Monday, December 28, 2009

Our Righteous Father Nephon the New Cenobiarch, the Sanctified of the Kollyvades (1736-1809)

December 28th 2009 completes with the grace of the All-good God 200 years from the righteous dormition of a worthy spiritual person of the Philokalian Regeneration movement, who shone forth as a new cenobiarch, becoming an example of austere ascesis and ceaseless prayer, meekness and discernment, philanthropy and humility.

The word on the Righteous and God-bearer Nephon, who was given the title cenobiarch, who contributed to the growth of monasticism with the founding of hesychasteria and monasteries on the islands of the Aegean, struggling together with the other Kollyvades fathers for the preservation of the spirit of Orthodoxy, the spiritual regeneration of the people and the return to the ancient ecclesiastical tradition.

He was born in 1736 in the town of Patrika of south Chios, and he lost his parents from the epidemic of the plague, at an age when Nicholas (his worldly name) was still an infant. He was taken-in by one of his aunts and when he reached adolescence, he left for Constantinople, where he apprenticed with a merchant. However the unexpected and dramatic murder of his friend by some Janissary, filled his soul with grief and despair. This terrible occurrence compelled him to leave Constantinople and head to Mount Athos. His first stop was the Monastery of Megisti Lavra, but after a short time he left for the Pantokratoros Skete, of today's Kapsala, where he was tonsured a monk with the name Nephon. Although he never studied at a school, he comprehended the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Great Fathers of the Church with the grace of the Holy Spirit, and he nurtured special reverence for the Most-Holy Theotokos. Together with the renowned author Alexandros Papadiamantis the Righteous Nephon struggled in asceticism together with other virtuous monks in the desert skete of St. Basil high on Athos. However because of the turbulent period of the spiritual movement of the Kollyvades the righteous Nephon, who had been ordained a priest, was shaken by the exacerbation of problems that arose and led to tragic events. The basic causes of conflict were the Kollyvades denying to perform memorial services on Sunday, which as is known is the day of our Lord's Resurrection. Of course in 1772 the Kollyvades prepared a petition to the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which together with the confession of faith they send to Constantinople with monk Nephon. The Patriarch of Theodosios II adopted a conciliar decision, with which he justified both conflicting sides. Then Nephon returned to Mount Athos without receiving the patriarchal decision. Seeing this grievous situation he planned to leave the Holy Mountain, for among others, St. Athanasios of Paros (1721-1813), who emerged as a brilliant representative of the so-called Kollyvades movement.

Holy Monastery of the Evangelismos of the Theotokos, Levkada, Ikaria (taken from:

Thus Nephon was forced to take refuge on various islands of the Aegean. His first stop was the fragrant and holy land of Chios, his beloved home, but after a short stay he traveled with his synodeia to Samos, where for a few months they inhabited the old monastery of St. Kyriaki, close to the town of Maratokampou. From Samos the Righteous Nephon along with the hieromonks Gregory of Nisyros, Athanasios from Armenia, and Arsenios Moraite reached Naxos, where along with tradition they remained at the historic monastery of Panagia Phaneromeni. In Naxos they met Nicholas Kalivourtzi, the subsequent eminent Philokalian father and bright teacher of Romiosynis, St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain (1749-1809), whom they convinced to follow the monastic life on the Holy Mountain. After Naxos they traveled to Patmos, where they met the honored and God-bearing hierarch of Corinth the Founder of Philokalism, St. Makarios Notaras (1731-1805). At this point the special spiritual relationship which developed between the Righteous Nephon and St. Makarios Notaras should be emphasized. Then the Righteous Nephon together with Gregory of Nysiros visited Leipsous, where in the deserted area of Romani they built the chapel—hesychasterion of the Evangelismos of the Theotokos from their great reverence towards the person of the Most-Holy Theotokos. In Leipsous the Righteous Nephon remained for a few months, after the pirate raids convinced him to abandon the island and to go to Phournous around 1775, where there also he founded a chapel-hesychasterion in honor of the Evangelismos of the Theotokos. The same year he began the founding of the holy monastery of Evangelismos of the Theotokos in Levkada a short distance from Agio Keryko, the capital city of Ikarias. Indeed on the lintel of the outer date of the Katholikon of the monastery bears witness to the year of its founding: “The following holy monastery was built by the most-righteous hieromonk Nephon, 1775”. It is noteworthy that the influence of St. Makarios Notaras, who visited the monastery of Ikaria and remained with them for a sufficient period of time. Indisputable accounts of the gracious presence of St. Makarios in the monastery are the ruins of the cell, in which he stayed, along with the chapel built in the name of St. Makarios after his righteous dormition, on April 17th 1805. The historical monastery of the Evangelismos of the Theotokos on Ikaria was the blessed spiritual refuge of the God-bearing Kollyvades ascetics and remained an exemplary cenobium, where during the days of the Righteous Nephon the founder, the number of monks reached 25. It is also worth noting that the inhabitants of Ikaria especially loved the this Kollyvades monastery with the hospitality of Abraham, and it was known that the gates of the monastery were always open to all visitors, who found a rich meal and place to rest. Moreover a multitude of people traveled to the monastery to be spiritually led by the meek, discerning and clairvoyant Elder Nephon, who was shone as a trainer of monks and guide of ascetics, making the monastery a center of intellectual and spiritual ascesis for the prospective clergy. In 1778 the teacher of the Patmias school, Gregory Chazestamatis of Skiathos learned of the virtuous Elder Nephon and the well-known monastery of the Evangelismos of the Theotokos in Ikaria and decided to leave Patmos, where he was, to travel to the Kollyvades monastery. There he was tonsured a monk and proposed to Nephon to leave Ikaria and move to Skiathos, where his father Gregory had large plots of land.

Holy Monastery of the Evangelismos of the Theotokos ("Evangelistria"), Skiathos (taken from:

This in 1794 he reached Skiathos to found the holy monastery named Evangelismos of the Theotokos. The founding of the monastery began in 1794 and in September 1797 the monastery was proclaimed a patriarchal stavropegio. In 1798 papa-Gregory Chatzestamatis became the lawful inheritor of the family estate, which he gave to the monastery, which became known as the spiritual center and refuge for the inhabitants of Skiathos during the dark period of the Turkish occupation. Ineed in September 1807, 1,400 Greek freedom fighters persecuted by the Turks traveled to the monastery from all over Greece. In this great gathering of captains and fighters, Elder Nephon blessed the first Greek flag, which the National Assembly at Epidaurus in 1823 designated as the official flag design of our nation [Greece].

However the Righteous Nephon slowly began to seek greater hesychia and solitude and because of this he decided to return to his beloved Ikaria. However his desire never came about, because in December 1809 sensing his earthly end beforehand, he called his six novices and told them to go to Ikaria to renew the historical monastery, which he so greatly loved. Thus on December 28th 1809 the Godly-taught and landless Nephon the Righteous left his earthly life, receiving the crown of glory from the Freely-granting Lord. He was buried in the cemetary of the monastery of the Evangelismos on Skiathos, and all became witnesses to the first miracle: a monk, who was a paralytic for many years, was healed, when he embraced the precious body of the blessed Elder with reverence. In 1812 the uncovering of the holy relics of the Righteous one occurred, which emitted an indescribable fragrance, which was evidence and certification of his holiness and wonder-working. Indeed until 1876 Alexandros Moraitides confirmed that that the precious skull of the Righteous Nephon was preserved in the monastery.

May the Godly-inspired and virtuous Righteous Nephon, the pious offspring of the holy land of Chios and the fragrant boast of the islands of the Aegean, teach us and instill in us spiritual things with the divine zeal and depth of faith, with his meekness and patience, with his indigence his humility and with the true Orthodox ecclesiastical spirit, as he bequeathed to us the blessed choir of Kollyvades fathers with the momentous apostolate to the Greek Orthodox of our People. On the timeless worth of this spiritual movement, Monk Moses of the Holy Mountain notes: “The Kollyvades movement is very topical, when again many wish to offer in the Church comfort without ascesis, joy without struggle, happiness without joy-making sorrow, innovations without knowledge of the austere precision of the evangelical Tradition of holy fathers.
(amateur translation of Greek text from:

Ἀπολυτίκιον. Ἦχος α΄. Τῆς ἐρήμου πολίτης.
Κολλυβάδων ἐνθέων, καὶ τοῦ Ἄθω ὡράϊσμα, ὤφθης ὑποδούλῳ σου Γένει, Ἀναστάσεως αὐγασμα. Ὡς μύστης γὰρ Θεόπαιδος σεπτός, προδρόμους καταυγάζεις νηπτικῶς, ἀλειπτῶν Νεομαρτύρων, Κοινοβιάρχα Νήφων ἱερώτατε. Δόξα τῷ δεδωκότι σοὶ ἰσχύν, δόξα τῷ σὲ θαυμαστώσαντι, δόξα τῷ ἐνεργοῦντι διὰ σοῦ, πᾶσιν ἰάματα.
(taken from the full Greek service of the Righteous Nephon available here:; Note: I haven't been able to confirm if he has been officially proclaimed a Saint yet by the Patriarchate.)

Apolytikion in the First Tone (amateur translation from the above Greek)
Divine one of the Kollyvades, and the beauty of Athos, you were shown as a servant of your People, with the splendor of the Resurrection. As a mystic and sacred child of God, and forerunner shining forth nepsis, trainer of Neomartyrs, O Cenobiarch Nephon the most-holy one. Glory to Him Who gave you strength, glory to Him who made you wondrous, glory to Him Who grants to us through you, healing for all.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

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