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Chanter Ioannis Kritikos stands reverently next to the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, ‘Axion Esti’, at the Protato of Mount Athos. (Photos: Curtesy of Ioannis Kritikos)
BOSTON – Ioannis Kritikos, a chanter, described his recent visit to Mount Athos as a “unique experience.” He visited the Holy Mountain for the first time together with Abbott Daniel Zografos of the Holy Monastery of Atros-Poros, Kefalonia. Kritikos was for a number of years chanter at the Saint Spyridon Cathedral of the city of Worcester, MA. He visited the Protato – the administrative centre of the Holy Mountain – some monasteries, and revered and holy Elders. He said, “I was very impressed by the monasteries. I saw and appreciated the silence and the need for prayer as a result of it.”
His visit started from the Protato, where he had the blessing to worship the icon of ‘Axion Esti’. “They were unique moments. Let me confide to you that I chanted in front of the icon of the Virgin Mary, the hymn of ‘Axion Esti’.” He added that, “we went to the Koutloumousiou Monastery for a short visit but we didn’t see many things because of the time of the day. However, we were able to see the beauty of the church’s catholicon.”
From there, Kritikos and Abbott Daniel visited a Saintly figure of Mount Athos, The Elder Gabriel. He said that “his small Skete is in the middle between the Protato and the Skete of Saint Paisios. He lives in a small skete, alone. He is weak, bedridden I would say, yet he attracts many visitors because everything he says is divinely inspired. He expressed his concern about Greece. I asked him if there is any hope for bettering of Greece and he replied, “of course, we always have hope. When we fully repent, God will look again on our homeland.” He was very also concerned about the direction of the church based of the what he sees as deviation from traditional ways.
They also visited the little house of Saint Paisios. “It was very emotional. They have built a small church in there and there is the pew where Elder Paisios used to sit and pray, Kratikos said.
Asked who takes care of Elder Gabriel since in the photo, we see him bedridden, he said that “some [people] often go from the Koutloumousiou Monastery and serve him, meeting some of his needs, but for the most part he is alone.”
Continuing about his experiences there, Kritikos said that “after a two-hour walk, we arrived at the Monastery of Iviron at the time of serving dinner. They invited us in and we sat and ate with them. I also met the Abbot Nathanael, who happens to come from the same island as me. We spent the night there and venerated the icon of Portaitissa. We went again back to the Protato and from there to the Monastery of Saint Paul, where Abbot Parthenios, 92 years of age is the spiritual father of the Abbott Daniel. When we arrived, we were told that he had just gone to rest because he had been working in the field since morning. In the evening we went to the vigil which started at 7 in the evening. I left around 1 in the morning and Orthros ended at 2 AM. The next day the Liturgy started at 8 o’clock and ended at noon. I was impressed that at night, during the vigil, Abbot Parthenios with a candle in his hand went around to see who was present or not at the Holy Service.”
Kritikos added that “although I have grown up in the Church, I never lived this immersive experience of the mystique of our Liturgies.”
Kritikos said that Abbot Parthenios of the Monastery of Saint Paul “is a special personality, a tireless worker of the Church and the Monastery, full of love for the people, the monks, and the Church in general. He is very concerned about the state of the Church, its struggles and the direction that is going. He asked me what was going on in America? I told him; he became aware of our situation and he shook his head.”
Kritikos is originally from the island of Kos and came to the United States in 1973. He visits his beloved hometown of Kos every year. He is now retired, but once had own business, dealing with restaurant equipment and supplies, known as Kritikos Enterprises.
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