St Nektarios of Aegina is a saint of recent times, reposing in 1920, a hundred years ago next year. His feast is celebrated in the Orthodox Church on November 9. There are more churches dedicated to St Nektarios than to any other modern Orthodox saint. What is characteristic of this saint is his humility and unwavering faith in God. Many saints in the Church have faced persecution over centuries. Many were brutally tortured for the Faith preceding their martyrdom. What was somewhat unusual in St Nektarios’ case was his persecution and shortcomings came from within the Church. It was other clergy that persecuted him, mostly out of envy because of his humility and piety.
His problems began when he was elected Metropolitan of Pentapolis in Libya. Some of his colleagues became jealous of him because of his great virtues and his inspiring homilies. So some of the metropolitans and bishops of the Patriarchate of Alexandria slandered St Nektarios to Patriarch Sophronius who eventually removed him from his position. St Nektarios then went to Athens. Yet, even there the vicious rumors about him carried with him. St. Nektarios was not able to obtain a position, thus not having a means to support himself. When he finally found a position as a preacher in the diocese of Vitinea and Euboea, he had to soon resign because the rumors traveled there as well.
However, at some point people started to realize that these baseless rumors were not true and in contrast to St Nektarios’ true character. Finally, things started to change for the better. He was appointed Director of the Rizarios Seminary in Athens. St Nektarios spent nearly 15 years there and did tremendous work. The students greatly benefited from his talents and virtues. He then went on to rebuild an abandoned monastery on the island of Aegina. Many flocked to the monastery to confess to him and hear his wisdom. He told the nuns: I am building a lighthouse for you, and God shall put a light in it that will shine forth to the world. Many will see this light and come to Aegina. At first the nuns did not know what he was saying but later they did. He was himself to be that beacon one day when people would come to venerate his relics. The words of the Saint echoed that of what Jesus Christ once said: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mt 5:16)
The life of St Nektarios is similar to that of the Prophet Job. The Book of Job is part of the Old Testament. He lived about 1600 years before Christ, around the era of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Job was a very pious and just man who was blessed with wealth and a family. However, Satan made a proposition or a bet, if you will, with God that if Job was to lose all his fortune and family that he would turn against Him. Satan told God: but stretch out Your hand and touch all he has, and see if he will bless You to Your face. (Job 1:11) So Job lost his cattle and his own children. Yet, in all these things that happened, Job did not sin against the Lord or charge God with folly. (ibid 1:22) Then Satan struck Job with malignant sores from head to toe. Even his wife questioned him on how much longer he would remain steadfast. Then Job looked at her and said, “You have spoken as one of the foolish women speaks. If we accepted good things from the Lord’s hand, shall we not endure evil things?” In all these things that happened to him, Job did not sin with his lips against God. (ibid, 2:15)
So, Job endured through his hardships with patience and faith in God. He never asked for anything back. He displayed great humility, mimicking the Savior, Jesus Christ who was to come. Job said about himself: I regard myself as dust and ashes (ibid, 42:6) Then one day the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends, and He forgave their sin. The Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before and he went on to live to an old age. It is written that he will rise with those whom the Lord resurrects. (ibid, 42:18)
Indeed, St Nektarios was a “type” of Job. The word “type” comes from typology which is used to draw similarities between Old and New Testament figures. The emphasis is to unite the two Covenants as one, with the New being the fulfillment of the Old. Although St Nektarios is a modern-day saint, he fully exemplifies the teachings of Christ found in the Gospel. The difference however between St Nektarios and Job is that the former was not restored to his prior status. In other words, St Nektarios was not reinstalled as Metropolitan of Pentapolis or ever formally exonerated by his accusers. However, the fact that he was given the position as Director of the Rizarios School and later the opportunity to be a founder of a monastery was a great blessing for him. Prior to this he was given the position of a preacher. These three great opportunities were indeed gifts from God. In addition, God blessed him with the ability to perform miracles. All the Saint wanted to do was to serve God by administering to His flock. From St Nektarios’ perspective, whether he was a Metropolitan or a preacher, or a director of a school, he was serving God’s flock. The times he was not in a position to serve the people was a time of anguish for him not because he didn’t have a “title” but rather because he cared for the welfare of all people. St Nektariosputhis fellow man first, not himself or his status. Is this not the true example of the Good Shepherd? For Christ said: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
It is for these great virtues that St Nektarios exhibited in his life that he was glorified by God. He performed many miracles both in his life and after his repose, especially those afflicted with cancer.
These two great men, the Prophet Job and St Nektarios of Aegina, although they lived more than three millennia apart in time, have such strong similarities. Both demonstrate to us that no matter how dire our life situation may be, or how poor we may get, it is our faith in God that makes us spiritually rich. Let us venerate St Nektarios and seek his supplications before Christ not only for healing of illnesses but for spiritual healing as well.
In joy, let our hearts praise the latest shining star of the Orthodox, the newly erected rampart of the Church. For, glorified by the work of the Spirit, he abundantly pours forth the grace of healing to those who cry out, “Hail, Father Nektarios”.(Kontakion of the Feast Day)