Thursday, 8 November 2012


“Miracles are not impossible from a logical standpoint, and right reason does not deny them. Natural laws do not have the claim to be the only ones, nor are they threatened with being overturned by the appearance of other laws, supernatural ones, which also are conducive to the development and furtherance of creation… Miracles are a consequence of the Creator’s love for His creatures.” – St Nectarios

Saint Nectarios of Aegina (1846–1920), Metropolitan of Pentapolis and Wonderworker of Aegina, was officially recognised as a Saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1961. His Feast Day is celebrated every year on 9 November. The saint is one of the most widely known and loved of Greek Orthodox Saints and his name (meaning “sweet as nectar”) is a popular name for boys (Nectários) and girls (Nectaría) in Greece.

St. Nectarios was born on 1 October 1846 in Selymbria in Eastern Thrace to a poor but pious family, his parents being Dimos and Maria Kephalas. His given name was Anastasios Kephalas. At the age of 14, he moved to Constantinople (Istanbul) to work and also further his education as he loved learning. In 1866, at age 20, he moved to the island of Chios to take up a teaching post.

As he had long wished to take a monastic life, on November 7, 1876 he became a monk, at age 30, in the Monastery of Nea Moni. Three years later 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 faithfully the Church of Saint Nicholas in Cairo. In recognition of his piety and brilliance as a preacher, as well as his administrative ability, he was consecrated Metropolitan bishop of Pentapolis (an ancient diocese in Cyrenaica, in what is now Libya) by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Sophronios in 1889.

He served as a Bishop in Cairo for one year, and because of his immense popularity with the people he was greatly envied by his peers. Internal squabbling in the church and this envy amongst the clergy resulted in lies being made up about him and false accusations regarding his activities were brought before the Patriarch. As a result, Patriarch Sophronios refused to listen to what St. Nectarios had to say in his own defence. He was sent away from Egypt without trial or any explanation whatsoever.

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 School 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 nunnery for them on the island of Aegina, in the Saronic Gulf close to Athens. The nunnery was named Holy Trinity Convent. Nectarios ordained two women as deaconesses in 1911. Up to the 1950s, a few Greek Orthodox nuns also became monastic deaconesses. In 1986, Christodoulos, 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. Nectarios” (the ancient Byzantine text St. Nectarios 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 convent, he also tended the gardens, carried stones, and helped with the construction of the monastery buildings that were built with his own funds. Next to the original convent in Aegina a grand church dedicated to St Nectarios has been built. The church is still in the process of being completed.

St. Nectarios died on the evening of 9 November 1920 (O.S. 8 November) at the age of 74, following hospitalisation for prostate cancer. His body was taken to the Holy Trinity Convent, where he was buried by his best friend St Savvas of Kalymnos, who later painted the first icon of St. Nectarios. The funeral of St. Nectarios was attended by multitudes of people from all parts of Greece and Egypt. His anathema in Cairo was not lifted by the Alexandrian Patriarchate until 1998.

Many people regarded St. Nectarios as a Saint during his lifetime because of his devoutness, his humility, his purity, his writings, as well as the miracles he performed. St. Nectarios also had the gift of prescience. The relics of St. Nectarios were removed from the grave on 2 September 1953. Official recognition of Nectarios as a Saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople took place on 20 April 1961. Thousands of miracles have been attributed to his intercession.

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