Saint Nektarios, Bishop of Pentapolis (Part II)

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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.

Writings of Saint Nektarios of Aegina, Metropolitan of Pentapolis [Selected Passages From the Writings of Orthodox Saints. Compiled by Father Demetrios Serfes]

CHRISTIANITY

The Christian faith is not a certain philosophic system, about which learned men, trained in metaphysical studies, argue and then either 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 ort 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 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 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 Those who are addicted to the imagination have withdrawn from God's grace and from the realm of Divine revelation.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.

THE CHURCH

The term church, according to the strict Orthodox view, has two meanings, one of them expressing its doctrinal and religious character, that is, its inner, peculiarity spiritual essence, and the other expressing its external character. Thus, according to the Orthodox confession, the Church is defined in a twofold manner: as a religious institution, and as a religious community (koinonia).

The definition of the church as a religious institution may be formulated thus: The Church is a Divine religious institution of the New Testament, built by our Savior Jesus Christ through His incarnate Dispensation, established upon faith on the day of Holy Pentecost by the Descent of the All-Holy Spirit upon the Holy Disciples and Apostles of the Savior Christ, whom He rendered instruments of Divine grace for the perpetuation of His work of redemption. In this institution is entrusted the totality of revealed truths; in it operates Divine Grace through the Mysteries (Sacraments); in it are regenerated those, who with faith, approach Christ the Savior; in it has been preserved both the written and the unwritten Apostolic teaching and tradition.

The definition of the church as a religious community may be formulated thus: The church is a society of men in the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace.

The right view of the church is that the church is distinguished into the Militant and the Triumphant; and that it is Militant so long as it struggles against wickedness for the prevalence of the good, the Triumphant in the heavens, where there dwells the choir of the Righteous, who struggled and were made perfect in the faith in God and in virtue.

(To be continued)

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My dear brothers and sisters in Christ God,

Saint Nektarios very clearly presents and defines the true character and the Divine mission of Our Holy Church. As Orthodox Christians committed to serving the Only Savior of the world, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we must remain steadfast in faith and in our unconditional love for Him. It is our responsibility to keep our faith free from error and distortion.

The church's mission is to save souls. The church is Christ. The church's voice is the Gospel of Christ. The Church is everlasting life. The church is the way to the kingdom of God. The church is true life. The church is the ark of salvation. The church is sacred and divine. The church is the only hope for humanity.

The authentic and genuine Orthodox Christian believer is reborn and regenerated and through it the believer becomes a member of the body of Christ. Since the Baptismal font is the spiritual womb of the Church, we, who are reborn through the water, and the Spirit, become brothers and sisters in Christ God. We than confess openly that we have one Father when we pray, "Our Father..." Our Mother is the Bride (the church), of Christ.

We are united in Christian love and support and aid each other to attain the Kingdom of God. There is no malice, there is no hatred, there is no bitterness, no resentment, no anger, but love. The church does not belong to a select few but to all of mankind. The ruling power of the church is the power of the Holy Spirit Who guides, illumines, inspires and directs the church.

We must never reduce the church to the buildings and temple of worship of the local parish. It matters not who in the past or present assisted to erect a church building and community center. Nothing belongs to us. We are not the owners but simply the workers and stewards. We have no special rights or privileges, whether we have been part of the parish from its inception or we are new arrivals. Our one and only blessing is to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with faith, humility, meekness, sincerity, and whatever we do, to do it in His Name and for His Glory.

I find it most alarming, sad and disappointing when Orthodox Christians treat each other with disrespect, contempt, and lack of brotherly love. Tragically in recent years some of our parishioners have given in to the influence of the demonic powers and act with hostility and lack of respect toward their brother or sister in Christ. They unfortunately attempt to harass, intimidate, to threaten, to frighten and yes, even, to bully the members of our parish that they consider weak and naïve. The president of the Parish Council was attacked verbally many times and so were some of the other Council members.  

The Saint Andrew's parish has been blessed to have one of the most devout group of Christians who have served this community. They deserve our thanks, respect and support. Hristos Kirgion, the Parish Council President is one of the most wonderful, compassionate, generous, respectful, selfless, and loving human beings I have had the blessing to know and work with. I have the same feelings for all the members of the parish council. The Parish Council and I have mutual respect and a common goal, to serve Christ and our local parish with dignity and integrity. Unfortunately the opposition considers those Christian traits as weakness of character.

Let us pray for the forgiveness and salvation of those parishioners that have been led astray by evil forces.

Our ministry to Christ God continues and we must never lose sight of who we are and we must do for the Glory of God.

With agape,

+Father George