December 29, 2022

Saint Bessarion of Agathonos Remembers the Christmas of 1941

 By Dr. Haralambos Bousias

It was a few days before Christmas in the year 1988. In the Guesthouse of the Agathonos Monastery which has a hanging fireplace, Elder Bessarion was reading a Christian publication. He was engrossed and seemed moved.

Suddenly the current Abbot, Father Damaskenos, who was sitting near him and writing Christmas cards, realized that the Elder was crying and trying to wipe away his tears.

"Why are you crying, my father?" he asked him.

"I'm fine, my child," he replied, "don't worry!"

"But you're crying, my father! Tell me why are you crying. Is something wrong with you?"

"No, my child! You see, I remembered something. May those dark years of occupation, impoverishment, and hunger never return to our country.

I remember something that happened to me during the Divine Liturgy of Christmas 1941, in a mountain village of Karditsa, where I was pastor at the time.

When I went out to the Beautiful Gate with the Holy Chalice in my hands and said 'With the fear of God, faith and love draw near,' all the villagers started coming for Divine Communion, with their children leading them.

A young mother brought her skeletal child before me. She opened her little mouth and waited for the Divine Pearl; she waited to partake of the Body and Blood of our Christ.

She told me her name and I communed her. But, instead of moving away, she held tightly, with her emaciated little hands, the sacred cloth, the red handkerchief with which we wipe our mouths after Divine Communion, and cried to me with tears:

'And more, my father, and more!'

My little child was hungry! My knees buckled and a tremor spread throughout my body. My eyes were filled with tears and so that the faithful could not see I turned towards the Holy Altar. I left the Holy Chalice and sat on a stool. I wept and said with human pain:

'Why did you, my God, let our country come to such misery? Take pity, Lord, on our children!'"

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.