Saint Nekarios, the early years
Saint Nektarios ‘ early years were spent at the local school in Silivria. When he was old enough to finish this school he faced a major dilemma. There was nowhere else he could further his education in his home town Silivria.
This problem, together with the fact that he had no money to continue his studies elsewhere, caused the young Anastasi a lot of grief. He had a thirst for knowledge and an ever greater love for God, that drove him. He wanted to become a theologian and wanted to educate himself so that he could love and serve the Lord even more. So with his parent’s blessing, he set off for Constantinople to achieve his goal.
Saint Nektarios went to the port seeking a ship to Constantinople. On finding one he asked the captain if he could board. He was 14 at the time. The captain, seeing that he was so young, told him to go for a walk and come back later.
Anastasi realised that this was a polite refusal, and went away sorrowful.
He watched as the captain started the ship’s engines for departure without him, but to the captain’s dismay, although the engines were running the ship would not move. He increased power but without success. The ship would not budge. The captain could not understand what was occurring and at that moment his eye caught the young Anastasi standing on the quay. Feeling sorry for him, the captain waved the boy onto the ship. Delighted Anastasi jumped aboard and at the moment our “Special” passenger boarded, the ship miraculously set off on its way.
The ship was now in the open sea and when the crew was conducting a ticket inspection. Anastasi was terrified. He realized he had no ticket and no money to pay for one. What should he do? The captain who knew his secret was not near. I will tell the truth, he thought to himself. When asked for a ticket he said:
I am poor. I have no money. I have left my poor parents to seek work so that I can help them.
He was so embarrassed that his cheeks glowed red. But the sailors believed him and other passengers after hearing his story came to his aid. They listened to his life story and problems. One man, in particular, a cousin of a very rich man John Horemis was particularly impressed.
After arriving the next day, he went looking for work in Constantinople. But unfortunately, he found nothing but rejection and indifference. Eventually he found employment in a factory, but being a young boy, his wages were very poor. He was litterly barefoot, his only comfort was the Lord and his prayers.
He watched his employer send letters daily to many people. Sometimes he went to the post office himself to send them off. Anastasi also wanted to write, write a lot, but to whom? With no relatives in Constantinople and no possibility to write to his mother as there was no communication possible with small villages.
The young Saint wanted to tell the world of his problems, how he slaved for a low wage. How he desired to eat and clothe himself, but his earnings were too low. He never lost faith though, so one day he decided to write a letter to the Lord. He wrote:
Dear LORD. Please send me an apron, and some shoes. You know how much I love you.
He sealed the envelope and addressed it to “The Lord Jesus in heaven”. So he set off to post his letter. Just by chance, he was seen by the owner of a nearby business. This man liked Anastasi and admired his spirit and his dedication. The man was also on his way to post a letter. He told the young Anastasi that he would also post his letter for him. Anastasi agreed and gave him the letter. The man put it in his pocket and they parted company.
The man’s curiosity was sparked when he saw to whom Anastasi addressed it. He could not resist his curiosity and opened the young Saints letter and read it. The man’s eyes filled with tears, he decided to fill the envelope with money and sent it back to Anastasi along with a letter containing fatherly advice as to how the money should be wisely spent.
When the letter reached Anastasi, he was overjoyed at the Lord’s immediate reply. The next day he set off to buy clothes and food but his employer, on seeing his new clothes, was furious. He suspected that the boy had been stealing and after beating and screaming at him, he fired him. The boys claim that the money had been sent by the Lord did not wash with his employer.
The businessman who had sent the money found out what happened and immediately called Anastasi’s employer and explained the whole story, thus saving the boy from the sack. So Anastasi continued to work hard, working by day and studying by night. He studied the saints and wrote about their lives on bits of cigarette papers he obtained from the factory where he worked, as he had no money for paper.
After 5 to 6 years in Constantinople, he traveled to Chios. There he became a regular churchgoer. All who met him had the greatest respect for him.
At the age of twenty, he became a teacher at the school in Litheou in Chios. He stayed there for seven years, serving the school, the church, and the local community. The young Saint tried to instill in his pupils, their parents, and the community, his love of God.
Nevertheless, the young Saint Nektarios still yearned for the monastic life. Being a teacher had awakened this dream. Monasticism would give him the opportunity to study the holy scriptures and thus fulfilling his ultimate dream of the priesthood.
The years as a Monk
On the 7th of November 1876, he joined the monastery in Chios as a “brother”. At the age of 30, he took the name, Lazarus. This gave him the opportunity to dedicate himself body and soul to the study of the scriptures and the other works of the church fathers. He was a monk for 5 years, praying, fasting, and studying the scriptures, going without sleep on many occasions
The Metropolitan of Chios Gregory ordained him a deacon in 1877, such was the respect that the young monk had gained. It was then that he took the name Nektarios.
It was at this time that John Horemis, came into the picture. He was the uncle of the unknown man who was on the boat when the young Nektarios was traveling to Constantinople, those many years ago. Horemis had heard of Nektarios and wished to meet him. With a little help of God, it was not long before a meeting was arranged.
Horemis’ first impressions were excellent. He wanted to find someone to sponsor and educate, with the aim of leading Greece’s uneducated masses. He saw in Nektarios not only the man for the job but a man who he could totally trust. Eventually, Horemis told Saint Nektarios of his plans. Nektarios gratefully accepted.
He went to Athens to start his studies. On finishing he went to Alexandria in Egypt near the Patriarch Sophronios, carrying with him the excellent reference of his sponsor John Horemis. The Patriarch was deeply impressed with the humility and the holiness of Nektarios. He asked him if he wanted to continue his studies at the Theological School in Athens so that he could take better care of the needs of the Orthodox Christians of Alexandria. Nektarios accepted and duly enrolled at the school.
Saint Nektarios thanked God day and night for everything. He prayed for Sophronios and all who had helped him. Unfortunately, it was at this happy moment in time for him that Nektarios got a blow, he lost his close friend and benefactor John Horemis.
University of Athens:
In 1882 Nektarios enrolled at the University of Athens. All admired his Christian values, his humility, and his politeness. All respected him. He was their confidante.
Saint Nektarios – The Later Years
On the 23rd of March 1886, Saint Nektarios has officially ordained a priest at the Chuch of St Savva. Five months later he also has ordained an Archimandrite at the Church of St Nicholas in Cairo. The Saint was also the Patriarch’s preacher and secretary. Saint Nektarios was really satisfied and happy as his work was bearing fruits. His words reached into the hearts of his listeners with messages of love, faith, and salvation. Wherever he preached, the church was overflowing with people. The Patriarch Sophronios was really pleased with him.
On the 15th of January 1889 at the Church of St Nicholas in Cairo he became Metropolitan Pentapoleos of Livi. He carried on with his tasks with great enthusiasm and zeal. His fame spread.
However, it was at this moment in time that dark clouds appeared on the horizon. Some of the other clergy in Alexandria disliked Nektarios and conspired against him. They feared that he would become the next Patriarch and they told Sophronios that he desired his throne. Their objective was to get Nektarios out of the Church in Alexandria.
The Patriarch, with no evidence against Saint Nektarios, issued a decree on the 3rd of May 1890. Nektarios was to lose his authority in the church. He could keep his priesthood and could stay in his room in Cairo. Also, he could conduct weddings, christenings, and funerals, memorials, and feast days, but he could not move freely in Cairo without permission. The so-called evidence against him was flimsy, to say the least.
When he was at a dinner party, a toast to the “next patriarch” was raised. Apparently, Nektarios had acknowledged the toast with a thank you.
Sophronios was misled. Nektarios left for Athens, where he received refuge from the Metropolitan of Athens, Germanos, who sympathized with him and gave him economic support within limited bounds.
On the 11th of July 1890, he was totally exiled from Cairo by the Patriarch. He had no money and no savings. He always believed that faith was enough. He was at peace with himself, keeping the pain and grief that he felt within him, forgiving his enemies, and in constant prayer
In Athens references from Cairo were required by the church council. Cairo replied very scathingly about Nektarios, saying namely that he was a troublemaker and the Patriarch had thought fit to exile him from Egypt.
On the 11th of March 1895, Nektarios wrote to the Patriarch, refering to the scathing references that the Cairo office had sent. He pleaded his innocence before God. He had done nothing wrong. He asked for proof of his wrongdoing and wanted to know who his accusers were. What had he been accused of? What was the justification for exile?
He stressed that as God was his witness and his judge, he had done nothing wrong. His letter achieved nothing. His enemies continued to criticize him, to talk about him, and to debate him.
In Athens Saint Nektarios searched for work for a year to no avail. He was short of food and money. He was depressed and downhearted. In desperation, he went to the Ministry of Education and asked for a post as a preacher in whatever area was available. The minister advised him that even though there was a great need for preachers in Greece, he could not employ someone who did not have Greek Citizenship. With his eyes full of tears, Saint Nektarios left.
As he left the Ministry, Nektarios met an old man whom he knew, Melan. The old man saw that Saint Nektarios was upset and asked him what the problem was. Nektarios told all. Within a few minutes, Nektarios had been persuaded to return to the Ministry. Melan was furious with the Minister. Nektarios clearly had all the qualifications and qualities that were required and Melan made sure that the Minister knew it in no uncertain terms.
The Minister eventually caved in, and Nektarios was given a post in Halkida. Saint Nektarios was overjoyed to accept this humble position in God’s Church.
His first sermon in Halkida was met with indifference, gossiping parishioners not listening to his words. His “infamy” had spread even to Halkida. He was upset but not without hope. The same thing happened on the second Sunday. He made up his mind to try one more Sunday. If the same thing happened he would leave.
The winds of Change
During that week a change in the prevalent attitude of the Archbishopric in Athens and the Ministry of Education was taking place. Had Nektarios been wrongly accused? Was he a victim?
Nektarios had in his hands his letter of dismissal, but he would not show it so as not to hurt the Patriarch. The truth, however, could not be hidden forever. He had supposedly left Cairo for climatic reasons.
Over 900 people signed a petition in Alexandria. All these people could not be wrong. They were upset that he had left Egypt. The petition spoke of him as one of the church’s best priests, of his tireless efforts for the needy, his humility, his Christian love. These people cared about him. They wrote to their relatives in Greece, they talked about him, they asked for news of him. The truth was out. The people were overjoyed when hearing the truth.
On the third Sunday in church, everything went well. Total silence during the sermon. His words touched the hearts of his listeners. He stayed there for two and a half years saving souls. Everywhere he went he was loved and respected. He was admired by all ages. Everyone was sad when he left.
The Rizariou Ecclesiastical school
He eventually became the headmaster of the Rizariou Ecclesiastical school. Some of his pupils are still alive today and they remember him with the utmost respect and love. The school had an inner calm whilst he was there. He stayed for sixteen years.
During this time he put all his energies into building a monastery for women at Aegina. This was to be called the Holy Trinity Monastery. Even after his death he never ceased to guide the nuns there, and heal the illnesses of all who came to him and asked for help.
When he eventually left the Rizariou, the council voted to give him 250 drachmas for life per month for his services to the school.
The Holy Trinity Monastery at Aegina
At first, there were only three nuns at the monastery Xeni, Akakia, and Kassiani. Others joined afterward including Eftihia, Filothei, Anastasia, Magdalene, Efpraxia, and Sinklitiki.
Nektarios lived as a true monk at the monastery. He worked in the gardens and studied. He fixed the shoes of the nuns. He prayed. He was loved by all. His fame spread. He held liturgies to stop droughts. He healed the sick and the possessed. He helped those in mourning, held confession.
Other nuns joined the monastery including Efimia, Fevronia, Christofora, Christodouli, Theodosia, Athanasia, Parthenia, Magdalene, and Nektaria.
Saint Nektarios was in the monastery for 12 years.
He became ill with prostate problems and for one and a half years he was in severe pain. The Saint kept his illness a secret all the way until his death. Eventually, he revealed his pain to the nuns who prayed for him.
One day he told Nektaria that he wished to bless his monastery and the Christian island of Aegina for he was soon to leave. When Nektaria asked him where he was going, he said “to heaven.”
The pain became unbearable, and he was moved to a hospital in Athens.
On the 30th of September 1920, Efimia took Nektarios to the hospital. The clerk asked her for some personal details for his records. When she told him that Saint Nektarios was a bishop, he refused to believe her.
It’s the first time I have seen a bishop without a gold cross and without money, he said.
Efimia reiterated that Nektarios was “His Holiness the Metropolitan Nektarios Kefalas.” Eventually, the clerk believed her, he had grown accustomed to rich bishops and was surprised that Saint Nektarious was so humble.
Nektarios was put in a third classroom with a few other beds. He lived for two months in the hospital in severe pain. He died at 22:30 PM on the 8th of november 1920. He was 74 years old.
In the last few days of his life, St Nektarios was in a ward with many sick people.
After his death, one of the nurses along with Efimia were preparing the body for transportation to Aegina. They put clean clothes on him, and took off his old shirt, putting it on a nearby bed, occupied by a man who had been paralyzed for many years. The paralysed man stood up praising God.
This is attributed as the first miracle after Nektarios died.
The body was taken to a local church waiting for transportation to Aegina. The people of Aegina met the funeral cortege in tears. They lined the streets and carried his body on foot to the monastery. Everyone said he felt as light as a feather. The nuns put the body in the small church and the funeral liturgy was chanted all night.
Many people filled the church. The church was full of candles, yet the body had not started to decay. Nektarios had died about thirty to forty hours previously. His forehead was sweating, and a sweet smell filled the church.
He was buried some 48 hours after his death. His body showed absolutely no signs of decay, these were the first signs of his sainthood. His corpse was very elastic, and no rigor mortise had set in. For six months after he died, no one was admitted into the ward where he passed away, because of the sweet smell which filled the room. Many of the nuns saw him after his death.
One and a half years later his tomb was opened in the presence of many witnesses. The nun Theodosia, a local policeman George Zevoulakos, amongst them. His body had not decayed. Archbishop Chrysostomos visited the tomb and observed likewise.
The doctor of Aegina George Ksidea told of what he witnessed. One day in October 1923, after a visit to a patient, he was passing the monastery. It was raining heavily, so he stood under a tree. The rain would not stop and it was getting darker. He thought of going to the monastery to spend the night. The nuns welcomed him and prepared food and a room. He went to pay his respects to the Saints tomb, accompanied by a nun who had a torch.
Without respecting the laws of the church, he pushed back the marble top of the tomb using all his strength, partly out of curiosity after what he had heard. Nektarios looked asleep. His body showed no sign of decay. His beard was growing. No rigor mortise had set in. The doctor could not pull any hair from the Saints beard.
Saint Nectarios ‘ Miracles
From Chio to Mitilini
When Anastasi was a small boy, his father, himself, and two other children were on a trip by boat from Chios to Mitilini (Lesbos). A huge storm threatened to sink the boat. Anastasi was asleep, and the two other children asked their father if they should wake him. His father replied that they should let him sleep so that he did not awake to see them all drown. People on the shore were watching the small boat battling against the elements. They lost it in the huge waves and assumed it had gone down. The winds had cut the ropes to the sail. Anastasi awoke and somehow managed to tie the sail with his belt. The boat managed to drift into Mitilini harbor and all were saved.
His mother had gone into mourning thinking that her husband and three of her children were dead. She was overjoyed when they all returned home safely to her. Her husband told her the story of Anastasi’s bravery. He was convinced the young boy would one day be a Saint.
Anastasi loved his grandmother and would always recite her prayers with her. He told her she would not die until he gave her Holy Communion. This is exactly what happened. He became a priest. His grandmother lived until he had given her the Sacraments.
At a young age, he was on a ship bound for the Holyland. A storm blew up and the ship was in danger of sinking. The captain gave the order to put on the life jackets. The young Anastasi was ready along with everyone to abandon ship, seeing there was no way out. All the passengers and the crew were waiting anxiously for the captain to give the order. Anastasi went to the captain and calmly took control of the wheel. With tears in his eyes he said:
Lord, I do not want to die. I want to spread your name amongst the people. Why are you allowing this to happen?
He said this many times over and over again. He took off his cross, a present from his grandmother, tied it to his belt, and dipped it into the sea, ordering the sea to be calm. To the surprise of all the storm stopped. Everyone was amazed. There was great joy on the ship. Everyone was praising God.
Anastasi was sad that he had lost his grandmother’s cross. As the ship continued on its journey, banging was heard from the side of the ship. The captain sent his crew to investigate what was causing the noise but they found nothing. Eventually, the ship reached port. Everyone disembarked. As everyone was leaving, the banging was heard again. The captain ordered a thorough search. After some time, they found Anastasi’s cross stuck to the ship. The sailor who found the cross called the captain, the Captain took off to tell Anastasi. The young Saint Nektarios was overjoyed he got his cross back.
These are just some of the miracles surrounding Saint Nektarios. I would like to recommend a book which is witness to many more. You can read about them in the book: – Ouden Aniaton Dia Ton Agion Nektarion