Tuesday, July 14, 2009

St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain

Icon of St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite (taken from: http://agioritikesmnimes.pblogs.gr/files/f/247413-02.jpg)
St. Nikodemos the Righteous of the Holy Mountain - Commemorated on July 14
"Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain was born on the Greek island of Naxos in the year 1748, and was named Nicholas at Baptism. At the age of twenty-six, he arrived on Mount Athos and received the monastic tonsure in the Dionysiou monastery with the name Nicodemus.

As his first obedience, Nicodemus served as his monastery's secretary. Two years after his entry into the Dionysiou monastery, the Metropolitan of Corinth, St Macarius Notaras (April 17), arrived there, and he assigned the young monk to edit the manuscript of the PHILOKALIA, which he found in 1777 at the Vatopedi monastery. Editing this book was the beginning of many years of literary work by St Nicodemus. The young monk soon moved to the Pantokrator skete, where he was under obedience to the Elder Arsenius of the Peloponnesos, under whose guidance he zealously studied Holy Scripture and the works of the Holy Fathers.

In 1783 St. Nicodemus was tonsured to the Great Schema, and he lived in complete silence for six years. When St Macarius of Corinth next visited Athos, he gave the obedience of editing of the writings of St. Symeon the New Theologian to St. Nicodemus, who gave up his ascetic silence and occupied himself once more with literary work. From that time until his death he continued zealously to toil in this endeavor.

Not long before his repose, Father Nicodemus, worn out by his literary work and ascetic efforts, went to live at the skete of the iconographers Hieromonks Stephen and Neophytus Skourtaius, who were brothers by birth. He asked them to help in the publication of his works, since he was hindered by his infirmity. There St. Nicodemus peacefully fell asleep in the Lord on July 14, 1809.

According to the testimony of his contemporaries, St. Nicodemus was a simple man, without malice, unassuming, and distinguished by his profound concentration. He possessed remarkable mental abilities: he knew the Holy Scriptures by heart, remembering even the chapter, verse and page, and he could even recite long passages from the writings of the Holy Fathers from memory.

Icon of St. Nikodemos (taken from: http://agioritikesmnimes.pblogs.gr/files/f/247357-00.jpg)
The literary work of St. Nicodemus was varied. He wrote a preface to the PHILOKALIA, and short lives of the ascetics. Among the saint's ascetical works, his edition of Lorenzo Scupoli's book, UNSEEN WARFARE is well known, and has been translated into Russian, English, and other languages. A remarkable work of the ascetic was his MANUAL OF CONFESSION (Venice, 1794, 1804, etc.), summarized in his treatise, "Three Discourses on Repentance". His most edifying book CHRISTIAN MORALITY was published in Venice in 1803.

The saint also made great contributions by publishing liturgical books. Using materials from the manuscript collections of Mt Athos, he published sixty-two Canons to the Most Holy Theotokos under the title, NEW THEOTOKARION (Venice, 1796, 1849). St. Nicodemus prepared a new edition of the the PEDALION or RUDDER, comprised of the canons of the Holy Apostles, of the holy Ecumenical and Local Synods, and of the holy Fathers.

St Nicodemus had a special love for hagiography, as attested by his work, NEW EKLOGION (Venice, 1803), and his posthumous book, THE NEW SYNAXARION in three volumes (Venice, 1819). He completed a Modern Greek translation of a book by St Theophylact, Archbishop of Bulgaria, PAUL'S FOURTEEN EPISTLES in three volumes. St. Nicodemus himself wrote AN INTERPRETATION OF THE SEVEN CATHOLIC EPISTLES (also published at Venice in 1806 and 1819).
Icon of St. Nikodemos holding an icon of the Most-Holy Theotokos (most likely the icon of the Theotokos "Gorgoepikoos" ("Quick-to-hear") from the Monastery of Docheiariou (http://www.mountathos.gr/active.aspx?mode=en{6adcc17a-9146-449a-8d53-5b1683f4825e}View), which he composed the service to) (taken from: http://agioritikesmnimes.pblogs.gr/files/f/247414-03.jpg)

The exceedingly wise Nicodemus is also known as the author and interpreter of hymns. His Canon in honor of the Mother of God "Quick to Hear" (November 9) and his "Service and Encomium in Honor of the Fathers who Shone on the Holy Mountain of Athos" are used even beyond the Holy Mountain. Some of his other books include the HEORTODROMION, an interpretation of the Canons which are sung on Feasts of the Lord and of the Mother of God (Venice, 1836), and THE NEW LADDER, an interpretation of the 75 Hymns of Degrees (Anabathmoi) of the liturgical book called the OKTOECHOS (Constantinople, 1844)." (taken from:http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102028)
Selected Quotes from St. Nikodemos
"The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Christian when he is baptized acts and is manifested in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord. That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts with him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less. Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more fire wood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by the passions and sins, and the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart, illumines and deifies him. Christian Morality, p. 343. Quoted in Cavarnos, 133-134.

"Those, on the other hand, who dwell in the wilderness and lead the quiet life, despise all the pleasures which others long form, as harmful to the soul and separating it from God. They withdraw their mind from every distraction and contemplation of the world, and gather it into their heart; and there they pray unceasingly, meditating on the dearest and sweetest name of Jesus, saying lovingly: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me.” Through this unceasing prayer and frequent meditation on the name of Jesus they kindle in their heart the aspiration and eros for God, and turn their mind to the contemplation of the Divine beauty. Being thus enraptured by that surpassing beauty, and becoming ecstatic, they forget food, drink, and clothes. The New Ladder, pp. 37-38. Quoted in Cavarnos, pp. 136-137

"There is no other virtue that is either higher or more necessary than sacred Prayer, because all the other virtues—I mean fasting, vigils, sleeping on the ground, ascesis, chastity, almsgiving, and all the rest—even though they are ways of imitating God, even though they cannot be taken away from us and constitute the immortal ornaments of the soul—do not unite man with God, but only render man fit to be united. Sacred Prayer, and it alone, unites. It alone joins man with God and God with man, and makes the two one spirit." Anthology from the Psalms of the Prophet-king David, Proem. Quoted by Cavarnos, p. 139.
(above three quotes taken from: http://www.bombaxo.com/blog/?p=1206)
"My brother sinner, this is the preparation you must undergo before you repent and go to confession. Know firstly that repentance, according to St. John of Damaskos, is a returning from the devil to God, which comes about through pain and ascesis. So you also, my beloved, if you wish to repent properly, must depart from the devil and from diabolical works and return to God and to the life proper to God. You must forsake sin, which is against nature, and return to virtue, which is according to nature. You must hate wickedness so much, that you say along with David: “Unrighteousness have I hated and abhorred” (Ps. 118:163), and instead, you must love the good and the commandments of the Lord so much, that you also say along with David: “But Thy law have I loved” (ibid.), and again: “Therefore have I loved Thy commandments more than gold and topaz” (Ps. 118:127). In brief, the Holy Spirit informs you through the wise Sirach what in fact true repentance is, saying: “Turn to the Lord and forsake your sins… Return to the Most High, and turn away from iniquity, and hate abominations intensely” (Sir. 17:25-26)...And just as hunters are not satisfied with merely finding a beast in the forest, but attempt through every means to also kill it, likewise, my brother sinner, you should also not be satisfied with merely examining your conscience and with finding your sins, for this profits you little, but struggle by every means to kill your sins through the grief in your heart, namely, through contrition and affliction. And in order to acquire contrition, consider how much you have wronged God through your sins. In order to also acquire affliction, consider how much you have wronged yourself through your sins." (excerpt from the Exomologetarion, taken from: http://uncutmountain.com/index.php/uncut/pages/C33/)

Picture of the Monastery of St. Nikodemos, Goumenissa (northern Greece), where relics of St. Nikodemos are treasured (taken from: http://ne.pasok.gr/wp-users/kilkis/Osios_Nikodimos_.jpg)
The works of St. Nikodemos (in Greek, many of which have been translated)

α. Αγιολογικά (Lives of the Saints):
1. «Νέον Εκλόγιον», 1797 στην έρημο της Καψάλας, έκδοση το 1803.
2. «Νέο Μαρτυρολόγιο», 1797 στην έρημο της Καψάλας, έκδοση το 1799.
3. «Συναξαριστής των Δώδεκα μηνών του Ενιαυτού», 1805-1807, στην Ι. Μ. Παντοκράτορα.

β). Απολογητικά (Apologetics):
1. «Απολογία περί της Κυρίας ημών Θεοτόκου», 1799 στην έρημο της Καψάλας.
2. «Ομολογία Πίστεως», 1805 στην Ι. Σκήτη Παντοκράτορα.

γ). Ασκητικά (Asceticism):1. «Φιλοκαλία των ιερών νηπτικών», 1777 στις Καρυές, έκδοση το 1782.
2. «Ευεργετινός», 1777 στις Καρυές, έκδοση το 1794.
3. «Βίβλος Βαρσανοουφίου και Ιωάννου», 1797 στη καλύβα Άγιος Βασίλειος στην έρημο της Καψάλας, έκδοση το1805.

δ). Εποικοδομητικά – Ηθικά (Constructive / Ethical works):
1. «Περί συνεχούς θείας Μεταλήψεως των αχράντων του Χριστού Μυστηρίων», 1778 στις κελί Άγιος Αντώνιος, έκδοση το 1794.
2. «Βιβλίον καλούμενον Αόρατος πόλεμος», 1785 στην Ι. Σκήτη Παντοκράτορα, έκδοση το 1796. 3. «Πνευματικά γυμνάσματα», 1785 στο ίδιο μέρος.
4. «Επιτομή εκ των Προφητανακτοδαυϊτικών ψαλμών», 1797 στη καλύβα Άγιος Βασίλειος (Καψάλα).
5. «Χρηστοήθεια», 1798 στο ίδιο μέρος.

ε). Ερνηνευτικά:
1. «Αι δεκατέσσαρες Επιστολαί του Αποστ. Παύλου», 1797 στη καλύβα Άγιος Βασίλειος, έκδοση το 1804.
2. «Ψαλτήριον Ευθυμίου Ζυγαβηνού», 1797 στο ίδιο μέρος.
3. «Κήπος χαρίτων», 1798 στο ίδιο μέρος.
4. «Επτά καθολικαί επιστολαί», 1799 στο ίδιο μέρος.
5. «Νέα Κλίμαξ», 1806 στην έρημο της Καψάλας.
6. «Εορτοδρόμιον», 1806 στο ίδιο μέρος.

στ). Θεολογικά (Theological works):
1. «Αλφαβηταλφάβητος», 1778-1779 στην Ι. Σκήτη του Παντοκράτορα.
2. «Συμεών του Νέου Θεολόγου Άπαντα, 1784 στην Ι. Σκήτη του Παντοκράτορα και συμπλήρωση το 1794 στη καλύβα Άγιος Βασίλειος.
3. «Άπαντα Γρηγορίου του Παλαμά»,1787 στη Καψάλα.

ζ). Ποιμαντικά – κανονικά (Pastoral - Canonical works):
1. «Συμβουλευτικόν εγχειρίδιον περί φυλακής των πέντε αισθήσεων», 1781-1782 στο τόπο εξορίας του, δηλ. στην ερημόνησο Σκυροπούλα Βορίων Σποράδων, έκδοση το 1801.
2. «Εξομολογητάριον», 1784 στη Ι. Σκήτη του Παντοκράτορα και συμπλήρωση το 1794 στη καλύβα Άγιος Βασίλειος.
3. «Πηδάλιον», 1793 στη καλύβα του γερο-Λουκά Ι. Μ. Παντοκράτορα, έκδοση το 1800.

η). Ποιητικά (Poetics):1. Επιγράμματα – Ποιήματα.
2. Λειτουργικοί Ύμνοι και Εγκώμια.
3. «Νέον Θεοτοκάριον κλπ. 1795 στην Ι. Σκήτη Παντοκράτορα

On the relics of St. Nikodemos
"Many visitors to the Holy Mountain don't know that in Karyes, the Cell, of the Skourtaion, houses the relics of his Holy Skull, and due to this ignorance they are deprived of the blessing of this treasure...The Holy Skull of Saint Nikodemos is kept by Father Ananias, over 90 years old in our opinion. Furthermore it is Father Ananias' efforts to erect a church in Saint Nikodemos' name. " (taken from: http://www.saintnicodemos.org/articles/saintnikodemoshagioritearticle.php). In addition, there is a monastery dedicated to St. Nikodemos in Goumenissa, along with a church dedicated to him in the Chora of the island of Naxos, where he was born, both of which have relics of him.

Reliquary with relics of St. Nikodemos, from the island of Naxos, his place of birth (taken from: http://eortia.pblogs.gr/files/f/219215-%CE%9B%CE%B5%CE%B9%CF%88%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%BF%CE%B8%CE%AE%CE%BA%CE%B7.jpg)
Today (July 14th 2009) is the 200th anniversary of St. Nikodemos' repose. Thankfully, the awareness and appreciation of such a great saint and father of our Church has continued to increase over recent years. The life of St. Nikodemos has been published by Constantine Cavarnos as part of his Modern Orthodox Saints series. The incredible Philokalia have become very widely circulated. The Rudder (Pedalion), or collections of the holy canons of the Church are studied and used by many. The lives of the saints written and compiled by him, especially those of many new martyrs of the Church (Neo Martyrologion), are being included in many different compilations of hagiographies (e.g. in the Great Synaxaristes from Holy Apostles Convent). Three of the works of St. Nikodemos have just been published by Uncut Mountain Press: Concerning Frequent Communion (http://www.uncutmountainsupply.com/proddetail.asp?prod=CFC), the Exomologetarion - A Manual of Confession (http://www.uncutmountainsupply.com/proddetail.asp?prod=EXOMO), and Confession of Faith (http://www.uncutmountainsupply.com/proddetail.asp?prod=COF).

Note: St. Nikodemos, as one of the foremost of the Kollyvades movement, is also celebrated in the Synaxis of the Kollyvades Fathers on Bright Saturday (see an earlier post here: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/04/synaxis-of-holy-kollyvades-fathers.html).
The Paraklesis and Akathist to St. Nikodemos (in Greek) are available here, respectively: http://voutsinasilias.blogspot.com/2009/07/14-1.html, http://voutsinasilias.blogspot.com/2009/07/14-2.html. And finally, here is a list of festivities planned on the island of Naxos to celebrate St. Nikodemos (in Greek): http://www.i-m-paronaxias.gr/events/index.html.
May St. Nikodemos intercede for all of us and help us!

Icon of St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain (taken from: http://agioritikesmnimes.pblogs.gr/files/f/247417-06.jpg)

Apolytikion of St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain - Third Tone
Thou hast been shown to be a godly clarion of holy oracles, teaching us righteousness. Thou wast adorned with wisdom's grace, O Father, Saint Nicodemus For thou didst present to all thy pure life as a paradigm, pouring forth enlightenment by the wealth of thy godly words. Thy teachings of salvation illumined as light the whole world, O righteous Father.
(taken from Holy Trasfiguration Monastery's translation in St. Anthony's music: http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/music/Menaion/Finale%202003%20-%20%5B5814b%5D.pdf)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

1 comment:

panayotopoulos said...

Hello, i was wondering if you would have a copy of a text, about Saint Nikodemus's Vision about a monk who went on a journey with an angel (in the form of a monk...) I remember hearing it, and was curious as to whether or not you would have a copy of it, or at least know which book it is from?
Your Brother in Christ