October 27, 2020

Saint Nestor as a Model for our Lives


 By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The martyr Nestor lived in the third century during the reigns of Diocletian and Maximian. He came from Thessaloniki and was connected with a genuine spiritual friendship with the great martyr Demetrios the Myrrhgusher. He was martyred at a young age, about eighteen years old. In that difficult period of persecution, the Church was to show forth an innumerable number of martyrs, and among them Nestor holds a prominent position.

At that time there was a giant barbarian named Lyaios, who was considered a common murderer, having killed many innocent people. However, Emperor Maximian rejoiced in him, bragged about him and boasted of his bravery and victories. For this reason, the arrogance of Lyaios had no limits, and he turned against everything, especially against the members of the Church. He said that Christians are weak, just like the God they worship, and that none of them dares to stand before him. Nestor, who loved Christ very much, wanted to battle with him, the arrogant one, and humiliate him with the power of Christ and the blessing of Saint Demetrios. So he went to the prison where Saint Demetrios was being held and confessed his thoughts to him. Saint Demetrios encouraged him and told him that he would defeat Lyaios and shed his blood for Christ. Then he entered the stadium without fear, shouted "God of Demetrios, help me!" and defeated Lyaios. Maximian, full of anger, ordered him to be killed, and the enraged crowd of idolaters shouted "death to the victor" instead of "crown to the victor", as was usually the case. Nestor, however, received the unfading crown of victory from the prize-giver Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

His life and conduct gives us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, the Triune God of the Church is the true God "who alone does wonders". He is not a God that is an abstract impersonal force, but He is "the God of our Fathers". He is known by those who love Him and He knows them, and a personal communion develops between them. He is a Triune God, that is, one God, but three Persons, intermingled, and each of them has its own existential unique feature, namely, the Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten, and the Holy Spirit proceeds. There are Three Persons-Hypostases, but one God, "one nature, one divinity, one power", or as we chant during Matins for the feast of Pentecost, "one power, one order, one worship."

The Triune God therefore is not impersonal, but is a personal God, Who is revealed to those who invoke Him, and have the ability to see Him, that is, they have a pure heart and an illumined nous. They see Him and converse with Him, as one converses with one's friend. They see Him in Light and their whole existence is illuminated, both their soul and their body.

All the appearances of God in the Old Testament are appearances of the Son and Word of God. However, where the Son is, there also is the Father and the Holy Spirit, which reveals the Holy Trinity. In the Old Testament the Son and Word of God is pre-incarnate and is revealed and converses with the Prophets, the Patriarchs and the Righteous, while in the New Testament there is the incarnate Christ, who heals. Those who come to Him in faith are healed of physical and mental ailments, are born again spiritually, and become "children of God."

Throughout the ages well-meaning people believed in Christ, and depending on their receptivity, they each receive His Grace. The "words of Grace" that emanate from His mouth and His presence within them change their existence into the Kingdom of God. And then their heart is sweetened, comforted, receives strength, is altered internally, rejoices, is gladdened and feels a joy that is changeless, inexpressible, internal, which no one can take away from them, according to His word: "And this joy will not be taken away from you."

Secondly, man as a rational being naturally thinks, which is something that does not take place with irrational animals. However, his various thoughts and decisions before realization should be put to the judgment of qualified and experienced people, who have knowledge and experience related to the issue that concerns him, as well as prudence and discernment, in order to advise, but also confirm his thoughts and decisions. This would avoid big and serious mistakes. And if this should be done in matters related to human knowledge, that is, with letters, arts, sciences, sports, etc., much more should it be done in the spiritual life. That is, when it comes to spiritual matters on which salvation depends, that is, our eternal future, then man should pray, ask his spiritual father questions, and obey his first words, because according to the Holy Fathers the first words of a spiritual father are the words of God. His second words, given after judgments, objections and negotiations, are human words, which is why mistakes are made. Spiritual errors, however, are "paid for" very expensively, because spiritual laws are at work, and therefore great care is needed. In other words, just as in the matter of the learning of human knowledge a wise teacher is needed and in sports an experienced coach is required, so in spiritual matters an experienced and discreet spiritual guide is required, which can be done by anyone who can discern the truth from error, the divine from the demonic, and thus he will guide his spiritual children.

May we know the God of our Fathers empirically, feel His presence within us and taste the sweetness of His love.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.