During our recent trip to Greece, we made a pilgrimage to the island of Aegina and the Church of Saint Nektarios. Coincidentally, I had just finished reading a book entitled "Saint Nektarios: The Saint of Our Century" by Sotos Chondropoulos. Chondropoulos was a talented Greek novelist who died in 1989. He met Jesus Christ on his personal road to Damascus and subsequently wrote the biography of Nektarios and twelve more biographies of famous Saints of Our Church, always using original sources. The life and words of Saint Nektarios were still fresh in my mind when my wife Anna, my younger son Chris and I made the journey from Pireaus to the bustling island of Aegina. The Church of Saint Nektarios and the adjoining women's monastery are one of the most visited religious sites in Greece.
Saint Nektarios has always held a special fascination for me because my yiayia Evdoxia revered him, spoke to me about him and often urged me to pray for his intercession. In his book entitled "The Faith:Understanding Orthodox Christianity, Clark Carlton says the following: "Since the time of the Protestant Reformation much of Western Christendom has either ignored or rejected outright the intercession of the Mother of God and the Saints for those on earth. In so doing Protestants have forfeited one of the greatest privileges of being Christians. The Apostle James enjoins us to pray for one another, and in the same verse, explains why: the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). It is ironic that those who oppose the idea of seeking the intercession of the Saints in heaven have no objections to asking ordinary sinful Christians to pray for them. But lets us consider whose prayers according to St. James are more effectual, those Christians still alive on earth struggling with their own sins or those who have gone on to be with God and are recognized by the Church for their holiness of life." For a better understanding of the role of the Saints in the Orthodox Church I would recommend Dr. George Bebis' essay here.
In reading about the life of Saint Nektarios one is struck by the parallels between Greece in his era and modern Greece today. The Greek intellectuals and the bourgeoisie of his era were also busy trying to emulate the West in a frantic effort to "modernize" Greece by eliminating its Byzantine past, most notably, its Orthodox religious faith. Saint Nektarios was followed and constantly tested by controversy, rumors and false accusations throughout his life. In every instance he responded with love, humility and forgiveness. He was surrounded by contemporaries within the Church who were scandalized by his penchant for giving away any money he had and for dressing more like a poor monk rather than a prelate of the Church. His shining example not only influenced an entire generation, it continues to do so through his writings and miracles today.
Please don't take my word for it, read what Saint Nektarios has to say for yourself. Click on the continuation of this post to access some of his selected writings.
Selected Writings of Saint Nektarios
Christian religion 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 consciousnesses.
There are truths in Christianity that are above out 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%