Saint Nectarios

Luke 8:41-56

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we read the Gospel of the woman with the issue of blood. “And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stopped. And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and you sayest, Who touched me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.

When we read this Gospel, it is good for us to realize that our acquisition of virtue is directly related to our relationship with Christ. Touch is a very healing attribute and many doctors and naturopaths emphasize the importance of touch. Here today we have a woman who touched Christ and she was healed. We can also think about this encounter in a mystical way as well as a physical way, for each of us come into contact with Christ in a very personal and physical way when we partake of Holy Communion or participate in any of the Holy Sacraments and also through prayer – through direct communication with Christ. The Saints were also persons, who through regular contact with Christ through prayer and participation in the Holy Mysteries became “receivers of His virtue” and one such person was St. Nectarios, the priest of God whom we celebrate today.

St. Nectarios was a humble man, in that he was wrongly accused in his life and yet “accepted the slander as truth.” This is a great mystery. Many times when we are accused, we want to speak up, to justify ourselves, or at least to speak the truth and to let it be known that we did not do what others are saying. This is one way to approach a situation like this. But when we look at Christ and the saints, we see a different approach. When Pilot was asking Christ about the accusations against Him, it says in the Gospel, that “He was silent.” We find the same response in the saints of God, and we find it in the response of St. Nectarios. For it is a great virtue to be wronged and yet to be silent. It requires a belief in Christ that is strong within yourself, or rather within your heart, and not from without. One of the quotes attributed to St. Nectarios is “Seek God every day but within your heart and not outside of it.” He was speaking from experience, but this experience only comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. For you see, one can endure everything when one has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. From this relationship comes grace and strength and even in one's loneliness and despair, one can find consolation in their relationship with Christ. St. Nectarios had this relationship and I think if we learn anything from his life, we should learn this. He was faced with unjust accusations, but he was able to bear them because he had a relationship with Christ. This is the key for all of us – in all of our despair, our temptations, our afflictions. We have to keep coming back to Christ – the one who made us – the one who truly knows us and the one who truly gives us strength to endure. Come to Him and you will have the grace and strength to endure what comes your way, whether its barrenness, an irritating spouse, a child who is a source of frustration, or a co-worker who is treating you unjustly. Whatever it might be, and for St. Nectarios it was a more difficult circumstance than most of us will ever face, we can find out hope and support in the person of Jesus Christ. And St. Nectarios is an example to all of us because though slandered he persevered, he endured, he kept silent and at the same time kept his faith and lived out his life to the end with Christ as his focus. You see, he didn't need to speak up to justify himself because he found his consolation from within – from within his heart – where Christ was dwelling – therefore he didn't need to seek outward consolation for what he had was enough.

St. Nectarios was born on 1 October 1846 to a poor family. His parents, Dimos and Maria Kephalas, were pious Christians but not wealthy. His given name was Anastasios Kephalas.
At the age of 14, he moved to Constantinople to work and further his education. In 1866, at age 20, he moved to the island of Chois to take a teaching post. On November 7, 1876, he became a monk, at age 30, in the Monastery of Nea Moni, for he had long wished to embrace the ascetic life.
Three years after becoming a monk he was ordained a Deacon, taking the name Nectarios. He graduated from the University of Athens in 1885. During his years as a student of the University of Athens he wrote many books, pamphlets, and Bible commentaries.
Following his graduation he went to Alexandria, Egypt, where he was ordained a Priest and served the Church of Saint Nicholas in Cairo in with great distinction. In recognition of his piety and brilliance as a preacher, as well as his administrative ability, he was consecrated Metropolitan Bishop of Pentapolis by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Sophronios in 1889.
He served as a Bishop in Cairo for one year, and was removed from his post by clerics who disliked his popularity with the people. Lies were made up against him by the jealous clergy. Patriarch Sophronios refused to listen to St. Nectarios. He was sent away from Egypt without trial or explanation, and was never given an opportunity to defend himself.
After his dismissal, he returned to Greece in 1891, and spent several years as a preacher (1891-1894). He was then appointed director of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical for the education of priests in Athens, where his service was exemplary for fifteen years. He developed many courses of study, and wrote numerous books, all while preaching widely throughout Athens.
In 1904 at the request of several nuns, he established a monastery for them on the island of Aegina. The Monastery was named Holy Trinity Monastery.
Nectarios ordained two women as deaconesses in 1911. Up to the 1950s, a few Greek Orthodox nuns also became monastic deaconesses. In 1986, Christodoulous, then the metropolitan of Demetrias, later to become archbishop of Athens and all of Greece, ordained a woman deacon in accordance with the "ritual of St. Nektarios" (the ancient Byzantine text St. Nektarios had used).
In December 1908, at the age of 62, St. Nectarios resigned from his post as school director and withdrew to the Holy Trinity Convent on Aegina, where he lived out the rest of his life as a Monk. He wrote, published, preached, and heard confessions from those who came from near and far to seek out his spiritual guidance.
While at the monastery, he also tended the gardens, carried stones, and helped with the construction of the monastery buildings that were built with his own funds.

St. Nectarios died on the evening of 9 November 1920 at the age of 74, following hospitalization for prostate cancer. His body was taken to the Holy Trinity Convent, where he was buried by a Priest-Monk named Savvas, who later wrote the first icon of St. Nectarios. The funeral of St. Nectarios was attended by multitudes of people from all parts of Greece and Egypt.

Let us remember St. Nectarios and try to emulate his holy life. The lives of the saints are such a gift to all of us, especially in times of temptations and struggle. And I know that we all are struggling in this life and trying our best to strive for holiness. Today we have such a life before us. Let us be humble like him and like Christ. Glory to God who is wonderful in His saints!