Saints have been revealed in the Holy Orthodox Church all throughout history, and not just during the Apostolic Age or years of Roman persecution. Prominent among them is a great Saint of the 20th century who is celebrated on November 9th: St. Nektarios the Wonderworker.
There may be some people who believe that those who were revealed to be Saints exist in some special category, apart from ordinary people. But if we actually study the Lives of the Saints, we can see that they came from all walks of life, as St. Nektarios did. He was born in Sylembria (eastern Thrace) in 1846 to poor parents. After his initial education in his homeland, his parents sent him to Constantinople to continue his studies. Because he had no means of support, he had to work as a store clerk while going to school. Later, he was able to attend the Theological School of Athens with the help of a wealthy and pious Christian, who appreciated the moral and spiritual qualities of the young Nektarios. St. Nektarios was tonsured a monk in 1876, and not long after became a deacon on the island of Chios. Financial difficulties did not prevent him from having a spiritual life! With his hard work, deep faith, sincere love, humility, forgiveness and daily spiritual struggle, he reached a divine holiness. He studied the Bible and the works of the Church Fathers extensively and sought to not only apply them to himself, but teach them to others in a clear and comprehensible way. He lives the spiritual life, so he can fruitfully write about it to others. In his writings, St. Nektarios talks about what a sanctified believer should look like. (Complete Works of Saint Nectarios Volume E' p. 417, In Orthodox Faith And Life pp. 198-9). Among the twenty-five he mentions are these:
- "The divine law of God keeps in his heart, he preserves it for good, and applies it to his life.”
- "His own will is in accord with the will of God.”
- "With his spiritual exercise and intermittent prayer he wants to be pleasing to God."
To these three, one more can be added that is characteristic of St. Nektarios himself:
- "He is simple in his behavior and does not hurt anyone."
There are many examples of this in his life. After his studies, he was invited to serve in the Patriarchate of Alexandria in 1885. There he was ordained a senior priest, and later Metropolitan of Pentapolis in Libya. In Cairo, Egypt (where he served as the Patriarch’s representative), he developed a broad ecclesiastical work which inspired the people. They in turn expressed their admiration for his holiness. This aroused the jealousy and envy of some in the Church hierarchy who, with insidious actions, succeeded in driving St. Nektarios out of Egypt. From there, he went to Greece, where he initially served for three years (1891-1894) as a preacher in the Holy Metropolises. After that, he was made the Principal of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School of Athens. During his 14 year ministry at the school (1894-1908), St. Nektarios was an example for the students with his teaching and sanctified demeanor. Many of these students went on to become excellent priests, Bishops, and some even became reputed saints in their own right.
In 1908, St. Nektarios retired to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity on the island of Aegina, which he had founded in the years 1904-1907. With his wisdom, he wrote numerous works on theology, Christian ethics, ecclesiastical history, and more. But what made him such a great Saint was the way he dealt with the hatred, jealousy and evil of slanderous people. Throughout his life, he had to deal with persecution, slanders and insults. But through it all, he faced it with a firm patience and forbearance, like Job, in his forgiveness and boundless love. He was not bitter in his heart against those who had attacked him. On the contrary, he tried to good to them at every opportunity!
This is why God honored and glorified him with a multitude of miracles in his lifetime, but especially since the Angels--on November 8, 1920—received his sanctified soul and delivered it into the hands of God!
My dear brothers and sisters, let us follow St. Nektarios’ example when dealing with the resentments and covetousness of others. Let us ask for his help in the difficult times of our lives, with the assurance that he will be an effective mediator. Amen.