July 11, 2018

Saint Nikodemos of Vatopaidi, Teacher of Saint Gregory Palamas (+ 1322)

St. Nikodemos of Vatopaidi (Feast Day - July 11)


You were seen as victorious in praxis and theoria,
Against the most-profane enemy, Nikodemos.
How unrewarded it is to leave behind the words,
Of Nikodemos, O reward of a watchful nous.

Saint Nikodemos, whose name in the world was Nikephoros, lived as an ascetic in a cell near the Vatopaidi Monastery at Mount Athos in the early fourteenth century. We learn about his personality from the Patriarch of Constantinople, Saint Philotheos Kokkinos, in his biography of Saint Gregory Palamas. According to Patriarch Philotheos, Saint Nikodemos, “a man admirable in his praxis and theoria,” lived the monastic life first at the Mount of Auxentius near Chalcedon, which had been a famous center of monasticism as early as the fifth century.

Later, because of Turkish raids, Nikodemos took refuge on the Holy Mountain, where he settled near Vatopaidi. There he met Saint Gregory Palamas, who, impressed by his virtue, became his disciple and lived with him “in fasting and vigil and sobriety and prayer without ceasing” for three years (1319-1322), that is until the death of Nikodemos. It was during this time that Saint Gregory Palamas beheld a vision of Saint John the Theologian, who taught him to pray: "Illumine my darkness." Saint Nikodemos, who reposed in peace and was famous throughout the Holy Mountain for his virtue, must certainly have had a profound influence on Saint Gregory Palamas, but the information which has come down to us is not sufficient to determine its extent.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the First Tone
Victorious in struggles against the dragon, you conducted yourself in asceticism wise one, which you bore with yearning at Vatopaidi Monastery, and as a guide of virtue, you were called to the heavenly mansions, to which you passed Nikodemos, entreating Christ on behalf of those who honor you joyously.