It is impossible for a Christian to bear the name of Christ and not follow the path of martyrdom, sacrifice and persecution; a path which our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ himself followed. The Lord said, "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you" (John 15:20). If they persecuted your Leader and Teacher, and they led Him to the martyrdom of the Cross, then they will persecute you, His disciples, even more.
The enmity of the world turns, not only against Christ, but also against all those who wish to follow in His footsteps and to practice His teachings in their life. "If the world hates you, you must know that it hated me first" (John 15:18). The world loves only those who are worldly. A Christian lives within the world, but is not of this world, the world of sin.
Even more, an Orthodox clergyman, from the moment he enters the priesthood, enters the stadium of sacred contests. He becomes a soldier of Christ and is called upon to take up his cross, renounce himself and face martyrdom. He does not belong to himself, but to the Church. He does not belong to his family, but to the people of God, whom he is called to guide with the example of his Christian life, prudence and wisdom.
A life full of sacrifice is the life of the elect few who love God and who are distinguished by their faith, virtue, unfeigned and pure love toward God and His people. St. Nektarios, Metropolitan of Pentapolis, the Miracle-worker, the removal of whose Holy Relics we celebrate today, was one of these elect souls of the Alexandrian Church. This new Saint of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria has adorned the history of the Apostolic See of Saint Mark the Evangelist, with his virtuous life and service, his holiness of life and Christian example.
The Church of Christ continues Her historic course in time, bearing witness to the fact that She is a living institution within the contemporary world. The Church of Christ, which, at the close of the 20th century is still struggling, presents new Athletes of faith and virtuous life, who worthily continue the line of the Saints of the early centuries.
The Lords Commandment, "be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matth. 5:48), describes the very purpose of our existence. The Saints became worthy of the Heavenly Kingdom, because they were victorious over sin during times when evil was strong and temptation surrounded their lives.
St. Nektarios, Anastasios Kefalas, was born in Sylebria of Eastern Thrace, on 1st October 1846. He showed great interest in education, and from a young age, desired to follow monasticism and enter the priesthood. When he was 20 years old, he served as a teacher in the village of Lithi on the Greek island of Chios. He became a monk in the Monastery of "Nea Moni", Chios. For three years he lived an ascetic life there, and was ordained deacon by His Eminence Gregorios, Metropolitan of Chios, who named him Nektarios.
With the assistance of Mr. Ioannis Homeris, Nektarios completed his High School education in Athens. There, he met H.B. Sofronios, Patriarch of Alexandria, who encouraged him to enrol in the Department of Theology at the University of Athens. He received his Diploma of Theology in 1885, and came to Egypt to become a member of the clergy of the Apostolic Alexandrian See at the end of that year. On 23rd March 1886, he was ordained presbyter by Patriarch Sofronios and took up the office of preacher, secretary and Patriarchal Vicar of Cairo. On 15th January 1889, in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Nicholaos, Cairo, Patriarch Sofronios ordained him Metropolitan of Pentapolis.
As Metropolitan, St. Nektarios continued in his role of Patriarchal Vicar of Cairo. At this time, the church of St. Nicholaos was decorated with wall paintings and Nektarios showed special care for the property of the Patriarchate. His education and character together made him worthy of his hierarchal mission. However, his fame caused many envious clergymen to turn against him. They did not hesitate to falsely accuse him to Patriarch Sofronios, claiming that Nektarios was seeking the Throne. Thus, sixteen months after his ordination as Metropolitan of Pentapolis, he was attacked for the first time by Patriarch Sofronios. According to a letter from the Patriarch, the Metropolitan of Pentapolis was dismissed from his duties as Patriarchal Vicar of Cairo and was restricted to the premises of the Patriarchal Commissionary. On 11th July 1890, a second letter from Sofronios followed, which expressed the Patriarchs belief that the presence of the Metropolitan of Pentapolis in Egypt was unnecessary, he was therefor requested "to abandon the Patriarchal Throne and to depart to wherever he wishes".
Four years after his arrival in Egypt, Nektarios took the path of exile. His soul was strengthened in the arena of virtue and proved worthy of the Priesthood. It was unfortunate that he became the victim of intrigue and false accusations. He arrived in Athens accompanied by the bitterness of the maligned and poor. In Athens, the capital city of Greece, he requested a posting as a preacher. The Minister of Ecclesiastical Matters denied this request and only on 15th February 1891, was he assigned as preacher in the region of Evoia, where he won the respect and devotion of the people.
On 8th March 1894, he was appointed Dean of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School. This appointment gave him some courage and enthusiasm. Following the death of Sofronios, Nektarios wrote a letter to the new Patriarch of Alexandria, Fotios, requesting that he be re-established, but he received no reply. He then wrote to the Ecumenical Patriarch, Joakim III, but unfortunately, received no answer from Constantinople either. Therefore, he decided to go to the island of Aegina, where he renovated the old Holy Monastery of the Holy Trinity. He remained there for the rest of his life, teaching, painting holy icons, writing books, encouraging the faithful to perform works of faith and personally growing spiritually, until the day when the Lord called him to become a member of His eternal Kingdom.
St. Nektarios became a hero of the Christian faith and is an example, which every one of us must imitate. He bore the wounds of Christ and renounced the world and its glory. His soul is decorated with the precious gems of virtues. During times of persecution, he endured with patience. He faced false accusations in silence; bore contempt with forgiveness, love and patience. He endured all trials with the hope that God would justify him.
My beloved brethren,
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, under my leadership, and after 108 years of the unjust exile of St. Nektarios from the Alexandrian See, by decision of the Holy Synod of Alexandria, asks the saint for forgiveness for all the unjust acts of the previous Patriarchs.
His strong and sacred personality, his irresistible acts of character and his sacred teachings are some of the examples, which should be imitated by all the faithful; clergymen and laymen alike. His holy life caused him to be recognized and characterised by the Christian consciousness of the Orthodox Church as "the Saint of Our Century".
Today, let us, the few Orthodox who have remained in Egypt, pray with faith and piety to St. Nektarios, that he might intercede on behalf of the Patriarchate of St. Mark, the faithful Orthodox Christians, and all the world, that our Lord may bestow His Divine Mercy upon all of us.
from The Orthodox Messenger, Sept/Oct
1998, v. 9(9-10)
published bi-monthly by the SA Central Youth
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