Monday, October 05, 2009

Books I've Read(or am reading)-Twenty-Four: "Saint Nektarios, The Saint of our Century" by Sotos Chondropoulos

(click on images to enlarge)

In a recent post I briefly mentioned the effect this book had in my life. And for Dixie I will make here some comments on the overall reaction of our patrons to the cards we give out with the "Wisdom of the Saints." The cards have been received very well with very few people being put off by them. In fact quite often we, my brothers and I, are approached and told how much these cards are liked. We even receive comments to the effect, "I really like your philosophy cards." Again, our hope is that the cards will make people thirsty in some manner for the Holy Orthodox Faith. They are also meant to unsettle a bit, not giving people the fortune cookie ego inflating treatment but a treatment, perhaps somewhat subdued, of the need for repentance and to not be content with one's life lived outside of God.

This post will be to have a brief description of the book itself and to also allow me a venue to put down some random thoughts that have made their way to my consciousness.

I have come to believe with more conviction that in one sense, especially for new Orthodox Christians, reading the lives of the Saints in one respect is more important than reading the Scriptures. And only thus. The lives of the Saints reveal Scripture to us. The Saints in their lives embody the Scriptures and the Tradition in which the Tradition they are written, which Tradition is not a dead and lifeless thing but the fragrance and Life of the Holy Spirit.

A Saint is only a Saint in the Church because his or her life is "dogmatically correct". We can argue about teaching if we wish, but when discussing the life of a Saint it is rather difficult to argue about a life. To argue about why someone is called "Saint" is to argue with the Church which may perhaps be useful if this arguing brings to the surface the matters that one finds difficult to understand and accept in the Life of the Church.

The reading of Saints' lives helps one build an Orthodox World View and see life through their eyes and how they dealt with the challenges put before them. The Orthodox World View is the Life of the Triune God as lived by the Saints within the Church. Their lives show us the Scriptures. Their lives show us the Savior. Their lives manifest the Blessed Holy Trinity.

Reading these stories gives one the framework in which to place the reading of Holy Scripture within the Church as lived in the life of the Saint in such a manner that the Scriptures breathe naturally in this atmosphere and are not stifled nor forced. Without the Orthodox World View, i.e., the Life of the Church, to place the Scriptures in, they remain flat, lacking a dimension that "fills them out".

After watching the new DVD on St. John Maximovich , a growing desire has been tugging at me to have "Saints' Nights" perhaps at my home. This would be an evening devoted to the reading of a Saint's life and perhaps their teaching. I have ideas about certain rules of ambiance being in force to add to the night.

I will here post the Preface to this wonderful book and add to this simply my heart's desire that anyone reading this post on my blog here would search out this book and become acquainted with Saint Nektarios and go from acquaintance to the asking of his holy prayers and intercessions.


"Saint Nektarios, whose biography you are about to read, was born in Silyvria of Thrace on the 1st of October, 1846 of humble yet pious and God-fearing parents and gave up his blessed spirit to the Lord in the evening of the 8th of November, 1920.

Even before our Holy Church proceeded to the official proclamation of his Sainthood, through the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras, in April 1961, the multitude of the faithful people had already acknowledged Nektarios, the Metropolitan of Pentapolis, to be a Saint.

The fragrance that the sweat of his face gave out, the first miracle that took place in Aretaieion Hospital as soon as he breathed his last, were the first signs of his obvious holiness.

A few years later, St. Nektarios became widely known not only throughout Greece but to the whole Orthodox world as well, as far as the depths of the African continent. Moreover, it is a known fact that hundreds of churches and chapels have been erected in his honor and continue to do so wherever faithful Orthodox Greeks are found.

God who judges all and decides which of those who lived or taught in the Orthodox manner will remain intercessors for the Church even after their reception into Heaven, found Nektarios of Pentapolis worthy of ministering for the faithful Christians as a Saint.
The faithful can and must address their supplications to him since he was found worthy of standing in front of the Lord's throne and interceded with Him on our behalf.

As a contemporary Saint of our times, he very soon becomes the best known Saint of all time acguiring the title «the Saint of our century.»

Along with the historical data on his life there exists an immense amount of material concerning his spiritual life as seen through the numerous writings he left us and the testimony of his contemporaries.

Many pamphlets and books have been written to emphasize St. Nektarios holiness and strengthen the spirit of the Christians.

The unique beauty of the book in hand, dear reader, according to general acknowledegement, lies in its narrative style while remaining adherent to the historical facts.

The esteemed author, Sotos Chondropoulos, started his work in awe and prayer, He gathered the available written material and every verified oral information he found concerning the Saint's life and moulded it in his own personal style.

His purpose was to show how and why the Saint «pleased the Lord,» how he dealt with the problems of his times, the hardships, the degradations, the slander, the physical torture; mainly, how he faced up to the ceaseless attacks of the evil one and how this humble hierarch of Aegina reached holiness and was graced by the Lord.

The author's frequent visits to the island of Aegina and his stay at the Monastery that was established by the Saint himself - since the author offered the Monastery his services as a book¬keeper gratis till the end of his days - gave him the opportunity to live in the places that the Saint had lived: rest under the tree the Saint used to rest, touch his personal belongings, stay in his room. How couldn't he be inspired by such a blessing?

It was within this blessing that he strongly wished to put on paper this extraordinary figure of Orthodoxy; the figure of the tortured Saint of Aegina, of St. Nektarios who left on the twentieth century an unfading trail of humility, perseverance, wise silence and hope.

On a daily basis, after finishing with the book-keeping at the Monastery, the author studied, learned, sipped the nectar that was discretely hidden in the flower of the Saint's life on earth.

Some time later, he was ready to present through his graceful narrative aspects of the Saints life that were unknown till then; the originality of his work lies in the liveliness of his style that enables the reader to visualize the narrated events and fills his heart with serene joy.

This biography has been widely circulating all over Greece since 1970, Now, with God's help, «New Earth», publications, who have the sole responsibility of this work by right of inheritance, have the opportunity to publish it in the English language.

We strongly believe that the public in all Orthodox states will embrace this English version in the same spirit of love and Christian zeal."

Christos S, Chondropoulos


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