰν Γιώργης πῆγε κι' ἀσκήτεψε στὴ Σκήτη τῆς Ἁγίας Ἄννας, κ' ἒφταξε σὲ μεγάλα μέτρα, μὲ προσευχή, μὲ νηστεία καὶ μὲ σκληρὴ κακοπάθηση τοῦ κορμιοῦ, τόσο, ποὺ ξακούστηκε ἡ ἁγιοσύνη του σ' ὅλὸ τὸ Ὄρος. Ἔμαθε καὶ τὴν τέχνη κοντὰ σ’ ἕναν γέροντα μάστορα, κ' ἒγινε σπουδαῖος ἁγιογράφος. Ἡ γυναῖκα του τὸν εἶχε γιὰ πνιγμένον κ' ἔκανε κάθε χρόνο τὰ κόλυβά του. Δὲν ἒμαθὲ πὼς γλύτωσε καὶ πὼς καλογέρεψε ὁ ἄντρας της. Μαυροφόρεσε αὐτὴ καὶ τὰ δυὸ παιδιὰ της τὰ πιὸ μεγάλα, γιατί τὸ μικρὸ ἤτανε μωρὸ βυζανιάρικο. Κι' ὁ καπετὰν Γιώργης, ποὺ γίνηκε Πάτερ Γεράσιμος, δὲν θέλησε νὰ μάθει τίποτα γιὰ τὸ σπίτι του, μὴν τύχει καὶ τὸν νικήσει ἡ ἀγάπη τῶν παιδιῶν του. Ἀλλὰ σὰν περάσανε δυὸ τρία χρόνια, δυνάμωσε ἡ ψυχή του μὲ τὴ θεία χάρη κ' ἤθελε νὰ βγεῖ γιὰ λίγον καιρὸ ἀπὸ τὸ Ὄρος, ὅπως βγαίνανε κι' ἄλλοι πατέρες γιὰ ἐλέη, καὶ νὰ πάγει στὴ Νάξο νὰ δεῖ τὰ παιδιὰ του καὶ τὴ γυναῖκα του, δίχως νὰ φανερωθεῖ. Μάλιστα, σὰν διάβασε τὸ συναξάρι τ' ἅγιου Γιάννη τοῦ Καλυβίτη, ποὺ ἤτανε μοναχογυιὸς κι’ ἀρχοντόπουλο, καὶ πῆγε κρυφὰ καὶ καλογέρεψε, καὶ γιὰ νὰ πονέσει ἀκόμα πιὸ πολὺ ἡ καρδιά του γιὰ τὴν ἀγάπη τοῦ Χριστοῦ, πῆγε στὸ πατρικὸ τὸ σπίτι του κ' ἔκανε τὸν ὑπηρέτη δίχως νὰ τὸν ξέρουνε οἱ γονιοί του, κι' ἔτσι παράδωσε τὸ πνεῦμα του στὸ Θεό, σὰν διάβασε λοιπὸν ὁ πάτερ Γεράσιμος τούτη τὴ συγκινητικὴ τὴν ἱστορία, ἀποφάσισε σίγουρα νὰ πάγει στὴ Νάξο. Πῆρε λοιπὸν τὴν εὐχὴ ἀπὸ τὸν γέροντά του, καὶ μπῆκε σ' ἕνα καΐκι καὶ τὸν ἔβγαλε στὴν Πάρο. Ἐκεῖ κάθισε κανένα μῆνα, κ' ἐπειδὴς εἶχε πάρει μαζί του καὶ τὰ σύνεργα τῆς ζωγραφικῆς, ζωγράφισε καὶ καμπόσα εἰκονίσματα ποὺ τοῦ παραγγείλανε. Καὶ τόση ἤτανε ἡ εὐλάβειά του κ' ἡ σεβασμιότητα ποὺ εἶχε τὸ παρουσιαστικό του, ποὺ ξακούστηκε στὰ γύρωθε νησιὰ πὼς τὰ εἰκονίσματα ποὺ ζωγράφιζε ἤτανε «ἔθαρμα» , γιατί δὲν ἔτρωγε λάδι παρὰ ἔβαζε μονάχα λίγο, μὲ τοῦ φτεροῦ τὴν ἄκρη, στὸ φαγητό του τὴν Κυριακὴ ποὺ δὲν δούλευε, κ' ἔτρωγε καὶ τὸ ψωμὶ μὲ μέτρο, καὶ τὸ νερὸ ἀκόμα ποὔπινε. Τὰ γόνατά του ἤτανε πληγωμένα ἀπὸ τὶς μετάνοιες ποὺ ἔκανε ὅλη τὴ νύχτα, κι' ὁ ὕπνος του ἤτανε μοναχὰ μιὰ δυὸ ὧρες, καὶ τὸν ἔπαιρνε καθιστὸς ἀπάνω στὸ σεντοῦκι ποὖχε τὰ ἐργαλεῖα του, εἴτε πλαγιαστὸς ἀπάνω στὸ χῶμα. Κι' ἀπὸ τὰ λιγοστὰ λεφτουδάκια ποὺ ἔπαιρνε γιὰ τὰ κονίσματα ποὺ ἔκανε, γιὰ τὴ συντήρησή του ξόδευε τὰ πιὸ λίγα, καὶ τ’ἄλλα τἄδινε κρυφὰ στοὺς φτωχούς.
Πήγανε λοιπὸν ἀπὸ τὴ Νάξο δυὸ τρεῖς εὐλαβεῖς χριστιανοὶ καὶ τὸν παρακαλέσανε νὰ πάγει καὶ στὸ νησί τους. Καὶ δὲν τὸν γνωρίσανε, γιατὶ εἶχε ἀλλάξει ὁλότελα τὸ πρόσωπό του ἀπὸ τὰ γένεια κι' ἀπὸ τὰ μαλλιὰ κι’ ἀπὸ τὴ μεγάλη ἐγκράτεια, καὶ πιὸ πολὺ ἀπὸ τὴν ἁγιοσύνη. Καὶ κεῖνος χάρηκε πολύ, καὶ σὰν βρέθηκε μοναχός του ἔκλαψε καὶ φχαρίστησε τὸν Θεό, γιατί ἤτανε φανερὸ πὼς θέλημά του ἤτανε νὰ πάγει στὴν πατρίδα του νὰ δοκιμαστεῖ ἡ πίστη του «ὡς χρυσὸς ἐν χωνευτηρίῳ».
Βγῆκε λοιπὸν στὴ Νάξο, ἕξη χρόνια ἀπὸ τότε ποὺ γίνηκε καλόγερας. Οἱ θεοφοβούμενοι χριστιανοὶ κατεβήκανε καὶ τὸν πήρανε ἀπὸ τὴ βάρκα, κι' ὁ καθένας ἤθελε νὰ τὸν πάρει στὸ σπίτι του, γιὰ νἄχει τὴν εὐλογία του. Πλὴν ὁ Χριστὸς ἔδειξε πάλι πὼς τὸν θεωροῦσε στερεὸν στὴν πίστη του καὶ ἤρθανε τὰ πράγματα τέτοιας λογῆς, ὥστε νὰ τὸν βάλουνε οἱ πιτρόποι τῆς ἐκκλησίας σ' ἕνα κελλὶ ποὺ ἤτανε ἀντίκρυ στὸ σπίτι του. Δὲν περάσανε δυὸ τρεῖς μέρες καὶ πῆρε παραγγελιὰ νὰ ζωγραφίσει κάμποσες εἰκόνες, κ' ἔπιασε καὶ δούλευε. Τὴ μέρα ἤτανε κλεισμένος στὸ κελλί του καὶ δὲν κύταξε καθόλου ἀπὸ τὸ παράθυρο. Μοναχὰ τὴ νύχτα, σὰν ἀνάβανε τὴ λάμπα στὸ σπίτι του, καθότανε στὰ σκοτεινὰ δίχως νὰ τὸν βλέπουνε, καὶ κύτταζε μέσα τὴ χήρα τὴ γυναῖκα του καὶ τὰ παιδιά του μαυροντυμένα, ποὺ καθόντανε στὸ τραπέζι γιὰ νὰ φᾶνε. Τότες τρέχανε σὰν βρύσες τὰ μάτια του, κ' ἔπεφτε σὲ προσευχὴ καὶ παρακαλοῦσε τὸν Θεὸ νὰ τὸν βαστάξει μὲ τὸ δυνατὸ χέρι του γιὰ νὰ μὴν λυγίσει, ὥστε νὰ βγάλει πέρα τοῦτον τὸν μεγάλον ἀγῶνα ποὺ ἤτανε παραπάνω ἀπ' ὅσο μπορεῖ νὰ ἀντέξει ἄνθρωπος. Γονάτιζε, κ' ἔκλαιγε γονατιστός. Ἔλεγε τὸ ψαλτῆρι κ' ἡ καρδιά του σὰ νἄθελε νὰ βγεῖ ἀπὸ τὸ στῆθος του, σὰν περιστέρι νὰ πετάξει. Ποῦ νὰ πετάξει; στὸ σπίτι του ἢ στὸ Θεό, ποὺ εἶπε «ὅποιος ἀγαπᾶ πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ἢ γυναῖκα ἢ παιδιὰ περισσότερο ἀπὸ ἐμένα, αὐτὸς δὲν εἶναι ἄξιός μου; Κ’ ἔλεγε μὲ κλάψιμο: «Ἕως τίνος θήσομαι ὀδύνας ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ μου, ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός; Ἐπίβλεψον, εἰσάκουσόν μου, Κύριος ὁ Θεός μου. Φώτισον τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς μου, μήποτε ὑπνώσω εἰς θάνατον μήποτε εἴπῃ ὁ ἐχθρός μου: Ἴσχυσα πρὸς αὐτόν. Κύριε, ἐν σοὶ ρυσθήσομαι ἀπὸ πειρατηρίου, καὶ ἐν τῷ Θεῷ μου ὑπερβήσομαι τεῖχος. Σύ μου εἴ καταφυγὴ ἀπὸ θλίψεως τῆς περιεχούσης με. Κύριε, ἐναντίον σου πᾶσα ἡ ἐπιθυμία μου, καὶ ὁ στεναγμός μου ἀπό σοῦ οὐκ ἀπεκρύβη. Πάντες οἱ μετεωρισμοί σου καὶ τὰ κύματά σου ἐπ' ἐμὲ διῆλθον. Τὶς δώσει μοι πτέρυγας ὡσεὶ περιστερᾶς, καὶ πετασθήσομαι, καὶ καταπαύσω; Ὁ Θεός, τὴν ζωήν μου ἐξήγγειλά σοι, ἔθου τὰ δάκρυά μου ἐνώπιόν σου. Ἐπὶ τῷ Θεῷ ἤλπισα, οὐ φοβηθήσομαι. "Οτι ἐρρύσω τὴν ψυχήν μου ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου, τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς μου ἀπὸ δακρύων, τοὺς πόδας μου ἀπὸ ὀλισθήματος. Ἐκοπίασα κράζων, ἐβραγχίασεν ὁ λάρυγξ μου, ἐξέλιπον οἱ ὀφθαλμοί μου ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐλπίζειν με ἐπὶ τὸν Θεόν μου». Κι' ἀπὸ τὸν πολὺν ἀγῶνα τὸν ἔπαιρνε ὁ ὕπνος κατὰ τὰ ξημερώματα. Κι' ἄνοιγε τὰ μάτια του κ' ἔβλεπε τὴ μέρα ποὺ γλυκοχάραζε καὶ στάλαζε εἰρήνη στὴν καρδιά του, σὰν νἄτανε ἄλλος ἄνθρωπος. Ἔβαζε μὲ τὸν νοῦ του τὸ θρῆνο ποὺ ἔκανε τὴ νύχτα, κ' ἔλεγε μὲ σιγανὴ φωνή: «Τὸ ἑσπέρας αὐλισθήσεται κλαυθμός, καὶ εἰς τὸ πρωὶ ἀγαλλίασις. Κύριος ἐγεννήθη βοηθός μου. Ἔστρεψας τὸν κοπετόν μου εἰς χαρὰν ἐμοί• διέρρηξας τὸν σάκκον μου καὶ περιέζωσάς με εὐφροσύνην». Ἔτσι περνούσανε οἱ μέρες. Καὶ δυνάμωνε ἡ ψυχή του, τόσο, ποὺ ἀποροῦσε καὶ δόξαζε τὸν Θεό. Γιατί ἔφταξε νὰ καλημερίζει τ' ἀγοράκι του ποὺ ἔβγαινε τὸ πρωὶ ἀπὸ τὸ σπίτι του νὰ πάγει νὰ δουλέψει σ' ἕνα τσαγκαράδικο, καὶ τὸ μικρὸ τὸ κοριτσάκι του ποὺ ἤτανε βυζανιάρικο τὸν καιρὸ ποὺ θαλασσοπνίγηκε, πήγαινε κάθε τόσο στὸ κελλί του καὶ τοῦ φιλοῦσε τὸ χέρι καὶ κουβεντιάζανε μαζί. Ἤτανε τότε ὡς ἕξη χρονῶν καὶ τὸ λέγανε Καλλιοπίτσα. Πήγαινε λοιπὸν ἡ Καλλιοπίτσα, στὸν παποῦ, καὶ τοὔδινε κρύο νερὸ ἀπὸ τὴ στέρνα, καὶ σαπούνιζε καὶ τὶς βροῦτσες ποὺ ζωγράφιζε, καὶ δὲν ἤθελε νὰ φύγει ἀπὸ κοντά, σὰ νἄνοιωθε πὼς τὴν τραβοῦσε τὸ αἷμα. Καὶ κεῖ ποὺ μιλούσανε, ὧρες ὧρες γύριζε ὁ Πάτερ Γεράσιμος τὸ πρόσωπό του καὶ σφούγγιζε τὰ μάτια του, κ' ἔλεγε πάλι: «Κτηνώδης ἐγενήθην παρὰ σοί• κἀγὼ διαπαντὸς μετὰ σοῦ, ἤγουν: «Σὰν τ' ἀναίσθητο τὸ ζῶο γίνηκα γιὰ σένα, Θεέ μου, μὰ ἐγὼ παντοτινὰ εἶμαι μαζί σου».
Μιὰ μέρα χτύπησε ἡ πόρτα τοῦ κελλιοῦ του, καὶ σὰν ἄνοιξε, βλέπει μπροστά του τὴ γυναῖκα του. Καὶ σὰν νἄτανε ἀπὸ πέτρα κι' ὄχι ἄνθρωπος μὲ κορμί, δὲν ἀπόδειξε τίποτα, κι' οὔτε ταράχτηκε στὸ παραμικρό. Καὶ κείνη δὲν τὸν γνώρισε ὁλότελα, καὶ τοῦ λέγει: «Καλὴ μέρα, γέροντα», καὶ φίλησε τὸ χέρι του. Καὶ κεῖνος τῆς λέγει: «Ὁ Θεὸς νὰ σὲ εὐλογεῖ, τέκνο μου». Καὶ σὰν μπήκανε μέσα, κάθισε ὁ Πάτερ Γεράσιμος στὸ σκαμνί του, καὶ κείνη κάθισε ντροπαλὴ καὶ πικραμένη στὸ σεντοῦκι. Καὶ θέλοντας νὰ μιλήσει ἡ κακομοῖρα δάκρυσε. Ἡ γυναῖκα ποὺ δὲν τὸν γνώρισε τὸν ἄντρα της, δάκρυσε, καὶ κεῖνος ποὺ τὴ γνώρισε, δὲν δάκρυσε, μήτε ταράχτηκε, μήτε τίποτα ἀπόδειξε, παρὰ καθότανε μὲ χαροποιὸ πρόσωπο, σὰν τοὺς μάρτυρες τὴν ὥρα ποὺ τοὺς καίγανε καὶ ποὺ ξεσκίζανε τὰ κορμιά τους. Λέγει του ἡ γυναίκα δακρυσμένη: «Ἦρθα, γέροντα νὰ σὲ παρακαλέσω νὰ μοῦ φτιάξεις μιὰν εἰκόνα τ' ἅγιου Γιώργη, σὲ μνημόσυνο τοῦ μακαρίτη τ’ἀντρός μου, ποὺ πνίγηκε ἀνήμερα τὰ Χριστούγεννα πρὶν ἀπὸ ἕξη χρόνια». «Μετὰ χαρᾶς», λέγει ὁ καλόγερας. «Βοήθεια σου. Μὰ δὲν εἶναι καλὸ νὰ κλαῖς, γιατί βαραίνεις τὴν ψυχή του. Εἶσαι χήρα γυναῖκα, δὲν θέλω τίποτα γιὰ τὸν κόπο μου». Ἡ γυναίκα τοὔκανε μετάνοια κ' ἔφυγε. Τὴν ἄλλη μέρα πρωὶ πρωὶ ὁ Πάτερ Γεράσιμος ἔβαλε μπροστὰ τὴν εἰκόνα. Ὅσον καιρὸ τὴ δούλευε, τὰ μάτια του τρέχανε σὰν βρύσες, οἱ μπογιὲς μὲ τὰ δάκρυα ἤτανε ζυμωμένες. Στὸ ἀπάνω μέρος ζωγράφισε τὸν ἅγιο Γιώργη ἁρματωμένον καὶ θλιμμένον καβάλλα στ' ἄλογο, κι' ἀπὸ κάτω τὸ θεριὸ λαβωμένο ἀπὸ τὸ κοντάρι του, κ' ἡ βασιλοπούλα κύτταζε τρομαγμένη κ' ἔμοιαζε τὴν Καλλιοπίτσα. Καὶ στὸ κάτω μέρος χώρισε ἕνα μέρος, καὶ ζωγράφισε ἕνα καράβι ποὺ βούλιαζε, καὶ τρεῖς ναῦτες ποὺ θαλασσοπαλεύανε μέσα στ' ἄγρια τὰ κύματα, κ' ἔγραψε: «Τὸ ναυάγιον». Καὶ σὲ μιὰ γωνιὰ ἔγραψε πάλι τοῦτα τὰ λόγια: «Ὑπὲρ ἀναπαύσεως τῆς ψυχῆς τοῦ δούλου τοῦ Θεοῦ Γεωργίου Ἀντρῆ ὅν περ κατέπιε ὑδατόστρωτος τάφος, ἐν ἔτει 1864, μηνὶ Δεκεμβρίῳ 25». Κι' ἀπὸ κάτω ἔγραψε «Διὰ χειρὸς Γερασίμου μοναχοῦ του ἁμαρτωλοῦ. Ἔτους 1870».
Ὕστερα ἀπὸ κανέναν μῆνα, ὁ Πάτερ Γεράσιμος μίσεψε ἀπὸ τὴ Νάξο γιὰ νὰ γυρίσει στὸ Ὅρος. Περνῶντας ἀπὸ τὴ Σύρα ἔγραψε στὴ γυναῖκα του πὼς ἔμαθε ἀπὸ ἕναν ἄλλον καλόγερα πὼς ὁ Καπετὰν Γιώργης ζεῖ καὶ πὼς εἶναι στὸ Ὄρος, καὶ πὼς νὰ στείλει ἐκειπέρα τὸ γυιὸ της τὸν μεγάλο γιὰ νὰ τοῦ δώσει τὶς παραγγελιές του. Σὰν γύρισε πίσω στὴ σκήτη τῆς μετανοίας του, πήρε ἕνα γράμμα ἀπὸ τὸ γυιό του πὼς σὲ λίγες μέρες θὰ πήγαινε νὰ τὸν ἀνταμώσει. Κατέβηκε στὴ Δάφνη καὶ τὸν περίμενε. Σὰν βγῆκε ἀπὸ τὴ βάρκα, τὸν καλωσόρισε ὁ Πάτερ Γεράσιμος. Καθίσανε καὶ κουβεντιάζανε γιὰ τὴ Νάξο, γιὰ τὸ σπίτι τους. Κάθε τόσο ρωτοῦσε τὸ παιδί: «Πότε θἄρθει, γέροντα, ὁ πατέρας μου;» Καὶ κεῖνος τοὔλεγε: «Πῆγε ὡς τοῦ Ξηροποτάμου, κι' ὅπου νἆνε θἄρθει». Πάλι σὲ λίγο ξαναρωτοῦσε : «Πότε θἄρθει, γέροντα, ὁ πατέρας μου;» Ὅπου σὲ μιὰ στιγμή, τὸν πήρανε τὰ δάκρυα τὸν γέροντα, καὶ λέγει τοῦ παιδιοῦ του: «Ἐγώ εἶμαι, παιδί μου, ὁ πατέρας σου, ἐγὼ ἤμουνα μιὰ φορὰ ὁ καπετὰν Γιώργης. Μὰ θἄμουνα πνιγμένος ἂν δὲ μὲ γλύτωνε ὁ Θεός, κ' ἔταξα νὰ γίνω καλόγερας. Τώρα ἐσὺ δὲν εἶσαι ὀρφανό, μὰ ἐγὼ εἶμαι πιὰ πεθαμένος γιὰ τὸν κόσμο. Ἔτσι θέλησε ὁ Παντοδύναμος ποὺ εἶπε πὼς θὰν ἀφήσει γονιοὺς καὶ παιδιὰ καὶ γυναῖκα ὅποιος τὸν ἀγαπᾶ. Γεννηθήτω τὸ θέλημά του».
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LIKE TODAY on Christmas day, back in 1864, there was a big sea storm blowing together with much cold. In the enraged sea,there was not a single sailship to be seen. Only a small caique fought with death in the waters near Tinos island. It belonged to a captain by the name of Yiorgis from the island of Naxos,who had charged wines from the island of Santorini. All day the caique was fighting with the wind, but as it fell dark, the northern wind became even more savage, and broke the granary, and removed the wheel from stitch. The men managed and threw the boat in the sea and entered in. Before they moved even from a riffle shot's distance, the caique sunk. The boat was seized by the storm and it went where ever it was blown in the darkness of the night. The men who were in the boat were besides captain Yiorgis, two sailors, and all of them were in a dreadful situation, wet to the bone, will all that cold hitting on them without any hope that they would be saved. They started crying like babies, and all three made a pledge, that if they were ever to be saved, they would go and become monks. And God heard their begging cries the same way he did for Jonas,because it came from their hearts which were brought to despair. They did not know where they were located, but as day brake started to appear on the sky, they unexpectedly saw the weather getting calm, and that they were situated near the island of Syros.They reached ashore unharmed,and were picked up by some fishermen.They stayed two -three days on Syros, and decided that they had a debt to make by keeping the pledge to become monks.. They sold the boat, and with the little money they got,they went to Mount Athos and all three became monks, without letting their families know that they were saved from the sea storm,since in one way or another,they had died from the world.Captain Yiorgis went and became a hermit at the hermitage of Saint Anna,and reached high levels of ascentism, with prayer, with fasting and with hard suffering of the body, so much so, that his saintliness came to be known all over the Holy Mountain. He also learned the art of painting icons near a geronta (holy man) who was a master in icon painting and with time, he also became an important icon-painter. His wife thought of him as being drowned and each year made his memorial church service.She did not find out that her husband was saved and had become a monk. She put on black clothes of mourning, along with her two oldest children, since the third one was too small, still suckling on her breasts to wear black. And Captain Yiorgis who had now become Father Gerasimos, did not want anybody know anything about him among the persons in his household in fear that he would be overcomed by the love of his children and stop being a monk. However as two- three years had passed, he had strengthened his soul with divine blessing, and wanted to go out from the Holy Mountain for little period of time, as also came out other fathers for asking for alms, and to go to Naxos to see his children and his wife, but without revealing himself. Of course, as he read the life of Saint Ioannis the Kaliviotis, who was the only son and belonged to a noble family, who went secretly and became a monk, and in order to put still more pain in his heart for the love of Christ ,he returned to his house as a house- servant without his parents knowing who he was until he delivered his spirit to God- As father Gerasimos read the life of this saint, he decided for sure that he will go back to Naxos. He therefore took the blessing from his geronta, and he took a caique and went to Paros. He stayed there for one month, and because he had taken with him all his gear for painting, he also painted several icons which people ordered to him. And so much was his dedication, and the respectability of his person, that he become famous in the surrounding islands that the icons he painted were miraculous, because he did not eat oil, except just a drop on Sundays when he did not work, and also ate bread with measure, and even the water that he drunk was taken in measure. His knees were hurt from the penitences which he made all night, and his sleep was only about two hours, and he had his nap sitting above a trunk where he kept his tools, or lying down on the ground. With the very little money that he made form the icon paintings, he spend a little for his upkeep and gave the rest concealedly to the poor. One day two -three devoted Christians came from Naxos and they requested to him to also go to their island. They did not recognize him because his look had changed completely, from the beard and from the long hair and from the very temperate life he led, and from his saintliness. He was very happy, and cried and thanked God, because it was obvious that God's wish was for him to go to his homeland and put his faith on trail and test it.
Father Gerasimos therefore went back to Naxos, six years after he became a monk. The God respecting Christians went down to the habour and took him from the boat, and each one wanted to take him in his house, in order that he has his benediction. Except that Christ showed once again that He considered Father Gerasimos solid in his faith and things turned in such a way that the delegates of the church gave him a room to stay in, which was opposite his house.Not even two or three days passed, and he took orders to paint several icons, and started working painting. During the day he was closed inside his room and did not even look outside the window. Only during the night, when his family turned on the lamp in house, did he in dark, without them being able to see him, did he watch his widowed wife and his children dressed in black, all sitting at the table in order to eat. Then run fountains of tears from his eyes, and would fall in prayer and beg God to hold him with his strong hand in order that he would not loose his strength so that he would be able to withstand this agony which was bigger than what a human being could bear. He Kneeled, and cried, and prayed,and the pain in his heart was such, that he wanted it to come out from his chest like a pigeon and fly away. But fly away to where? To his house or to God, who said "that those who love their father and their mother their wives and their children more from me, they are not worthy of me?" He cried and prayed and thus the days passed. His soul was strengthen so much, that he was in wonder and thanked God, because he reached such levels of strength that he came to say good morning to his little son who came out from his house in mornings, and went to work at the shoe making shop and also to his little daughter who was just a little baby before the time he was almost drowned in the sea. Each day she went to his room and kissed his hand and talked together. She was now just over six years old and her name was Kalliopitsa. Kalliopitsa would therefore go to "grandpa" and would give him cold water from the fountain to drink, and he would also use it to wash his painting brushes with it. She did not want to go away from near him, as if she could feel that they where pulled together by blood. And as they spoke for hours and hours, Father Gerasimos would turn his face around and would wipe the tears from his eyes, and would say to himself "I have become less then an animal for you God, but I am always with you".
One day he heard a knock on the door of his room and when he opened it, he saw his wife standing in front of him. As if he was made from stone and was not a human being with a body and feelings, he did not show any signs of emotion or distress. She in return, did not recognize him, even in the least way and said to him: "Good Morning, holyman", and kissed his hand. And he replied to her: "May God bless you, my child". And after she entered into the room, and sat on the stool, she said shyly and also in grieve. "I came, holyman to request to you to make me an icon of Saint Yiorgis, for the memorial of my deceased husband who was drowned on Christmas Eve six years ago ". "With Pleasure", said the monk. But it is not good that you cry, because you burden your soul. You are a widow, I do not want anything for my labour ". His wife made penitence and left. The other day early in the morning, Father Gerasimos started to paint the icon. All the time he worked, his eyes run like a fountain, the paint was kneaded with his teardrops. On the upper part of the wood, he painted Saint Yiorgis, in his armor sitting on his horse, and at the lower part the beast which was on the ground strucked by the Saint's spear, and next to it, the princess looking frightened was made to have the image of his daughter, Kalliopitsa. Below the beast, he painted a boat sinking, and three sailors who were in the sea fighting with the wild waves. He wrote: "The shipwreck". And in a corner of the icon wrote again these words: "for the resting of the soul of the servant of God Yeorgios Antri who was swallowed by the waves and found his grave at the bottom of the sea, at the year 1864, on the month of December 25". "Μade by the hand of Gerasimos the monk who is a sinner at the Year 1870 ".
After one month, Father Gerasimos left from Naxos in order to return back to Mount Athos. Passing from the Syros he wrote his wife a letter that he had learned from another monk that Captain Yiorgis is alive and that he is now a monk at Mount Athos-the Holy Mountain, and that he is sending his wish for their older son to go and meet him there. After returning back to the Holy Mountain, and to the hermitage of his penitence, he received a letter from his son that in a few days he would come and meet him. Father Gerasimos went down to Dafni-the port of Mount Athos, and waited for him. When his son came out from the boat, Father Gerasimos welcomed him. They sat and talked about Naxos, and about their loved ones. Every now and then,the son would ask : "When will my father come holy man ?" And he would reply to him: "He went to the Monastery of Xiropotamou, and he will be here any time now ". Again after a while his son asked: "When will my father come, holy man?" At that moment, he was overtaken by tears, and the holy man, said to his son: "I am your father my son, οnce I was Captain Yiorgis, but I would have been drowned if God did not save me, and I took an oath to become monk if I survived death. Now you are not a orphan but I am dead for the world. This is what God wanted when He said that who ever loves him, he will leave parents and children and wife and follow him "May his will be realized".
Written by Photis Kontoglou - Translated by NOCTOC