St. Nektarios was born, Anastasi Kephalas, in Selybria, Thrace in 1846. At the age of 14, he left home to seek work and education in Constantinople. At 20, he taught for 10 years on the Island of Chios at the port Lithi. In 1876, at the age of 30 he was tonsured Lazaros at the Monastery of Nea Mone. In 1877 he was ordained a Deacon in Alexandria and given the name Nektarios. Under the support of a Mr. Horemis he went back to Athens to complete his high school education. Upon graduation he left to serve Patriarch Sophronios of Alexandria, Egypt. He sent him back to Athens to the University.
Upon return to Alexandria he was ordained a priest in Cairo and elevated as a Bishop January 15, 1889. Due to envy (by clergy who didn’t want to see him elevated as Patriarch) he was forced to resign his pastoral duties and was exiled to Athens.
In Athens there was no financial support from the Patriarchate, but he responded with faith in God, and shared what he had with the poor. He was refused placement “because he was not a Greek citizen.” Finally he was assigned to a small church in the Euboia province (Halkida). The first Sunday no one showed up for services, for this he was heckled by the parishioners. He was ready to leave and go to a Monastery and then supporters from Egypt came to his aid.
In 1894 he became the Dean of the Rizareios Seminary in Athens. Attacks surfaced again from the Patriarchate, and his morality was questioned. A fire struck devastation and Nektarios led the collection for aid. Then there was the miracle of the healing of a boy named Nicholas; the Virgin Mary appeared to Nicholas in a dream and assured him that he would be healed. Nektarios wrote hymns in her honor.
There were more healings that came through Holy Unction, and exorcisms began to take place. By 1900 his health became weak from all his pastoral and scholarly work. In 1904 he began to counsel young women and was accused by the school of neglecting his duties to the students. He eventually established a convent for these women on the Island of Aegina, in 1906. A chapel was dedicated in 1908 to the Holy Trinity. In March of 1908 he resigned his position at the School of Theology.
He died November 9, 1920. Three years later his body was exhumed and the remains were found uncorrupted. A sweet fragrance emanated from the body. His body stayed this way for 20 years and then it decomposed and the bones remained fragrant. In 1961 he was declared a saint by the Patriarchate of Constantinople
Teachings of St. Nektarios
A. Charity: “You understand of course with the attitude he has, what would it mean if he were made Patriarch. Everything we own would certainly be divided among the barefooted natives and the beggars, and the treasury would be left empty” (from his contemporaries).
B. Fervent quest for renewal: “In fact if I didn’t feel so deeply for the pain of the Orthodox people in their unquenchable thirst for spiritual guidance, I would have taken the road of the hermits.”
C. Focused on the kingdom: “This world is indeed unfulfilling and imperfect, but that is what makes me believe all the more that our life on earth is a temporary existence&ldots;death will be that train that takes us to a better place.”
D. Persecuted, yet rejoicing! “They do not seem to like you, Your Eminence (Nektarios). It doesn’t matter Galinos. I love them, and that is enough for me to keep my inner peace.”