Saint Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
The Life and Miracles of St Nektarios (1846 - 1920)

November 9, 2018

Beloved in Christ, tomorrow we celebrate the feast of another 20th century saint who has impacted thousands of lives in the last hundred years.                       

St. Nektarios was born in 1846 in Selyvria, (present day) Turkey and was raised by pious parents (his house is in the picture below) there until he reached 14 years of age.   At age 14 he set out towards Constantinople to further his education.  Because his family was so poor, he couldn't afford the boat ride so he asked the captain to take him on.  The captain refused but was unable to start the engines until the young saint was allowed back on the ship.                
 
While studying in Constantinople, Saint Nektarios worked at a tobacco shop and would write down short quotes from spiritual books on the packages.  He lived in extreme poverty and went around barefoot and in ragged clothing.  He saw the tobacco owner receive many letters and being a young boy desired to write a letter himself.   
 
He wrote a letter to Christ and it went like this.  "My little Christ, I do not have an apron or shoes.  You send them to me.  You know how much I love you." He sealed the letter and addressed it "To the Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven". The letter came into the hands of a merchant who was so moved by the letter that he sent St Nektarios a letter back with money in it.  
 
While still a young man, St Nektarios made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and during his voyage, his ship was in danger of sinking in a dangerous storm.  St Nektarios began to pray and taking off his cross (which had a piece of the original cross in it) he tied it to his belt and began to command the sea to be silent.  At once the wind died down and the sea became calm.  However, St Nektarios was saddened because he lost his cross in the process.  As the ship sailed on the crew noticed a knocking sound coming from the hull and when they inspected it they found St. Nektarios' cross stuck to the hull.  The cross is in the picture below.  
                                  
St Nektarios would eventually become a monk, a priest, and the Bishop of Pentapolis in Egypt.  All this we will talk about in tomorrow's email!  Until then here is a quote from the saint. 
 
"We have within us deeply rooted weaknesses, passions, and defects. This can not all be cut out with one sharp motion, but patience, persistence, care and attention. The path leading to perfection is long. Pray to God so that he will strengthen you. Patiently accept your falls and, having stood up, immediately run to God, not remaining in that place where you have fallen. Do not despair if you keep falling into your old sins. Many of them are strong because they have received the force of habit. Only with the passage of time and with fervor will they be conquered. Don’t let anything deprive you of hope.”  - St Nektarios
 
With love in Christ,
Fr Alex  
 
P.S.  St John the Baptist Greek Church will be having Divine Liturgy tomorrow at 10 AM to celebrate the feast! 
The Life and Miracles of St Nektarios Part 2

Beloved in Christ, Blessed Feast!

In 1886, St. Nektarios was ordained to the Priesthood and because of his service to the Church, prolific writings, energy, and zeal he was consecrated 3 years later as Metropolitan of Pentapolis in Egypt.  As a good shepherd he was always there for his people.  He built homes for the poor, established soup kitchens, and distributed alms to the needy.  His fame spread rapidly and also aroused the envy of certain clerics who slandered him to the Patriarch.  They deceitfully said that St. Nektarios was working hard to replace the Patriarch and take his place.  The Patriarch then kept him under something similar to house arrest and limited his duties.  
 
The people were outraged at this and began to stir up trouble for the Patriarch so St. Nektarios was eventually sent away from Egypt (back to Greece).  The holy Bishop left without money and without a diocese.  He was a Bishop wandering the streets without a home. It was as if he was sent into exile in his own homeland.  The people in Greece heard word of the slander against him and they treated him very poorly. 
                                   
One can only imagine how he must have felt abandoned by God, his Church, and his homeland.  In all of his turmoil, he had a vision of the Theotokos with St. Basil and St Gregory Palamas that strengthened him and inspired him to remain humble, faithful, and full of zeal for God.  Following this dream he composed a hymn to the Theotokos that we all know and sing regularly (here is that hymn- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhXReeCLQQs).  
 
Eventually St. Nektarios was appointed Dean of the Rizarios Theological School in Greece.  He cleaned his own vestments and scrubbed floors. When trouble happened with his students he would often fast and pray instead of punishing his students (who would in turn repent after seeing his faith). Once again his fame spread among the people and many would come from all around to hear his sermons and participate in the Liturgies he served.  They had to limit the amount of people because of how pact the Church was getting.                                  
 
Towards the end of his life he helped create a Convent on the Island of Aegina, Greece (where his grave is today).  He dug trenches, hauled dirt, and ministered to all the nuns that needed his guidance.  He served there until his death in 1920.  His body was dug up  6 months after his death and found to be incorrupt (the whole Convent was filled with a sweet scent). Three years later his body was still found incorrupt and people began to come to his grave to pray and drink water from a spring that ran through his grave.  The nuns started recording the miracles from the spring and eventually they began to fill books and books with healing stories.  There are also stories about people hearing things when putting an ear to his grave (https://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2017/11/saint-nektarios-and-protestant-who.html) .
                 
Some of the most famous miracle stories are as follows.  When St Nektarios passed away (hospital room pictured below) the nurses removed his sweater and placed it on a paralyzed man's bed.  Immediately the paralyzed man began to walk and glorified God.  By St. Nektarios' prayers even children have been raised from the dead (https://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/11/st-nektarios-resurrects-3-year-old-boy.html).  There are also many stories of how cancer patients have been healed by the prayers of the saint.  He is considered the patron saint of cancer patients.  
          
In Myrtle Beach, we have a piece of his vestment (his cuff) that has come into the possession of Fr Angelo. It is pictured here below.  May St Nektarios continue to intercede for us and may we honor his memory with the humility and forgiveness that he so beautifully lived out. 
                        
 
Blessed Feast!
 
With love in Christ,
St. Raphael
November 3, 2018
 
Beloved in Christ, Blessed Feast of St. Raphael!!
 
Words cannot accurately describe the sacrifice, love, and dedication of this holy saint of America!  
 
In one of his 5 month missionary journeys he visited 43 communities, confessed and communed 650 people, baptized 98 people, performed 73 weddings, celebrated 45 Divine liturgies, and delivered 45 sermons.  This was all just in a 5 month period. 
 
 As you can see he worked night and day, desiring with all his being to provide his beloved flock with a place to worship and know God.  We continue to reap the fruit of his labors today!  It is out of great thanksgiving that we celebrate Great Vespers tonight at 6:00 and Divine Liturgy on Saturday at 9:00, participating in the life of the Church that he so selflessly and sacrificially gave his entire life for.   O Holy Father Raphael, intercede for us!
Halloween and Hawaweeny

October 31, 2018

Beloved in Christ, today our country celebrates Halloween which literally means All Hallows Eve (or All Saints Eve) and it was called that until the 18th Century (where we see the term Halloween first used).  This day was originally (and still is in the Catholic Church) a day where Christians would pray for the departed and remember the saints and the martyrs.  Some historians even believe that Christians fasted on this day.  

 
Other early traditions associated with this festal day include the baking of "soul cakes".  People would bake cakes in memory of their loved ones and share it with the community. If you received a cake from someone you would remember their departed loved ones in your prayers.  Often times groups of poor children would go door to door collecting soul cakes and praying for the departed. Many historians believe this to be the origin of trick or treating.   
 
It is also claimed that during the Middle Ages, churches that were too poor to display their relics of martyred saints would allow parishioners to dress up as saints instead (also could be an origin of dressing up at Halloween).  
 
Over the years, many other traditions crept into this feast day such as carrying lanterns made of hollowed-out turnips (representing the souls of the dead) when going around and collecting soul cakes.  In certain lands, people started to believe that the dead came out of their graves on this day for a wild party. Others thought that the souls of the departed wandered around the earth until All Hallows Day and so they dressed in masks on All Hallows Eve to hide from any souls seeking vengeance on their last day.  You can see how things started to get out of hand and we are where we are today.   
 
In the Orthodox Church we don't celebrate All Hallows Day on November 1st (we celebrate All Saints Day on the Sunday after Pentacost), but we do celebrate the feast of St. Raphael Hawaweeny (1860-1915) on the first Saturday of November.  St. Raphael was the Bishop of Brooklyn, New York and traveled across the country to gather Orthodox immigrants together to worship God as a united body of Christ (more info on his life to come). 
 
He established over 30 Churches in the United States and guided thousands of Orthodox Christians in the new world.  In other words, the Antiochian Archdiocese in America is St Raphael's legacy.  We will celebrate Great Vespers for his feast on Friday at 6:00 and Divine Liturgy on Saturday at 9:00 as we honor his memory and come together as a Church- the fruit of all of St Raphael's labors and what he tirelessly worked for and desired with all his being.  
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