May 7, 2020

Saint Nilus the Myrrhgusher (Photios Kontoglou)

Saint Nilus the Myrrhgusher

By Photios Kontoglou

In the time of the Turks, there appeared a number of saints, martyrs and venerables in Moria who made it fragrant with their holiness, and the tortured Christians of that time found solace in them, while slaves and the persecuted found support and hope.

One of them was Saint Nilus the New*, who is called the Myrrhgusher, because his holy relic gushed forth myrrh, just like Saint Demetrios and other saints.

He was born in Agios Petros of Kynouria, which is a blessed place, because people who reverence God live there. From a young age he possessed divine grace, loved religious things more than anything else, and had a longing to become a monk, doing by the letter that which Christ said: "Whoever wants to follow Me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross, and follow Me. Let them leave behind father, mother, wife, children, fields, houses, and everything else they love."

From the time he reposed, in 1651, I estimate he was born around 1570. In Kynouria, which is called Tsakonia in simple language, there is a glorious and ancient monastery called the Monastery of Malevi, dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos. In this monastery the Saint had a divine hieromonk who was called Makarios. He took him with him, and after they had passed some time in prayer and fasting, the Metropolitan of that region ordained Nilus a deacon and later a hieromonk.

However, out of a longing to live in asceticism more strictly, they headed for and went to the Holy Mountain. After going through many things, they settled in a deserted place where five hundred years earlier the first ascetic of the Holy Mountain lived in asceticism, before the monasteries were built, the great and wondrous Saint Peter the Athonite, who lived in a cave naked. It was near that holy cave that those two holy men went and lived. It is located near today's Kavsokalyva. What effort and suffering they went through to clean the place from thorns and wild beech tress, is written about in the testament of Saint Makarios. They called that place Holy Rock.

They built a small Church of the Ypapanti, and because they knew the art of painting, the sanctified iconographers adorned it with holy icons. The Cave of Saint Peter was inaccessible and frightening, steep on both sides. But the blessed Nilus did not hesitate, and he was able to go down there, where he lived by himself, without anyone knowing that someone lived in there, not even his uncle. He lived his entire life in that hole, being afraid of nothing, without getting hungry, without getting sick, because he steadfastly believed in the words of Him who said: "Do not worry about tomorrow. Look at the wildflowers, they don't weave, they don't work, yet not even King Solomon was adorned like one if these that are despised. Therefore, if your Father who is in heaven, adorns the plants that bloom one day, and later are cast into the fire, how much more will He care for you, who have little faith?"

So this wonderful Saint spent many years in this cave, and no one knew him. In his last years, some ascetics found out about him by inquiring of his place of asceticism. This place was called Karavostasi, and is located near the sea that looks to the south, at the nose of Mount Athos, and this name was given by the miracle that Saint Peter the Athonite performed by stopping the ship he was traveling in, to take him out on land, as the synaxarion of that strict ascetic says, who is the ancestor of those who practice asceticism on the Holy Mountain.

Finally, the day had come for Saint Nilus to pay, as a mortal man, the common debt, and to fly from the cave to the heavens, from the toils and from the unbelievable sufferings, to the kingdom of heaven. This day was November 12, 1651. His honorable body was made worthy by the Lord to flow with myrrh, and from this he was named Myrrhgusher. His tomb was made in the cave.

In time, that wild place became so fierce that the thorns, the willows, and the wild roots completely covered the cave, as if they wanted to guard the holy relic from vile hands. Thus, for many years the Saint was forgotten. In 1845, a monk, the so-called Aichmalotos, who had been healed by the Saint and had seen many miracles, was ordered by the Saint to repair the cave path, for the brothers to go to venerate and for the church to function.

Then the tomb of the Saint was found, and the holy relic gave off a fragrance. This happened on May 7, 1845, which is why his memory is celebrated on this day. Then many miracles happened, and others happened later. The relic of Saint Nilus is located in the Monastery of Great Lavra.

This is briefly the life of our venerable father Nilus the Myrrhgusher, who is the modest boast of Kynouria. His compatriots have him as their protector, and they honor him like the people of Kerkyra do Saint Spyridon, the people of Kephallonia do Saint Gerasimos, and the people of Zakynthos do Saint Dionysios.

I painted this Saint only once on a mural of the big church of Saint Nicholas Kato Patision of Acharnes. And he showed me the sinner a small miracle. That is, the day I finished the icon, it was his commemoration, and I neither knew nor thought about it. The icon was dedicated by a devout Christian from Kynouria, and it is the one that the reader sees printed here.

* He is called New to distinguish him from the older Saint Nilus of Sinai.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.