Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Archimandrite Nicholas Pekatoros (+1996)

Fr. Nicholas Pekatoros (+February 13th/26th, 1996), among the Russian parishioners of Athens (source)
Archimandrite Nicholas Pekatoros (+1996): The last of a generation with greater experiences of life!
(written by Demetrios and Ioanna Mpoumpa, photographs from Nikolaos and Marias Pashalidis)
"There was a certain man in the land of Ausis, whose name [was] Job; and that man was true, blameless, righteous, [and] godly, abstaining from everything evil. And he had seven sons and three daughters...While he is yet speaking, another messenger comes, saying to Job, While thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking with their elder brother, suddenly a great wind came on from the desert, and caught the four corners of the house, and the house fell upon thy children, and they are dead; and I have escaped alone, and am come to tell thee.  So Job arose, and rent his garments, and shaved the hair of his head, and fell on the earth, and worshipped, and said, I myself came forth naked from my mother᾿s womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave, the Lord has taken away: as it seemed good to the Lord, so has it come to pass; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all these events that befell him Job sinned not at all before the Lord, and did not impute folly to God."
-Job 1:1-22
In 1992 at the Russian Cathedral of St. John the Forerunner in Washington DC (ROCOR, on Shepherd St. near the Greek Church of Sts. Constantine and Helen on 16th St.), the Russian parish celebrated 70 years of priestly service of Fr. Nicholas Pekatoros. The participation was significant, and many people came from the Greek communities of the area. After the Divine Liturgy, in the Archontariki of the Church, they served coffee and a reception. And instead of Fr. Nicholas offering a speech, he sought to bring to mind the first chapter of the Book of Job, quoting verses 1-22 which we included above. Having his eyes constantly lifted on high, we sensed the intensity of his person, which most clearly depicted that the trials of Job were his as well. 22 years after his venerable repose in America, we sense the blessing of our generation for having the opportunity to know and be numbered with Elders with experiences of life "greater than life itself."
Fr. Nicholas Pekatoros, the offspring of a Cefalonian of the diaspora (Gerasimos) and a Russian (Maria) was born on January 10th, 1899 in Odessa, Russia to a merchant family. In the home they would frequently give hospitality to monks from Mount Athos. He studied at the law school, but quickly discerned his priestly calling, also encouraged by his relative who was a professor of Theology and the Theological Academy of St. Petersburg, Ivan Georgievitch. His graduation coincided with the October Revolution of 1917, and quickly his family saw that their income was shrinking, as they began to sell all their precious possessions so they would not die from hunger.His father could not bear this trial and died from typhus in 1919, leaving the young Nicholas as the protector of his mother and his sister.
Through this trial, and despite the advice of the local bishop Alexios of Teraspol that he should get married, he was ordained a deacon and a priest on the day of the Dormition of the Theotokos on August 22nd, 1922. Seeing these persecutions, imprisonments, exiles, and executions of priests and monks, the Bishop, in his address at his ordination, placed him under the protection of Panagia.
Fr. Nicholas celebrating Pascha in the Church of the Holy Protection, Odessa. Fr. Nicholas is in the center holding the Cross (source)
Fr. Nicholas loved quiet and few words, and withstood the continual threats of those in power as a newly-ordained priest. We remember that he described the following event characteristically: The police called him to take steps to curtail "religious propaganda". In the questioning of the policeman, he said: "I've learned that you teach that the government is not from God", in order to compel him to answer. Fr. Nicholas responded: "No, sir, it is not so. God have you authority in order to punish us for our sins." We still remember the dispassion in his face as he related this. Because the city of Fr. Nicholas was not "upon the earth but in the heavens" Living in the Russian community of the diaspora, so burdened by the terrible October Revolution, he was never heart once to talk politics. However, his judgment of the Bolsheviks and of the Russians raised under their regime was relentless. He did not trust them, perceiving them to be men without traditional Russian values of piety, respect and humility, love of truth and honor.
Living continually under the threat of persecution, he did not abandon his flock, and in 1928 he was forced into exile on the pretext that he was a Greek citizen, and he was forced to leave his beloved Russia to live in Greece. It was sure that this citizenship preserved him those years from other exiles, imprisonment and certain death. Therefore, he came to Athens during the period of the refugees of the Asia Minor Catastrophe, when they tried to rebuild homes, and he went to serve in the refugee neighborhood of Tampourion, and later in Agios Artemios, until he was made to serve at the Church of the Russian Parish in Athens on Odos Philellinon in 1939. There, he gave hospitality to Elder Sophrony of Essex, while he was waiting for his visa to transfer to the United Kingdom.
Elder Sophrony of Essex (left) with Fr. Nicholas Pekatoros (center) in Athens, before the former left for England (source)
Regarding his pre-war years in Greece, his teacher and compatriot Ioannis Metaxas noted his efforts to imbue love for their country in the youth. This was because Fr. Nicholas may have had his homeland in the heavens, but he perceived love for the homeland as very important, especially for the youth. Furthermore, we remember that on national holidays, his face grew lively singing hymns and songs having to do with the struggle for Independence.
In Athens, his supporter was both the Russian-educated Archbishop of Athens Chrysostomos Papadopoulos, but also Fr. Ieronymos of Simonopetra, the latter of whom he had as his Elder. He spoke with fervor of the city of Athens: "I heard [in the Salutations of the Theotokos]: 'Rejoice, you who rent the webs of the Athenians...', but I couldn't believe that I lived in that city." And his joy was incomparable when he saw the sun "Glory to Him Who showed forth the light", and when when he saw shining above the "famed star" in vigils at the Metochion of the Ascension. Among his spiritual children in Athens were the Athonite Fr. Cherubim (founder of the Holy Monastery of the Paracletos, Oropos, and Nun Christonymphi (Abbess of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Phaneromeni, Salamina).
Fr. Ieronymos of Simonopetra, Fr. Nicholas's spiritual father in Greece (source)
The German occupation afflicted them like all Greeks, as they suffered a bombing of the second husband of his sister, a surgeon, who was killed trying to heal those injured. That which afflicted him the most however was the Civil War and the "Decembrists", which brought back nightmares from communist Russia.
Having the sense of duty to his mother, his sister and to her orphan son, he decided to travel to America over the ocean in 1952. The trip took many days, and on the journey he served Divine Liturgies on the boat, bringing consolation to the refugees and while he preached to them during their period of exile that was beginning.

In America, he began to serve as a priest in a Greek parish. Seeing however their worldly spirit, he did not stay there but returned to Greece. When Archbishop Michael sought to uproot him from his roots as requested by his parishioners, he responded boldly "let us be uprooted together, my Elder!" At one Parish Council meeting, one "hot blooded" council member lifted his hand and struck him, but soon he was lost in an accident.

He returned to Greece but left again for America, this time for good, when he received a request from the Archbishop of the Russian Church to found the Church of St. John the Forerunner in Washington DC. Initially, he served in a basement chapel of the National Cathedral in Washington, while they were completing the property on Shepherd St.

Despite tough economies, he managed to build the church, the priest's house and the Archontariki. "As soon as the dome was placed they told me that we didn't need one there", he mentioned regarding the push back that the priest received and he was forced to move to a small house that he bought with his funds in Virginia on Sportsman Drive. He occasionally served at the Greek Church of St. Catherine, and even less often at the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Washington and Sts. Constantine and Helen. There at St. Sophia on Massachusetts St., we met him the first time as he gave out blessings after the Divine Liturgy.

Regarding his life and achievements, Fr. Moses the Athonite wrote a book analytically with great love: "Fr. Nicholas Pekatoros: The Elder of America", published by Tinos press.

Please allow us to offer some of our experiences along with those of his spiritual children:

If there was one thing that characterized Fr. Nicholas the most, it was a spirit of freedom and his condescension. "This is a free country, my child", was one of his characteristic phrases when he sensed opposition.
Archbishop Nikon (left) and Archimandrite Nicholas Pekatoros (source)
"May God enlighten you". He never forced, never threatened, and did not show any resentment. This was his condescension, which he had as a sign of his fiery prayer after redemption and with a father's blessing which softened even the hardest hearts.

A man of few words, wisely held-back anger and a man of essentials. "While we are in this life, do not forget" was one of his common phrases. "Everyone comes to me saying that they met a good girl. Where do the bad women come from?" Or another time: "They asked me if they should get married or become a monk. I told them to get married, because if they wanted to become monks they wouldn't have asked me."

We remember our blessed mother who told him her pain regarding her daughter who became a monk. Fr. Nicholas had the unique ability to sense the mother's pain while at the same time honoring the girl's choice. He was condescending with the youth, even in cases when "their blood is boiling, but will calm down with time". He was wounded by the anger of his sister regarding the masses of people that fled to their house: "You are a monk, what do you know about life?" And she related this with a sweet complaint, without him judging her however.

We will never forget the azaleas which he planted at the entrance to his home, how he cared for them. He felt as him his whole life was like one butterfly caught by a child which died in its hands. He liked very much to walk through his neighborhood with his little dog Mindy.

He ate little and was ascetical, confessing also his weakness for skordailia [Greek garlic dip] of Mrs. Popi, "Skordalia is my favorite!"

Enflamed with a unique sense of humor, in one visit of Fr. Moses, he saw that the shrimp that he brought for dinner had "grown in size", and Fr. Nicholas mentioned in a Cephalonian manner: "Mrs. H., with the visit of Mount Athos, the shrimp have grown as well." He disliked greed (bearing in mind his experience during the German Occupation), thanklessness and the compromise of faith and principles.

He saw with great disbelief hierarchs in Russia that compromised with the Communist Government, "They are the Communists, the true priests were snuffed out in the prisons."

He attracted, magnetized and netted everyone. We remember the little animals in his garden that came to him for some bread and whom he took great care for. We remember our "lively" first-born, five-year-old son T. sitting for hours silently at his feet playing with silver wrappers from "Hershey kisses" that he kept in his house that were more delicious than others.

For doctors, nurses and those who worked in hospitals, he would stop to greet them offering a smile and a "God bless you" sister or doctor. We saw serious doctors and nurses turn to sheep before him, letting out goodness that they did not expect. We saw the compassionate nurse and pastor Mr. Herbert stand like a child before Fr. Nicholas in order to honor his faith, seeing him as a person, not as a protestant pastor. "Herbert, when I die, will you remember me?" "Of course Fr. Nicholas, you come to speak to me and I will answer you." But he retorted, "I will come Fr. Nicholas, but don't speak to me because I'm afraid!"
He spoke continuously of his mother whom he loved, in order to help his pastoral work. Parishioners would come for confession, and Mrs. Maria "redeemed" the time of the refreshments giving out advice before they went in for confession, what they should expect.

When he served Divine Liturgy, he came drenched, not being able to stop the rivers of his tears. His
subtlety, his cultivation, his love for the poetry of ancient Russia was proverbial. Near him many found rest: the ancient Russian aristocrat and the mercenaries, Russians from Russia and America, Greeks from Greece and America. His silent presence in the liturgies of the Greek churches magnetized the new generations in America who did not speak Greek well in order to help strengthen his little flock for the years after his repose. He nursed them, wedded them, and restored them to work with his prayer when they were going through difficult circumstances, censuring at the same time strictly but with love for their "deviations", especially those who wounded their fellow men who lived near them. He cautiously mentioned the "miracles" which occurred through Fr. Ieronymos of Simonopetra or St. John Maximovitch, Bishop of Shanghai, that "he did not stand upon the earth" when he served Divine Liturgy", but offered the phrase "they say that it occurred, though I did not see it myself."

St. John Maximovitch visiting the Church of St. John the Baptist, Washington, DC, with Fr. Nicholas Pekatoros to his right (source)

Regarding St. John, he frequently invited him to his parish in Washington from San Francisco in the Western USA, saying that he set a bed for him, but he never laid down in it, while they always found the check that they would give him behind them icons in his home [i.e. he never took their donations]. After his formal canonization, he said that he was a "great saint", and he distributed little icons of the Saint with icons of the Holy Protection of the Theotokos, the feast of which he first served in Greece at Agios Artemios, and later, after his request to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, moved to October 28th in order to coincide with their national holiday [Oxi Day].

About a decade before his venerable repose, he began to have problems with his health and for several years he needed to have nephrostomy tubes which needed to be changed every 6 months. The pain was unbearable, but he remained until the morning [in prayer] in order to not burden us at night. His patience, both before and after his surgery, was indescribable. His only fear was that he would not loose his mind from uremia, like his blessed mother. Ultimately, he did not pass from uremia, but left with will lucidity of spirit until the end. God allowed him to have a helper at night until his dormition in one of his spiritual children, which the Elder took great rest in, while during the day, he was helped by the sweet Mrs. Tania, a former protestant whom he baptized, together with her family. All the years of her service, Father did not speak to her of Orthodoxy with words, but with his example.

He reposed and was buried in Rock Creek Cemetary in Washington on a cold February day (2/26/1996), on Clean Monday. He constantly told us that he would want to die in winter because the soil is wet and "I will freeze." His funeral was festive, even resurrectional one would say. We all had the sense that all the Greeks, Russians and Americans had a Father who was reposed in the "dwelling-places of the righteous." Since then, 22 years have passed since his repose and once a year his spiritual children gather for his memorial service.

In short, the greatly astonishing life of Fr. Nicholas knew two world wars, two Civil Wars (i.e. in Russia and Greece), and fleeing for America, where he continued to live as he did in his youth in Russia, steadfast in the Orthodox Faith, but serving his flock with discernment, which had changed roots.

He offered characteristically: "A Russian Bishop once told me that in the old days, a shepherd went first and the flock followed him. Now, the flock runs forward and the shepherd hastens behind them trying to catch up with them." We still feel his "companionship" during our lives, so discerning and radiant. Fr. Nicholas, with ascetic experiences, witness against atheism and wordly mindset, amidst wars, death and famine, can cultivate in Russia, Greece and America a flock close to Orthodox rulers, without fanaticism and zealotism, not giving way to pressure from those in power but also neither wielding to corrosive secularization, uniting, there where and how it should be, his pastoral service.
The grave of Fr. Nicholas Pekatoros, in Rock Creek Cemetary, Falls Church, VA (source)
A “Local Saint” – Archimandrite Nicholas Pekatoros (+ Feb 13/26, 1996)
The royal Psalmist wrote, The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance, and this can certainly be said of Archimandrite Nicholas Pekatoros, who departed this life on 13/26, February, 1996, the first day of Great Lent. He had reached the venerable age of 97, having served for many years as rector of the Saint John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington DC before his retirement in 1980. Altogether, he served in the priestly rank for seventy-three years. His meek and quiet spirit, cultivated by his lifetime devotion to God, was an inspiration for many -- Greeks and Russians -- who will forever cherish his memory.
 Fr. Nicholas was born in Russia in 1899. Under the influence of an uncle, a well-known professor at the St Petersburg Theological Academy, he decided to become a priest, undaunted by the fact that the Church -- clergy in particular -- was at that time enduring severe persecution. He was ordained in 1922, and the following year was assigned to assist Archbishop Alexander and Bishop Onouphry (who died in 1938 as a New Martyr). However, because his father was Greek, Fr. Nicholas was considered a Greek subject, and in 1929 the civil authorities forced his dismissal from this position. That same year he left for Greece, where he soon received the monastic tonsure. He served for a number of years at the church of the former Imperial Embassy in Athens, before emigrating, in 1952, to the United States at the invitation of Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko). Appointed rector of the newly-formed parish of St John the Baptist, Fr. Nicholas worked selflessly, spiritually guiding and nourishing his flock, as well as directing the construction of a church and church house. In recognition of his exceptional service to the Church, the Synod of Bishops awarded him two gold pectoral crosses and the right to celebrate the Divine Liturgy with the Royal Doors open, as in a hierarchal service. In 1969 Ir. Nicholas was elected to become Bishop of Brisbane in Australia, but he had to decline this honor because of his weak health and responsibilities towards his invalid sister, who was living with him at that time.
For the last ten years of his life, Fr. Nicholas suffered with cancer. When someone asked how he
was enduring his illness, he replied with his habitual meekness, "God gave me this trial so that I
would think over and remember better my sins from birth and repent of them, so that by this very
means I would prepare myself to answer before the Lord God.'
One of Fr Nicholas' most treasured possessions was a signed photograph of Bishop Onouphry, a
gift from the New Martyr, who had inscribed it: "To a dear and esteemed pastor of God's Church as a
blessing for further service to the Orthodox Church.... A faithful and diligent Orthodox pastor is a
great acquisition for God's Church. Kharkov 1926." And indeed, over the succeeding seventy years
Fr. Nicholas proved himself worthy of the bishop's confidence.
Hieromartyr Onufry (Gagalyuk) (+1938) (source)
Among those American converts fortunate to have met Pr. Nicholas is the author of the following
account, Elizabeth Baranova, who has drawn for us a more intimate portrait, based on her personal
I first met Father Nicholas Pekatoros when I was staying with the family of Father George and Matushka Deborah Johnson in Washington DC. They were talking about some man who had been quite holy, and Father George remarked, "He looked almost transparent when he died." Then he added, "Father Nicholas is looking similarly transparent," This was the first I had heard of Father Nicholas. 

When Father George said that many people went to him for advice, I felt a strong desire to meet him.
Later that week, Matushka Deborah and I decided to visit Father Nicholas. He lived on a suburban
street in one of several identical small brick houses. Letting us in, he excused himself and shuffled over to a table to take his medicine. The room was cluttered: an old couch, various chairs, a large dining table. Lining the walls were pictures of priests and parishioners, and of old relatives in black and white. In a corner was a burning vigil lamp and three icons of the Mother of God with the Christ Child.
Over his faded black cassock, Father Nicholas wore a gray sweater-vest of the type that priests often wear. Hobbling to his hollowed armchair, he told us to pull close two fold-up chairs, and we
talked for a while in a smattering of his broken English and Russian. He showed us pictures of his
relatives, speaking lovingly about each of them. Then suddenly his eyes lit up as he said, "Glory to
God." And from then on he spoke only of spiritual matters. He mentioned how he pitied those who are without Christ. He looked at us, "such as those who do not like the company of old priests." He held up a piece of paper which cut off his eyes, and said, "Such people put a newspaper in front of their faces."
"Father Nikolai," Matushka asked, "do you fear death?" "I do not fear death, I fear nursing homes, and operations, and hospitals -- not death. When death comes, I'll already be gone." Matushka
persisted: "But don't you fear the tollhouses after death, the demons throwing at us our sins?" He replied, "I believe in God's love for mankind. He came to earth and suffered on the Cross for our sins:
'Who for us men, and for our salvation...' and through this He has washed away our sins. As Saint
John Chrysostom said in his Paschal Sermon: Christ has taken away the sting of death."

I was deeply troubled by the question of what happens to people who are not baptized. Father Nicholas answered, "I don't know," He motioned upwards: "God knows. But I believe that in the Lord nobody will fall by the wayside."

At that time I was struggling to decide whether to get married. "Were you ever married,' I asked.
"No," he said. "Is it possible to become close to God when you are married?" "Yes, if you are with the right person. Pray to God: 'O Lord, and Queen of Heaven, send me a good person.' Marriage is a mystery. In it God's grace comes down like in an ordination. Saint John of Kronstadt lived with his wife like brother and sister, and she helped him." I told him about a friend in Russia, whom I wanted possibly to marry. "Go to Russia and come back," he advised, "Go two, three, four times before you marry him, to be sure that this is a person whom you can trust, who also wants to know God. I was chased out of Russia for being a foreigner (my father was a Greek) and a priest. Children made fun of me and the Komsomol destroyed icons and churches. There were great books people used just for paper. And people were so hungry that they would eat such books. Five people in my family died of hunger. There are good people in America, and there are bad people in America. There are good people in Russia, and there are bad people in Russia. They say that the people who destroyed the churches are the same ones now building churches. Welt, maybe it is for real -- if it lasts. May God help them. If not, well... Be careful."
The Russian Orthodox Chapel of the Iveron Icon of the Theotokos in Rock Creek Cemetary, Falls Church, VA, built by parishioners by St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church, and many of the icons donated in memory of Fr. Nicholas Pekatoros (source)
After we had talked for a while, he led us into his cell. Matushka Deborah and I stood there,
speechless for a long time. The room had the most powerful feeling of prayer I have ever felt. It was
as if we had stepped into a beating heart. The walls were covered with icons, from floor to ceiling.
The focus of the room was an enormous icon of the Protection of the Mother of God. Finally we spoke a few words and then followed Father Nicholas back into the living room. "Why," I asked, "do we pray to the saints?" Father Nicholas looked sharply into my eyes as if to see whether I was mocking the faith, and when he was assured that I was serious, he explained so simply that I have never struggled with this question again, "We pray to saints because they are close to God.'

We sat down to talk more, and this time Father Nicholas spoke more directly and looked us in the eyes. He spoke about love, and about laughing and crying with people. He spoke about God's power, and as he said the word he shook with intensity. Several times he interrupted our talk to shuffle back to his rooms to bring us gifts. He gave us each an icon of Saint John the Baptist, the poem "Angel" by Lermontov, and a copy of Derzhavin's poem, "God." "This is the best poem ever written about God,"he declared emphatically. "It is very deep. A lot is said in a few lines. You must read it slowly, very slowly. What I love most is how it describes how great God is, and how small I am -- and yet I can become great through God's light in me. We are all created in the image and likeness of God. We are not created for our own selves, but to be like God."
When Father Nicholas was in the back rooms, there came in a friendly American woman holding a vacuum cleaner. She had greying hair and spoke with a plain, rural American accent. "Isn't Father great? My son is Greek Orthodox and goes to him for advice. My husband is Greek, and my son learned Greek and went off to Mount Athos a few years back. When he came home, he decided to become a priest. I'm not baptized, but now, after being around Father, I'm planning to get baptized in a couple of months. The Greeks all think Father Nikolai is our local saint." 
When at last we got up to leave, Father Nicholas blessed us many times, and prayed for my travels. He kissed me on the forehead, held my hand close, and said, "When you go to Russia, pray for me, for the Russia of old. Go to the icons and light a candle for me. I left the New Russia, but I believe in the Russia of old.'

I did in fact go to Russia, and my friend Volodya and I became engaged, and yet I felt I could not give my final word until we had the blessing of Father Nicholas. With trepidation we traveled to see him. He was ninety-four. In the unchanged dark house, he was sitting hunched over in his chair; his brown cassock hung loosely over his sunken chest. He blessed us, smiled, and asked, "Is it Liza?" He was almost blind. When we had sat down, he asked us directly, "So, what advice do you need?"

"'We both want to get married. And we want to know if this is a good thing, and also when we should."
After coming half-way around the world for the answer, I was not prepared for his, “Well, that is your decision.” We simply looked at him, dumbfounded. He repeated, "That's your decision. I cannot tell you what to do."* Finally Volodya found words. "Well, Batiushka, will you at least pray for us?" We began to talk. His Russian was old fashioned, as if retained from the last century. After a while, he asked met ''Where are you from?" I explained that I was not Russian, but an American from New Jersey. 
He was surprised and his eyes lit up. "No Russian relatives? Going to Novosibirsk? How did you end up there?" I told him. "That is God's will." Volodya caught my eye and smiled. There was a knock at the door. A Greek man entered with his two curly-haired daughters. The older one was shy and hid, but the little one went up to Father Nicholas, who gave her a big smacking kiss on the forehead. His eyes shone.
St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral (ROCOR) in Washington, DC, where Fr. Nicholas served as a priest for 28 years (source)
We gave Father Nicholas some small framed icons as a gift, explaining that they were from St. Sergius-Trinity Lavra. "From Saint Sergius,' he said. His eyes were watery, and seemed especially so when I said I had lit a candle for him as he had asked, before the relics of Saint Sergius. 

We returned one last time to see Father Nicholas before Volodya, my future husband, returned to Russia. Volodya asked him about his health. "Bad," he replied. "On Saturday I had a problem with my heart, and I could hardly breathe." He panted to illustrate. He gave us little prayer books, miniature Bibles and books of Saints' lives to take to people in Russia.
When my questions had at last ceased, Father Nicholas said plainly, 'I am going to die Soon, and I
will not see you again. Let me give you my card in remembrance of me." He went to his room and I burst into tears as I realized what he had said. Returning, he gave us two pictures of himself. On the back of one he had written, in old (i.e., pre-Revolutionary) orthography: 7/9/1993 Dear Vladimir and Elizaveta in the Lord. For prayerful memory and in blessing. Unworthy Archimandrite Nikolai.”

"Come," he said, "I will bless you." I thought he meant at the door, but he headed for his prayer room. He told us to come in and we stood, just inside the doorway. He put on a faded epitrachilion,
turned around and prayed, "Lord Jesus Christ and Queen of Heaven..." He carefully spoke the prayers:
"O Heavenly King..." Then he went to his cabinets and pulled out two tiny icons of the Protection of the Mother of God. He blessed them three times over his large icon of the Protection of the Mother of God, and then gave one to each of us. "This is the powerful protection of the Mother of God." He blessed each of us with the icons. "Live in peace, and the blessing of Jesus Christ and the Heavenly
Queen will be upon you."

The Greeks who loved him insisted that he undergo an operation to prolong his life. So he did not die as soon as he thought he would. He suffered for two more years. The last time I saw him he did not get up from his chair, and breathed with effort. He said he was waiting to die, but -- he raised his hands heavenward -- "as God wills."
Father Nicholas died on February 13/26, 1996. At a memorial service we had in Siberia, the priest
concluded, "By the prayers of Father Nikolai, may we too be saved."

So at last Father Nicholas has gone to the land of his beloved poem:
The Angel
At midnight an angel was soaring on high,
And his chant seemed to rival the hush of the sky.
The stars and the moon and the clouds in a throng listened enrapt to the heavenly song.
He sang of the souls that are stainless and white,
Who in gardens of Paradise dream in delight;
His music rose high like a jubilant flame,
A luminous hymn to the Holiest Name.
He carried a soul to the portals of birth,
Down to the vales of the grief-harrowed earth;
But the sound of his chant the new soul had caught,
And forever retained its wondrous, great Thought.
And long that soul languished amid earthly woe,
Yearning for the song it had heard long ago,
And no weary earth-song could for it blight
The long-cherished chant of the angel in flight.
-- Mikhail Lermontov
The Holy Protection of the Theotokos, the beloved feast of Fr. Nicholas Pekatoros, which he also helped to return to celebration in Greece (source)
Additional quotes from Archimandrite Nicholas Pekatoros:
-"Prayer should be from the heart, not with a cast down face...Prayer like Peter when he was sinking in the sea...Prayer which occurs while you're falling asleep is not pleasing to God."

-"The Lord sees the disposition of man and does not love it when we do something like a 'chore'."

-Remarking about the Parable of the First and Second Workers, he said: "God is our landlord, do not mess up work for God."

-"The Lord desires our salvation and shed His blood for us. Because of this, we should not hesitate to seek His help, nor should we be indifferent."

-"You should live in accordance with the commandments of God."

-"He who sows in the flesh will reap corruption in the flesh, he who sows in the spirit will reap eternal life."

-"The great loneliness of life in our final years, with all kinds of terrible afflictions and difficulties serve as a great preparation for man for his exit from this life to meet the Master Christ. Difficulties and afflictions become a "fount of regeneration", and become an "electroshock" treatment in order for final sins to flee."

-He frequently and greatly stressed that men should never be ungrateful. "Ultimately in life we must leave everything to the will of God. Things have come like this so that many times we don't have an explanation and this occurs according to the directive and goodness of God, that we might be humbled before His mighty will, for our good."

-"The deeds of men have worth before God when they are the result of patience, when they occur with purity and unselfish motives. The Lord sees the heart of man and his disposition, and if something that he does is "forced" out of duty with a heavy heart, or it occurs from love and philotimo and freedom."

"God gave me many long years of illness that I might think upon my sins."
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

No comments: