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July 14, 2015

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite: The Model of Genuine Greek Orthodox Spirituality

By His Eminence Metropolitan Ignatios of Demetriados

The suffering of a new world that is born is not unprecedented for humanity. Much more is it not unprecedented for our nation [Greece], which has not even closed two centuries since obtaining freedom, as well as the rescue of its national self-consciousness. In these confusing times, tragic deadlocks and searches for identity, domestic and existential, spiritual guidance with words, but mainly by a living example, is a vital necessity.

A spiritual leader of exceptional gifts, incredible diligence, widespread education, but mostly Greek Orthodox spirituality and genuine love for his flock, has our people found in the person of Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, who lived two and half centuries ago.

From the mid-eighteenth century and for sixty years, Saint Nikodemos generously spent the richness of his gifts with spiritual toil, to lead a people torn by dramatic dangers coming from both East and West.

The danger from the East was Ottoman oppression and atrocity, which condemned a people to ignorance, and a bloody struggle for survival, and the treasures of its faith and culture to a deep mine.

The danger from the West was the indiscriminate triumph over the theocratic Middle Ages by the Enlightenment, which threatened to lead the newly-awakened Greek people to a different kind of extremism - by absolutizing human knowledge and holding in contempt authentic and guileless folk religiosity which for centuries preserved its distinct features.

To the first danger, Saint Nikodemos responded not only with the unprecedented and multifaceted study of all fields of science of the time, but with colossal editorial work, through which emerged and survived precious spiritual treasures.

To the second danger, the Saint recruited the Orthodox secret and neptic tradition from the past thousand years, setting forth a response to the egotistical human wisdom of the philosophical man of the West, by presenting the humble vision of the uncreated light of the Philokalic man of our East.

But this wasn't the only balance he kept. At the same time as he compiled the Rudder - one of his most important works - with the exactitude and rigor of the holy canons, editing it from centuries of additions and alterations, he preserved through the Philokalia - a collection of patristic wisdom, hitherto known through successive editions in the West - pastoral discernment and the love for humanity by Athonite monasticism.

This enduring tightrope allowed him to converse with the Western spirit without altering the Orthodox ethos, and simultaneously maintained the Orthodox treasures without being cut off from the universal spiritual culture.

In the person of Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite was manifested all the timeless and paradoxical greatness of our tradition - the continuous sinking into the core of Orthodox spirituality, a movement despised by all "progressives" of each era, to become a path celebrating the ecumenicity of Orthodoxy and its encounter by the troubled and lonely man of sterile rationality.

In the early 21st century, where the stamina of mental reserves will be tested, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite remains a model in his firmness to the Orthodox doctrine and ethos, as well as in his love for others, which remain in his crystal clear words and vivid example, being a glorious star of Athonite civilization and the society of the Holy Fathers.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.