July 26, 2017

Saint Gerontios the Athonite, Founder of the Skete of Saint Anna

St. Gerontios the Athonite (Feast Day - July 26)

Though today there are twenty monasteries in the area of Mount Athos, at one time there were many more. Among these was Vouleutirion Monastery which, as the name indicates, was a place of gathering and decision making for the monastics of Mount Athos when the monasteries there were first established in the tenth century. It was placed under the supervision of Saint Athanasios the Athonite and the Great Lavra Monastery by the Roman Emperor Nikephoros Phokas at around 960. It was situated on the southwest side of Mount Athos, on a steep, lush slope at the foot of where Saint Anna's Skete is today, near the shore. Because it was near the shore, in the year 1302 Catalan Spaniards destroyed the monastery in a raid. Today the Hermitage of Saint Eleutherios - Vouleutirion exists where the monastery once stood. It was established in 1769 over the foundations of the previous monastery and remains today under the supervision of Great Lavra Monastery.

The last abbot of Vouleutirion Monastery was Saint Gerontios the Athonite. To escape the raids of the Catalan Spaniards in 1302, he went higher up the rugged cliffs with his disciple to live a life of hesychasm, at the place where the Chapel of Saint Panteleimon is today, which he built. There they lived with much hardship, for that place was without water. The Panagia answered his prayer and brought forth water for drinking from the hard rock. The Saint's disciple, however, began cultivating a garden, disobeying a command of the Theotokos not to do so. Therefore the spring dried up and the Saint was much grieved. When he prayed again the Panagia appeared and told him, "I gave you water for drinking and not for cultivating a garden, which distracts the mind of a monk who seeks stillness."

Hermitage of Saint Eleutherios - Vouleutirion

Nevertheless, with her blessing, water for their needs poured forth once more farther down from their hermitage. The water which poured forth a second time is preserved to this day and is considered a spring of holy water. The water is three inches deep and at its mouth it is like steam. Because it does not have the heaviness of water, if you use it to water plants they will immediately dry up.

Saint Gerontios lived in that place in stillness and prayer till the end of his life. His biography notes that he had a spiritual relationship with his contemporary Saint Maximos of Kavsoklayva. He reposed in peace at an advanced age. Because many hermits and ascetics lived in caves and cells in the rugged area, a hermitage was established around the Chapel of Saint Panteleimon. In 1686 this hermitage became known as the Skete of Saint Anna, which was established to preserve the relic of the left foot of Saint Anna brought there by certain monks that year. Because it was Saint Gerontios that first inhabited and settled in this area, he is consider the founder of the Skete of Saint Anna, which is known as the oldest skete of Mount Athos. A Divine Office was composed in his honor by Monk Gerasimos Mikragannanites.

Skete of Saint Anna

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
You were shown to be praiseworthy in self-control, you received incorrupt praise, bearing O God-bearer Gerontios, the virtues of asceticism with which you were ornamented, being seen as a model of Vouleutirion Monastery. Venerable Father, entreat Christ God, to grant us the great mercy.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Being seen as an example of monastics in Athos, as a divinely-inspired servant, of Christ whom you glorified, to whom you bring each time, those who honor you, Venerable Gerontios.

You are seen as the founder and beauty of the Athonite Skete, of the Grandmother of Christ, and the rule and model, of Vouleutirion Monastery, all-blessed Gerontios, fellow-inhabitant of Angels.