Tuesday, April 9, 2019

An Exemplary Priest, Hieromonk Gerasimos Koutloumousianosketiotes (+ 1991)


By Monk Moses the Athonite

Known as George Stogias in the world, he was born on 26 May 1892 in the village of Plikati on Mount Gramos, at an altitude of 1200 meters, with towering aromatic fir trees and pine trees, many water springs and beautiful forests. In 1908 he went to the Hermitage of Saint Gerasimos the New at the Sacred Skete of Saint Panteleimon-Koutloumousiou [Mount Athos] to learn iconography. His elder was the first subordinate to Elder Hadji-Georgis (+ 1886) and the virtuous Abramios (+ 1915) with his revered brotherhood, who were all from Northern Epirus. There he was tonsured a monk on 9 February 1912, which was the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

As he mentions in his letter dated 9 June 1985 to the Dikaios(1) Elder Anthimos, the skete at that time had eighty fathers. There he was taught the rigorous spiritual life, according to the known tradition of Hadji-Georgis, as well as sacred chanting and iconography. He learned iconography from his fellow brother and second elder the monk George (+ 1938). After two years he became the canonarch(2) of the kyriakon(3) of the skete by the Dikaios Stephen.

Hieromonk Gerasimos with his mother (1926)

In 1925, with the blessing of his Elder, he returned to his homeland. On 1 August 1925 he was ordained a deacon and afterwards a presbyter. Every Saturday he went and did a Paraklesis(4) in the village houses. He was doing twenty Paraklesis' a day. By this he was connecting the residents with the church and the divine services. The pious residents in turn had memorized the Salutations to the Theotokos, the Paraklesis and Compline, which they would repeat daily. Everyone respected and honored him, even the few Muslims of the village that had remained. The Muslims would follow the litanies,(5) they would offer incense in censers, and would bring him oil for the oil lamps of the Panagia.(6) They would even invite him to their home and showed him a particular honor. They had great reverence for the wonderworking icon of the Panagia Plikatiotissa, which he served with love, honor, willingness and cheerfulness over a fifty year period. With emotion he would narrate the many miracles of the Panagia, to all those who venerated her with faith. In 1972 he placed an order for a new service to be composed for the Panagia by the hymnographer Monk Gerasimos Mikragiannanites (+ 1991).

Hieromonk Gerasimos with Hieromonk Onouphrios of Saint Anna.

The late Elder Paisios (+ 1994) knew him well and revered him. When he was at Stomiou Monastery, he had him as his regular liturgist. He described him as an exemplary liturgist of the Highest, with his clean and simple vestments, his innocent reverence, his natural and altogether fervent faith, his love for his small flock, and his unstoppable interest in the spiritual cultivation and elevation of the faithful. The residents of those villages would speak with tears of gratitude for the offering he made with his holy epitrachelion.(7)

The last years of his life he lived in the Monastery of Dourachani in Ioannina and for a while in the Hermitage of the Honorable Forerunner(8) of the Sacred Skete of Saint Anna. He always kept good memories of his first stay on Mount Athos. He reposed in the Monastery of Dourachani on 8 April 1991. He was buried next to the Chapel of Saint Demetrios, which this revered hieromonk built in the beautiful village of Plikati.

Notes:

1. Dikaios = Abbot.

2. Canonarch = Lead Chanter.

3. Kyriakon = Lord's House, or central church of a monastery.

4. Paraklesis = Supplication Service to the Virgin Mary.

5. Litanies = Processions

6. Panagia = All-Holy, a name of honor given by Greeks to the Virgin Mary.

7. Epitrachelion = Stole worn by a priest.

8. Honorable Forerunner = A name of honor given by Greeks for John the Baptist, who was a forerunner of Christ.

Source: Μέγα Γεροντικό ενάρετων αγιορειτών του εικοστού αιώνος ("Great Gerontikon of Virtuous Hagiorites of the Twentieth Century"), vol. 3 1984-2000, pp. 1297-1301. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.


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