A Surprise from God

There was a time in my life when I was a clueless Protestant convert to the Holy Orthodox Church. Every weekend, as a bachelor, I headed to a monastery that bore the name of a despised Greek Orthodox Metropolitan that became a saint after his death and is loved the world over by the common people. This saint taught me so much in the brief time that I knew him that I labeled my automobile, the St. Nektarios Taxi Service. Every weekend I was bringing pilgrims to this monastery that bore his name. Tonight, I saw an online screening of a new movie about his life as part of the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival. It was every bit of what I remember from my bachelorhood encounters with this saint who is the champion of the common man.

I say “is” because those who die in the Lord continue to live on in the lives of His believers. The saint all his life was the subject of false accusation. Like His Lord, the Metropolitan of Pentapolis knew no place where he could lay his head, and when he died next to a man who was crippled from a recent accident, the mere touching of the saint’s discarded cloak conferred healing upon him as what Nektarios called, “a surprise from God.” Though he was despised and rejected, yet did he heal and provide a way for people to commune with God.

The movie was an indictment on a church overly concerned with rules and less concerned with the ascetical path to the Kingdom of God. Time and again, the saint forgives his enemies and never loses sight of the true purpose of man’s existence in this world, to love God and keep his commandments. Nothing, absolutely nothing deters him from this path to the Kingdom, even when church authorities persecute him in the name of so called religion.

When I visited his Holy Trinity Monastery on the island of Aegina in 2011, with my brothers and sisters from seminary, I remember distinctly what it felt like at his grave, the site of his holy relics. I literally felt that I could relate to him almost anything about my past, the whole tangled, twisted mess of 15 different confessions of the church which finally led me to the Orthodox Church in 1993. He listened so patiently, so attentively; never scandalized, never shocked at my admissions to heresy and confusion. His acceptance of me and all my irregularities has proved the foundations of my poor ministry to this day. I pray that all may eventually be able to see this film as it is released to the public. But if you cannot see the film, at least read and learn about this tremendous witness to the Lord Jesus Christ in modern times. Here is a hymn composed by the saint which taught me the sanctity of the Mother of God. Holy St. Nektarios, pray to God for us!

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