"Saint Nectarius, the great wonderworker of modern times, was born Anastasius Kephalas in Selebria, Thrace on October 1, 1846.
Since his family was poor, Anastasius went to Constantinople when he was fourteen in order to find work. Although he had no money, he asked the captain of a boat to take him. The captain told him to take a walk and then come back. Anastasius understood, and sadly walked away.
St Nectarius was not deposed from his rank, however. He was still allowed to function as a bishop. If anyone invited him to perform a wedding or a baptism he could do so, as long as he obtained permission from the local bishop.
St Nectarius bore his trials with great patience, but those who loved him began to demand to know why he had been removed. Seeing that this was causing a disturbance in the Church of Alexandria, he decided to go to Greece. He arrived in Athens to find that false rumors about him had already reached that city. His letter of suspension said only that he had been removed "for reasons known to the Patriarchate," and so all the slanders about him were believed.
Since the state and ecclesiastical authorities would not give him a position, the former Metropolitan was left with no means of support, and no place to live. Every day he went to the Minister of Religion asking for assistance. They soon tired of him and began to mistreat him.
One day, as he was leaving the Minister's office, St Nectarius met a friend whom he had known in Egypt. Surprised to find the beloved bishop in such a condition, the man spoke to the Minister of Religion and Education and asked that something be found for him. So, St Nectarius was appointed to be a humble preacher in the diocese of Vitineia and Euboea. The saint did not regard this as humiliating for him, even though a simple monk could have filled that position. He went to Euboea to preach in the churches, eagerly embracing his duties.
Yet even here, the rumors of scandal followed him. Sometimes, while he was preaching, people began to laugh and whisper. Therefore, the blameless one resigned his position and returned to Athens. By then some people had begun to realize that the rumors were untrue, because they saw nothing in his life or conversation to suggest that he was guilty of anything. With their help and influence, St Nectarius was appointed Director of the Rizarios Seminary in Athens on March 8, 1894. He was to remain in that position until December of 1908.
[The following story is illustrative of the great love and humility that St. Nektarios bore throughout his life:
"[St. Nektarios] had once again fallen ill and suffered for fifteen days. He had headaches, dizziness and weakness. He literally dragged himself to his lectures [at Rizarios school]. His illness had probably been brought about by the extra work load he had secretly undertaken for the school custodian Loukianos. Loukianos had suddenly fallen ill due to failing kidneys, and having been overcome by excrutiating pain one day on the job, he had to be taken to the Evangelismos Hospital across the street. He then underwent a dangerous and painful operation and was ordered by his physicians not to return to work for at least two and a half months. Nektarios felt deep pity for the man and decided that he would do the work for him until he was able to come back. So, Nektarios would wake up at dawn and take to cleaning toilets and floors and whatever work was left undone by the assistant janitors."
(from The Saint of our Century by Chondropoulos)]
The saint celebrated the services in the seminary church, taught the students, and wrote several edifying and useful books. Since he was a quiet man, St Nectarius did not care for the noise and bustle of Athens. He wanted to retire somewhere where he could pray. On the island of Aegina he found an abandoned monastery dedicated to the Holy Trinity, which he began to repair with his own hands.
He gathered a community of nuns, appointing the blind nun Xenia as abbess, while he himself served as Father Confessor. Since he had a gift for spiritual direction, many people came to Aegina to confess to him. Eventually, the community grew to thirty nuns. He used to tell them, "I am building a lighthouse for you, and God shall put a light in it that will shine forth to the world. Many will see this light and come to Aegina." They did not understand what he was telling them, that he himself would be that beacon, and that people would come there to venerate his holy relics.
"Is he a monk?" he asked.
"No, he is a bishop."
The intern laughed and said, "Stop joking and tell me his name, Mother, so that I can enter it in the register."
"He is indeed a bishop, my child. He is the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Pentapolis."
The intern muttered, "For the first time in my life I see a bishop without a panagia or cross, and more significantly, without money."
Then the nun showed the saint's credentials to the astonished intern who then admitted him. For two months St Nectarius suffered from a disease of the bladder. At ten thirty on the evening of November 8, 1920, he surrendered his holy soul to God. He died in peace at the age of seventy-four.
In the bed next to St Nectarius was a man who was paralyzed. As soon as the saint had breathed his last, the nurse and the nun who sat with him began to dress him in clean clothing to prepare him for burial at Aegina. They removed his sweater and placed it on the paralyzed man's bed. Immediately, the paralytic got up from his bed, glorifying God.
Word was sent to the Archbishop of Athens, who came to see the relics for himself. Archbishop Chrysostomos told the nuns to leave them out in the sun for a few days, then to rebury them so that they would decay. A month or two after this, they opened the grave again and found the saint incorrupt. Then the relics were placed in a marble sarcophagus.
Several years later, the holy relics dissolved, leaving only the bones.*** The saint's head was placed in a bishop's mitre, and the top was opened to allow people to kiss his head.
[***Note: The dissolution of St. Nektarios' relics (just as their previous incorruption) was truly by the will of God. The following story illustrates this:
"There was a rich old lady who had met Nektarios at the monastery and he was her confessor several times. She was now living in Piraeus alone, and cried both day and night over the fact that Nektarios' body had dissolved. She hoped that Nektarios' body would be eternally intact, like the relic of Saint Dionysios on her native island of Zakynthos. She thought that this would be a tribute to Orthodoxy. One night, the old woman saw Nektarios alive at her bedside. He smiled lovingly and sweetly at her. "Why are you so sad?" he asked her. "It was I who prayed to God to allow the decomposition of my body. I did this for all the pious Christians, for whose consolation the relics will now be able to be sent around Greece and around the world." The old woman awoke a bit shaken, but was nevertheless filled with gratitude at seeing her beloved confessor alive and speaking to her."
(from The Saint of our Century by Chondropoulos)]
St Nectarius was glorified by God, since his whole life was a continuous doxology to the Lord. Both during his life and after his death, St Nectarius has performed thousands of miracles, especially for those suffering from cancer. There are more churches dedicated to St Nectarius than to any other modern Orthodox saint."
-SAINT NEKTARIOS: The Saint of our Century by Soitos Chondropoulos.
(English translations published by St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY:)
-Repentance and Confession
(English quotes by the Saint online:)
Life and Stories of the Saint online
rejoice, through whom the foes are astounded.
Rejoice, for of the holy fathers you were emulous;
for you are the teacher of the Orthodox.
Rejoice, most holy house of the energy of God;
rejoice, God-written book of the new way of life.
Rejoice, modern-day peer of the Saints and Fathers;
rejoice, for you wisely kept your distance from matter.
Rejoice, the radiant trophy of the Faith;
rejoice, the dignified instrument of grace.
Rejoice, through whom is the Church celebrating;
rejoice through whom the Isle of Aegina is rejoicing.
Beautiful article! These is valuable information about his life. I loved him even without knowing his life so well, but after reading all this...I love him even more! God bless!
Well done and THANK YOU. As with most of us, I often feel rushed and find little time to explore the lives of saints. But I sincerely thank you for the way you have honestly and simply recorded these events of St. Nektarios' life. Your words drew me in and Christ allowed me the time to experience them. I hope to look further into the teachings of St. Nektarios and others. Have a blessed coming Holy Week...
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