Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE HOLY LIFE AND WORKS OF SAINT NEKTARIOS OF PENTAPOLIS
Saint Nektarios was born on 1 October 1846 at Selyvria in Thrace. His parents, Dimos and Maria Kephalas, were pious Christians but not rich in this world's goods. Their son was baptized Anastasios and, from infancy, showed great piety and love for study. When his mother taught him Psalm 50, he liked to repeat the verse: "I shall teach Thy ways unto the wicked and sinners shall be converted unto Thee." After finishing elementary school, he was sent by his parents to Constantinople to continue his education, at the same time as working in a shop. The boy did not become entangled in worldly cares, but fixed his mind entirely upon building up the inner man in the image of Christ by prayer and meditation on the writings of the holy Fathers.
When he was twenty, he left Constantinople for a teaching post on the island of Chios. The young people and villagers where he taught were encouraged to live in piety and virtue by his words and above all by the example of his ascetic, prayerful life. On November 7, 1876, he became a monk in the famous Monastery of Nea Moni, for he had long desired to embrace the ascetic life. Seeking only those things which are above, he was beloved by all the brethren as the very pattern of gentleness and obedience, and was ordained deacon after one year. Thanks to the generosity of a pious islander and to the protection of Patriarch Sophronius of Alexandria, he was able to complete his studies in Athens and to obtain the diploma of the Faculty of Theology. In 1885, he arrived in Alexandria where he was soon ordained priest, then consecrated Metropolitan of Pentapolis (an ancient diocese in Cyrenaica, in what is now Libya). He was appointed preacher and secretary to the Patriarch, whose representative he became in Cairo, where he had charge of the church of Saint Nikolas.
Saint Nektarios lost nothing of his humility through these honors, and was able to inspire his flock with zeal for the Gospel virtues. But the love and admiration of the people for him turned to his disadvantage. Certain members of the Patriarchate became jealous of his success and, led on by the Devil, put about that he was currying favor with the people with the aim of seating himself on the Patriarchal throne of Alexandria. The Saint made no attempt to justify himself but place all his hopes in the promise of Christ Who said: "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account" (St. Matthew 5:11). He was dismissed from his Episcopal throne; and he embarked for Athens. There he found himself alone, ignored, despised and even lacking his daily bread, for he would keep nothing for himself and gave away what little he had to the poor.
The meek and humble follower of Jesus Christ planned at first to withdraw to Mount Athos but gave up the idea, for he put the salvation of his neighbor before his own love of monastic retreat. He spent several years as a preacher (1891-1894) and was then appointed director of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School for the education of priests. The School's spiritual and intellectual standing rose rapidly under his direction. The students found in him a teacher with a deep knowledge of Scripture, of the holy Fathers, and even of secular learning, and a director who exercised his authority with great kindness and consideration. His administrative and teaching responsibilities--he taught pastoral theology-did not prevent him as a monk from living a life of ascesis, meditation and prayer, nor from fulfilling the high calling of preaching and serving regularly the Holy Mysteria, at the School as well as in the Athens region.
However, there glowed in the depths of his heart a burning love for the peace and quiet of life in the monasteries; and this led him to respond warmly to the desire expressed by some of his spiritual daughters that he should found a women's monastery on the island of Aegina. This he did between 1904 and 1907 and he retired there in 1908, on his resignation as director of the Rizarios School of Theology. Despite countless cares and difficulties, Saint Nektarios saw to the restoration of a type of life that was wholly in the spirit of the ancient Fathers. He gave his utmost bodily and spiritual strength to the construction of the buildings, to divine service and to the spiritual direction of each one of his disciples. They would often see him in his worn-out cassock working in the garden or, when he disappeared for many hours, they would guess he had shut himself in his cell to raise his intellect to God by bringing into his heart, to taste there the sweetness of the Holy Name of Jesus.
Although he desired to flee all contact with the world and strictly limited visits to the Monastery, the fame of his virtues and of his God-given graces spread in the region, and the faithful were drawn to him like iron to a magnet. He healed many lay-people and nuns of their sickness, and brought rain to the island in a time of draught. He comforted, consoled and encouraged; he was all things to all people. He could do all things through Christ Who dwelt in him by the Grace of the Holy Spirit. He kept company with the Saints and with the Mother of God, and they often appeared to him during the Divine Liturgy or in his cell. During the difficult years that followed the First World War, he taught his nuns to rely from day to day on the mercy of God. He utterly forbade them to keep any food in reserve for their use, instructing them to give away to the poor everything that remained over. Saint Nektarios also found time to write a large number of works on theology, ethics and Church History, in order to strengthen the Church of Greece in the Holy Tradition of the Fathers, which was often unknown in those days because of Western influences.
Saint Nektarios lived like an Angel in the flesh with the rays of the uncreated light shining around him, yet once again he was slandered by certain members of the hierarchy who made malicious accusations about his Monastery. He bore these latter trials with the patience of Christ, meekly and without complaint, as he did the painful illness which afflicted him for more than eighteen months before he spoke of it. He thanked God for putting him to the test in this way, and did his best to keep the pain he suffered secret until the last days of his life. After a final pilgrimage to an icon of the Theotokos, he told his disciples of his coming departure for heaven and was taken to a hospital in Athens.
On November 9th, 1920, Saint Nektarios surrendered his spirit to the Lord. However, even in death Saint Nektarios continues to perform miracles, the first of which occurred in the very hospital room in which he fell asleep in the Lord. With the passing of Saint Nektarios, a hospital nurse, assisted by a nun from the Monastery, immediately began to change his clothes and threw his undershirt on the next bed. In this bed lay a paralytic, who once the undershirt landed upon him, was instantly healed and jumped out of bed praising God for his miraculous healing. This was the first of many miracles that Saint Nektarios began to perform immediately after his repose.
The faithful of the island of Aegina, the nuns of his Monastery and all the Christians who had come close to him, mourned the loss of the meek and compassionate disciple of Christ who, in the likeness of the divine suffering of his Master, endured all his life slander, persecutions and false accusations. But God has glorified him, and miracles have abounded since his departure for those who approach his holy relics with faith or who rely on his powerful intercessions. His body remained incorrupt for more than twenty years, distilling a delicate, heavenly scent, and then returned to the earth in the usual way. His holy relics were strongly redolent with the same perfume at the time of their translation in June 1953. This perfume has continued ever since to rejoice the faithful who come to venerate his precious relics with the assurance that Saint Nektarios has been received by God into the abode of the righteous. His veneration was formally recognized in 1961. The list of his miracles grows longer every day, and his shrine at Aegina has become the most popular place of pilgrimage in Greece.
APOLYTIKION (DISMISSAL) HYMN OF SAINT NEKTARIOS. TONE 1ST
O faithful, let us honor Nektarios the divine servant of Christ, offspring of Selyvria and guardian of Aegina, who appeared as a true friend of virtue, pouring forth all manner of healing upon those who reverently cry: Glory to Him Who gave you strength! Glory to Him who granted you a crown! Glory to Him Who through you grants healing to all!
WORKS OF SAINT NEKTARIOS OF PENTAPOLIS AND AEGINA
"Christianity is a religion of revelation. The divine reveals its glory to those who have been perfected through virtue. Christianity teaches perfection through virtue and demands that is followers become holy and perfect. It disapproves of and opposes those who are under the influence of the imagination. He who is truly perfect in virtue becomes through Divine help outside the flesh and the world, and truly enters another, spiritual world; not, however, through the imagination, but through the effulgence of Divine grace. Without grace, without revelation, no man, even the most virtuous, can transcend the flesh and the world."
"Seek God daily. But seek Him in your hearts, not outside it. And when you find Him, stand with fear and trembling, like the Cherubim and the Seraphim, for your heart has become a throne of God. But in order to find God, become humble as dust before the Lord, for the Lord abhors the proud, whereas He visits those that are humble in heart, wherefore He says: "To whom will I look, but to him that is meek and humble in heart?"
"The definition of the Church as a religious community may be formulated thus: The Church is a society of men united in the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace."
"Sacred Tradition is the very Church; without the Sacred Tradition the Church does not exist. Those who deny the Sacred Tradition deny the Church and the preaching of the Apostles."
"It is evident that unbelief is an evil offspring of an evil heart; for the guileless and pure heart everywhere discovers God, every-where discerns Him, and always unhesitatingly believes in His existence. When the man of pure heart looks at the World of Nature, that is, at the sky, the earth, and the sea and at all things in them, and observes the systems constituting them, the infinite multitude of stars of heaven, the innumerable multitudes of birds and quadrupeds and every kind of animal of the earth, the variety of plants on it, the abundance of fish in the sea, he is immediately amazed and exclaims with the Prophet David: "How great are Thy works, O Lord! In wisdom Thou made them all." Such a man, impelled by his pure heart, discovers God also in the World of Grace of the Church, from which the evil man is far removed."
"He who does not know himself does not know God, either. And he who does not know God does not know the truth and the nature of things in general...He who does not know himself continually sins against God and continually moves farther away from Him."
"Man is a composite being, made up of an earthly body and celestial soul..The soul is closely united with the body, yet wholly independent of it. Man is not only reason but also heart."
"Our Church honors Saints not as gods, but as a faithful servants, as holy men and friends of God. It extols the struggles they engaged in and the deeds they performed for the glory of God with the action of His grace, in such a way that all the honor that the Church gives them refers to the Supreme Being, Who has viewed their life on earth with gratification. The Church honors them by commemorating them annually through public celebrations and through the erection of churches in honor of their name. The holy men of God, Who were magnified on earth by the Lord, have been honored by God's holy Church from the very time it was founded by the Savior Christ."
"Repentance signifies regret, change of mind. The distinguishing marks of repentance are contrition, tears, aversion towards sin, and the love of the good."
"Saint Theophylaktos says: 'Train yourself of piety, that is, for pure faith and the right life. Training, then, and continual efforts are necessary; for he who trains exercises until he perspires, even when there is no contest."
"Fasting is an ordinance of the Church, obliging the Christian to observe it on specific days. Concerning fasting, our Savior teaches: 'When thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father Who is in secret: and thy Father, Who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.' From what the Savior teaches we learn (a) that fasting is pleasing to God, and (b) that he who fasts for the uplifting of his mind and heart towards God shall be rewarded by God, Who is a most liberal bestower of Divine gifts, for his devotion."
"True prayer is undistracted, prolonged, performed with a contrite heart and alert intellect. The vehicle of prayer is everywhere humility, and prayer, is a manifestation of humility. For being conscious of our own weakness, we invoke the power of God. Prayer unites one with God, being a divine conversation and spiritual communion with the Being that is most beautiful and highest."
"Do you want to become a partaker of the blessings conferred by divine communion? Do you want your salvation? Become a true Christian, have fear of God, faith in the Mysterion of Divine Communion and love for God and your neighbor."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God