My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
ON NOVEMBER 9TH OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE LIFE OF SAINT NEKTARIOS OF AEGINA (1846-1920)
Our Holy Father Nektarios was born on 1 October 1846 at Selyvria in Thrace, Greece. 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 of 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. They body 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 Aesthetic 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 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 Nicholas. He served as bishop until countless rumors and false accusations were brought up against him.
Saint Nektarios lost nothing of his humility through these honors, and was able to inspire his flock with zeal for the evangelic 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 Patriarchal throne of Alexandria. The Saint made no attempt to justify himself but placed all his hope in the promise of Christ who has 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 where 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 Holy 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 Mysteries (Sacraments), 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. 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-Christians and nuns of their sicknesses, and brought rain to the island in a time of drought. He comforted, consoled and encouraged; he was all things to all men. 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 Christian 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 Latin 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 calumniated 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 Mother of God venerated not far from the monastery, he told his disciples of his coming departure for Heaven and was taken to a hospital in Athens where, after fifty days of suffering borne with a patience that edified all who visited him, he gave up his soul in peace to God on November 8, 1920.
The faithful 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 Ράσον (cassock) of His Master, endured all his life calumnies, 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 intercession. 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 fragrance at the time of their translation in June 1953. This fragrance 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.
The Holy Spirit has enlightened the gathered members of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, under the leadership of H.B. Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, more than a century since Saint Nektarios, the great Teacher and Father of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church was expelled from the Church of Alexandria, to reach the following decision:
"Taking into account the resolution of the Church to rank Saint Nektarios amongst the Saints because of his innumerable miracles and his acceptance within the religious conscience of Orthodox Christians throughout the world, we appeal to the mercy of the Ever-Merciful God.
We hereby restore the ecclesiastical order to the Saint of our century, Saint Nektarios, and grant to him all due credits and honors. We beseech Saint Nektarios to forgive both us, unworthy as we are, and our predecessors, our brothers of the Throne of Alexandria, for opposition to the Saint and for all which, due to human weakness or error, our Holy Father, Bishop of Pentapolis, Saint Nektarios, suffered."
PETROS VII By the Grace of God Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
WRITINGS OF SAINT NEKTARIOS OF AEGINA
Selected Passages From the Writings of Orthodox Saints Compiled by Father Demetrios Serfes
The Christian faith is not a certain philosophic system, about which learned men, trained in metaphysical studies, argue and then espouse or reject, according to the opinion each one has formed. It is faith, established in the souls of men, which ought to be spread to the many and be maintained in their consciousness.
There are truths in Christianity that are above our intellectual comprehension, incapable of being grasped by the finite mind of man. Our intellect takes cognizance of them, becomes convinced of their reality, and testifies about their supernatural existence.
Christianity is a religion of revelation. The Divine reveals its glory only to those who have been perfected through virtue. Christianity teaches perfection through virtue and demands that its 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 so 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.
God reveals Himself to the humble, who live in accordance with virtue. Those who take up the wings of the imagination attempt the flight of Ikaros and have the same end. Those who harbor fantasies do not pray; for he that prays lifts his mind and heart towards God, whereas he that turns to fantasies diverts himself. Those who are addicted to the imagination have withdrawn from God's grace and from the realm of Divine revelation. They have abandoned the heart in which grace is revealed and have surrendered themselves to the imagination, which is devoid of all grace. It is only the heart that receives knowledge about things that are not apprehended by the senses, because God, Who dwells and moves within it, speaks within it and reveals to it the substance of things hoped for.
Seek God daily. But seek Him in your heart, 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 Divine Light illumines the pure heart and the pure intellect, because these are susceptible to receiving Light; whereas impure hearts and intellects, not being susceptible to receiving illumination, have an aversion to the Light of knowledge, the Light of Truth; they like darkness...God loves those who have a pure heart, listens to their prayers, grants them their requests that lead to salvation, reveals Himself to them and teaches the mysteries of the Divine nature.
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God