November 9, 2014

Saint Nektarios and the Secular Spirit of Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis

St. Nektarios of Aegina

The following is taken from an interview with Nun Chrysafenia, who was twelve years old when St. Nektarios reposed, but she would often stay with him at his Monastery in Aegina:

I will tell you about when Bishop Meletios came (this is Meletios Metaxakis, who was the Metropolitan of Athens at the time and later became Ecumenical Patriarch). The nuns had lit candles. They gave me the basket with the roses. As I was holding it they would grab them from there and sprinkle them on him! When Meletios left, Saint Nektarios was upset. I approached him.

"Why my Grandpa are you upset? What's wrong?"

"My child, will you take us to your home?"

"What will you do in our house? Gladly, Grandpa! Wait, Grandpa, so I can count the beds."

"I counted them, I counted them. They seemed too few."

"They don't fit us, Grandpa. But why should we leave the Monastery? I want to live in the Monastery here. I want to be here with the nuns."

"Go therefore, my child, to the Panagia in the narthex and say a prayer."

He didn't tell me what sort of prayer to say. I went and kneeled before the Panagia crying:

"My Panagia, terminate him! My Panagia, terminate him!"

I was late praying. Eldress Haritini went to the Bishop and said: "The little one must have gotten scared, Your Eminence, and she left."

"No, Eldress Haritini. She did not leave. She is in the church. Go and bring her."

Eldress Haritini came and took me to His Eminence.

"My child, what were you saying all this time?"

"My Grandpa, I asked God to terminate him, so that he can die and we could save the Monastery!"

"My child! You said things like that? Your mouth must be honey and sugar!"

He then had me kneel before the Panagia and read over me the prayer of forgiveness.

"Do not say such a word again, my child."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis

Archimandrite Haralambos Vasilopoulos, in his book Saint Nektarios (Orthodoxos Typos edition), has preserved for us the background to this incident between Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis and Saint Nektarios. He writes:

The monastic-loving and ascetic spirit of Saint Nektarios clashed with the secular spirit of Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis, in regards to the completion of the building of the Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring in Aegina. It should be noted that this Monastery was the only one in Aegina at the time.

At that time Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis (who was then Metropolitan of Athens) had gone to Aegina to prevent Saint Nektarios from constructing the Monastery. His suggestion to stop the building was a characteristic observation of him:

"What are you doing here? Now you're building a Monastery? Do you not see that there are so many abandoned chapels around? Monasteries are not for our era today."

The last sentence, "monasteries are not for our era today", apparently shows a slip of secularism.

Saint Nektarios, the "godly healer of Christ", as his Apolytikion says, ignored this secular spirit and continued to complete the Monastery.

Saint Nektarios restored the Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring that had been in ruins since 1834, "from the time when the Bavarians desecrated the churches and monasteries", according to Makrygiannis, and after it was restored he dedicated it to the Holy Trinity.

It should be added that the official recognition of the Monastery took place after the death of the Saint, on 15 May 1924. For this purpose the grateful Church in the Prosomia of Small Vespers chants: "You restored the Monastery and set up a fortification, Nektarios, to keep souls safe, hence in Aegina you raised a godly-minded and revered Monastery, Venerable One."

According to the words of the Prophet Joel: "The Lord was jealous for His land and took pity on His people" (Joel 2:18), and indeed the Holy Hierarch, "the newly-appeared luminary of the Church" (Doxastikon of Small Vespers), He showed forth "in the last days". As Saint Nektarios foretold: "Aegina will become the Holy Mountain for Nuns". And so it happened. Now around ten Convents operate in Aegina.

The result for Saint Nektarios was a "most venerable and truly God-like disposition" (Doxastikon of Small Vespers) and "an interpreter of Orthodox doctrine" (Kathisma of Matins), together with his canonization and many miracles, while for Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis there were numerous theological objections and even more numerous expressions worthy of weeping in discounting the truth to which he had fallen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Holy Trinity Convent in Aegina