Poetics of Icon Vol. 5 (Summer) 2020

Blessed Ephraim Katounakiotis

Blessed Ephraim Katounakiotis, acrylic on canvas, Stamatis Skliris, 2020

By God’s grace, I finished the icon of St. Ephraim of Katounakia tonight, Wednesday, June 24, 2020. The Saint received us in about 1968, when we, as medical students – Charalambos, George and Stamatis – went for the first time to Katounakia and we saw this awesome and sweet Elder. His two eyes were Christ-bearing, big, affectionate, but the love that came out of those eyes was “apocalyptic”. He looked at us as if he had so many things to tell us, not knowing from where to start. His body was gigantic and imposing, but he was caressing you with his gaze as a mother when you saw her at your birth. And this giant was lowering and taking you as a mother in his arms. Meanwhile his eyes, this look was as if he was coming towards you, he was coming out of himself and his eyes were sparkling as if he was boasting to you, he was looking at you as someone says to you, “Child, how much you have grown, how great you are!” I have never seen such an encouraging look. And after he spoke to us, we get his blessing and to me who came out last he says: “Bye Papa Stamatis!” At that time, I didn’t know much about church services, vigils, etc., nor, of course, had I thought about priesthood. And when I was ordained, Charalambos and George remembered that had told me so many years ago “Papa Stamatis”, at an unsuspecting moment. As I studied his photographs to make the painting, I did not like two small horizontal wrinkles at the root of his nose, and I thought they were unsightly, so I would paint him without them. But as I painted his eyes, I touched his left eye with my finger, and went to correct the fresh color and pulled my hand with a clumsy motion and made the zigzag color two wrinkles on the nose. So I decided to leave them. You see, I’m “lucky fellow” (τυχεράκιας), too.