Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Feast of St. Nektarios
For you remember our labor and toil, brethren; we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you, while we preached to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our behavior to you believers; for you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea; for you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews. I Thessalonians 2: 9-14
Good morning Prayer Team!
When we think of the saints, often times we think of the early centuries of Christianity. We think of saints who lived in deserts, who had no modern conveniences. Saint Nektarios, who the church commemorates each year on November 9, is a “modern day” saint. He lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He died less than 100 years ago and he was made a saint in 1961, before some of us were even born. Saint Nektarios was a bishop. He was a very prayerful man. He was ordained a priest in Egypt and was serving as a parish priest in Cairo. He was ordained a bishop in 1889. However, after serving for only one year, he was exiled from Egypt without any explanation. He spend his life writing, hearing confessions, preaching and celebrating the Liturgy. He died of cancer in 1920.
When he died, and people came to prepare his body for burial, they threw his clothes onto the bed next to him. And the man who was suffering from cancer on the bed was healed. After St. Nektarios was buried on the island of Aegina, his tomb began to emit oil and people who were anointed with the oil were healed. He was “proclaimed” a saint in 1961, after a groundswell of support from pious people who had been healed at his tomb. St. Nektarios is the patron saint of cancer patients.
The words I want to focus on today are from the Epistle lesson read on this day, from I Thessalonians 2:9-14. In verse 10, we read, “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our behavior to you believers.” And in verse 14, we read “for you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus.” In his letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul reminds us that as witnesses for God, we are supposed to be holy, righteous and blameless in our behavior. We witness for God by being imitators of Christ.
Saint Nektarios did not die a violent death. He did, however, have a challenging life. He was exiled without explanation. He had to leave his home for no reason. He lost his reputation without recourse. And yet he found a way to glorify God, and to witness for Christ. He actually intended to live his life in relative obscurity. He was content to be a priest, a man of prayer, a humble spiritual father, and a writer. He didn’t set out to achieve acclaim. But his quiet labor for Christ got him exactly that. He gained fame because of his humility. People flocked to him because of his piety. People asked his advice because he was living in Christ and Christ was living in him and this was very attractive to people stressed out by the challenges of life.
I love the story of St. Nektarios because it is a story that can belong to ANY of us. If we work with humility, if we seek to honor Christ in our lives, and if we strive to imitate the love of Christ, this will do two things for us. It will bring people to us because people want to be around loving and Godly people. And secondly, it will please God.
The word for “saint” in Greek is “agios.” And “agios” means set apart. Some of the “agious” (people who are set apart) are acclaimed as saints by us, and they are honored with churches and icons. The most important thing in life, however, is not to have a church named after you, or to be assigned a saint’s day. The most important thing in life is to be recognized by God as an “agios”, as one who tries to set his or her life apart from the ways of the world in order to embrace the ways of God. In so doing, God will recognize us as “agious” and save for us a place in His heavenly kingdom.
Saints are not just people who lived a long time ago. There are saints walking in our world today. There are people who when they die will be recognized as saints. The story of St. Nektarios proves that this could happen to any of us, if we live our lives as witnesses and imitators of Christ.
The son of Silybria, the guardian of Aegina, and the ardent lover of virtue who in recent years has appeared, the God-inspired servant of Christ Nektarios, O faithful, let us praise. For he gushes forth healings of every kind to those who cry out reverently: Glory to Christ who glorified you; glory to Him for your miracles; glory to Him who through you effects cures for all. (Apolytkion of St. Nektarios, Trans. By Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Set yourself apart for Christ today!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Photo Credit: Lessons from a Monastery
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