Saint Nectarios was born on October 1st, 1846 in Silivria, Thrace, Greece. He bore the name Anastasios; his surname was Kephalas. Not unlike other village boys of his age and time, his education was limited and his family was quite poor. Yet even as child there was something special in the way he responded to his parents love and faith. He had a quiet manner when he interacted with others. The Church became very important in the life of this young man. He felt the calling to the Priesthood while still very young, expressing it in ways familiar to others who have had the same calling, by imitating the priest's liturgical actions at home.
Both the early death of his father and poverty caused him to emigrate to Constantinople. Later, his love of the Church brought him to the Island of Chios, where on November 7th, 1876 he was tonsured a Monk. A year later he was ordained a Deacon, whereupon, in the Monastic tradition, he took a new name, Nectarios. Desirous of attaining a formal theological education, he expressed the hope to finish High School and afterward study at the University of Athens. A pious man of means, John Horemas of Chios, had come to know Nectarios and offered to provide the financial aid necessary. Unfortunately, this benefactor passed away before Nectarios had the opportunity to complete his studies. All was not lost however because the Patriarch of Alexandria, Sofronios, who had knowledge of Nectarios, helped him complete his theological studies. Upon graduation Nectarios went to Alexandria and was ordained to the Priesthood in 1886 by Patriarch Sofronios.
For the next three years, Nectarios served in various capacities at the Patriarchate of Alexandria. He was elevated to the Episcopacy as Metropolitan of Pentapolis on January 15th, 1889. It must be remembered that in those years Alexandria, Egypt, was a major center with a sizable and very prosperous population of Greek Orthodox. It was not long before Nectarios' faith and character so endeared him to the people that they began to consider him a worthy successor to Patriarch Sofronios.
All his life Saint Nectarios had faced one trial after another, overcoming them in the steadfastness of his faith. But yet another trial loomed before him in Alexandria. Envy and jealousy prompted certain elements in Alexandria to falsely accuse Saint Nectarios of plotting to overthrow Patriarch Sofronios and take the Throne for himself. Saint Nectarios was forced to leave Alexandria.
The years that followed were difficult indeed. Living in abject poverty and even scorn, he was once again being tested. Finally, he was given the position of Dean of the Rizarios School, a minor theological seminary in Athens. Here follows an example of Saint Nectarios' humility and compassion: it is said that when the janitor of the seminary became ill, Saint Nectarios secretly did the janitorial work at the school during the night. No one therefore became aware of the janitor's absence. Thus, the janitor continued to be paid during his recuperation, and therefore his family did not go hungry.
Saint Nectarios expressed his humility once again when, upon the death of Patriarch Sofronios, he was invited to become Patriarch of Alexandria. Where others might have seized the opportunity to vindicate themselves, he declined.
In 1904 he established the Women's Monastery of the Holy Trinity on the Island of Aegina, not far from Athens. There he continued to live the monastic and priestly life. His exemplary Christian life drew to him many people who spiritual guidance. More than that, many people who came to him for prayer experienced healing. But Saint Nectarios, the healer of many, would experience an ultimate-trial, the weakness of his own flesh.
He was diagnosed with an illness of the bladder, cystitis. This illness, which he endured without complaint for almost two years, inflicts severe pain. Saint Nectarios suffered silently. When he was brought to a charity hospital in Athens, where he remained for almost two months, both staff and patients marveled at his humility. He never sought the privileges of his office as a Metropolitan; instead he considered himself nothing more than a simple Monk.
When on the 9th of November 1920 he surrendered his soul to the Lord, a sweet fragrance permeated the whole atmosphere of his room, causing all who were in the hospital at the time to be amazed. This sweet fragrance was again evident at the deposition of his holy relics. The hospital room where he died is now a chapel. It is also said that when he was being prepared to be returned to Aegina for burial, a nurse and a nun casually placed his old sweater on the bed of a man who had been paralyzed for many years. The miracle was immediate. The paralytic, not unlike the one of the New Testament, rose and walked out of the hospital, praising and glorifying God.
Given the eye witness accounts of his life and his miracles, even to this day, Saint Nectarios is indeed a modern day manifestation of the presence of God. Further, it speaks volumes to us that the glorification to Sainthood is achieved not only through humility and virtue but also through pain and trial. The life of Saint Nectarios, the Wonder-Worker, allows us to reflect and consider that the call to Sainthood is not for men and women of centuries gone by: it is for us.
The memory of Saint Nectarios is celebrated by the Orthodox Church on November 9th.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Saint.
"O faithful, let us honour Nectarios, divine servant of Christ, offspring of Silivria and guardian of Aegina, who in these latter years was manifested as the true friend of virtue. All manner of healing wells forth for those who in piety cry out, "Glory to Christ who glorified you; glory to Him who, through you, wrought wonders; glory to Him Who, through you, works healing for all."
Kontakion. Second Tone
"O Nectarios, be a help and guardian, and a fervent protector to all who turn to you in faith, O Father, and who venerate your sacred relics which Christ glorified manifesting them with miracles, dispelling the pain of passions, granting peace to all and heavenly forgiveness of sins."