A Look Back on The Life of St. Nektarios, Metropolitan of Aegina

St. Nektarios holy relics in Aegina. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Christos Bonis)

Saint Nektarios was born on October 1, 1846 in Selybria, Thrace. At the age of fourteen, he left his home and traveled to Constantinople in search of work and study. By the age of twenty-one, he was considered a theological scholar and devout Christian. After putting himself through school in Constantinople with much hard labor, he became a monk in Chios, in 1876, receiving the monastic name of Lazarus; because of his virtue, a year later he was ordained deacon, receiving the new name of Nektarios.

Under the patronage of Patriarch Sophronios of Alexandria, Nektarios went to Athens to study in 1882; completing his theological studies in 1885, he went to Alexandria, where Patriarch Sophronius ordained him priest on March 23, 1886 in the Cathedral of Saint Sabbas, and in August of the same year, in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Cairo, made him Archimandrite.

Archimandrite Nektarios showed much zeal both for preaching the word of God, and for the beauty of God’s house.

On January 15, 1889, Nektarios was consecrated Metropolitan of the Pentapolis in eastern Libya, which was under the jurisdiction of Alexandria. He was later appointed as dean of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School in Athens in 1894. In 1904, he began building his convent of the Holy Trinity on the island of Aegina; because his presence there was needed, he took up residence in Aegina in 1908, where he spent the last years of his life, devoting himself to his convent and to prayer.

Saint Nektarios was a prolific writer, philosopher, poet, educator and theologian. One of my favorite pieces written by Saint Nektarios is on virtue, to which he wrote:

“We ought to do everything we can for the acquisition of virtue and moral wisdom (phronesis), for the prize is beautiful and the hope great. The path of virtue is a path of effort and toil: ‘Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it;’ whereas the gate of vice is wide and the way spacious, but lead to perdition.”

Above all else, St. Nektarios was a man of profound prayer and modesty, a hard worker who toiled as everyone else around him; no work was ever dishonorable to him. He became the protector of Aegina through his prayers, delivering the island from drought and healing the sick. Although he had already worked wonders in life, an innumerable multitude of miracles have been wrought after his repose in 1920 through his holy relics, which for many years remained incorrupt. There is hardly a malady that has not been cured through his prayers; however Saint Nektarios is particularly renowned for his healings of cancer for sufferers in all parts of the world. Many faithful have turned to him for the grievous illness of cancer, and many have been cured, particularly from the holy oil from his lampada which consistently burns at his grave site in Aegina.

Saint Nektarios passed away on November 8, 1920. The faithful of Aegina, the nuns of his monastery and all Christians who had come close to him, mourned the loss of the meek and empathetic devotee of Christ. His body remained incorrupt for over twenty years, refining a sensitive, heavenly scent; his veneration was officially recognized in 1961, and his name day is commemorated on November 9. The list of his miracles grows longer every day, and his shrine at Aegina is among the most well-known destinations of pilgrimage in Greece.