Wednesday, March 3, 2021

How the Greatest and Most Prolific Hymnographer of the Orthodox Church in the 20th Century Received His Talent

Elder Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis as a young monk.
 
Elder Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis, who would become renowned as the Great Hymnographer of the Holy and Great Church of Christ under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, was a young monk of around 22 years of age, when he had been left alone in the Cell of the Honorable Forerunner, in the then forbidding Skete of Little Saint Anna on the Holy Mountain. He had been abandoned by his Elder of four years, Hieromonk Meletios Ioannidis, who, around the year 1927, out of unbridled fervor, joined the Zealots and left the Holy Mountain to fight on the side of the Old Calendarists in Athens. Elder Meletios had asked Monk Gerasimos to leave the Holy Mountain and join him in the world, but the young monk recognized that his Elder had been deluded by the Zealots to leave the place of his repentance to serve as a priest in the world for a cause that was leading towards schism, and not wishing to go back into the world, which he had already forsaken, Gerasimos remained behind alone. 
 
In his time of abandonment and loneliness, which would last around two years, Gerasimos suffered harsh temptations and was attacked by misanthropic demons, which he struggled to endure with "monastic patience", as he put it. He would recall how during this time he lived each day as if it was the last day he would live on earth, causing within him a sense of anxiety which added to the darkness of his lonely nights, and his only comfort at this time was prayer and the study of the Holy Fathers.
 
It was at this time that he saw Christ perceptibly, "shining," as he described in his own words, "brighter than the sun." The Lord said to him: "What is the matter, my son? I have not abandoned you, I am here with you. I tested you and now it is all gone." And the great Gerasimos, who out of humility only revealed this vision to his disciples towards the end of his life with reluctance, said regarding the aftermath of the vision: "Since then I’ve experienced great joy in the Lord and I strive according to my strength to save myself." 
 
On another occasion, when he was relating this story to his spiritual sons, he revealed a remarkable detail: that the Lord appeared to him with the imprints of the nails and the wound in His side. The symbols of the Passion were of great significance. It was at this time that he was given splendidly the gift of hymn-writing, which he did not possess before the vision, similar to how Saint Symeon the New Theologian composed exquisite divine poems in the aftermath of his vision of the uncreated light, and Saint Romanos the Melodist after his vision of the Mother of God was able to compose the most beautiful kontakia. His first hymnographical manuscripts date from that time and were discovered by his disciples after his repose. 
 
His disciple Nektarios would later say that when Elder Gerasimos would talk about Christ, he would say: "Do you know what Christ is? The Sun of Righteousness! A sun that shines beyond a thousand suns." And he would go on to describe God's uncreated light as one who had empirical knowledge of it.
 

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