The Holy Nektarios of Aegina was born on October 1, 1846, in Silyvria, Eastern Thrace and is considered one of the most widely known and beloved Greek Orthodox Saints. His parents Demosthenes and Vasiliki were poor, humble and pious Christians having been blessed with seven children. He was the third child and at Holy Baptism was named Anastasios. As a young child, he was very humble and obedient to his parents who brought him up in a God pleasing manner. His faith was also cultivated by his devout grandmother who played a significant role in his spiritual upbringing.
Beloved Children in the Lord,
Grace and peace be with you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we invoke every paternal and patriarchal blessing upon this holy community here in Merrick that bears the name of Saint Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrh-Streamer. What a joy it is to be here with so many of the faithful, and to wish all of you “Chronia Polla” on this eve of the feast – your patronal feast – and especially to those who share the name of our great intercessor and wonderworking protector. Most especially do we extend these festal greetings to our beloved brother Archbishop Demetrios of America. Many years to you, Your Eminence!
Some seven hundred years ago, St. Gregory Palamas delivered a beautiful and inspiring homily regarding the Dormition of the Mother of God and Ever Virgin Mary. Below are some excerpts:
…There is also nothing dearer or more necessary for me than to expound with due honor in church the wonders of the ever-virgin Mother of God…If “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:15) and “the memory of the just is praised” (Prov. 10:7 LXX), how much more fitting is it for us to celebrate with highest honors the memory of the ever virgin Mother of God, the Holy of Holies, through whom the saints receive their hallowing?
This Saint, who had Nicomedia as his homeland, was the son of Eustorgius and Eubula. His father was an idolater, but his mother was a Christian from her ancestors. It was through her that he was instructed in piety, and still later, he was catechized in the Faith of Christ by Saint Hermolaus (see July 26) and baptized by him. Being proficient in the physician’s vocation, he practiced it in a philanthropic manner, healing every illness more by the grace of Christ than by medicines. Thus, although his parents had named him Pantoleon (“in all things a lion”), because of the compassion he showed for the souls and bodies of all, he was worthily renamed Panteleimon, meaning “all-merciful.”
On one occasion, when he restored the sight of a certain blind man by calling on the Divine Name, he enlightened also the eyes of this man’s soul to the knowledge of the truth. This also became the cause for the martyrdom of him who had been blind, since when he was asked by whom and in what manner his eyes had been opened, in imitation of that blind man of the Gospel he confessed with boldness both who the physician was and the manner of his healing. For this he was put to death immediately. Panteleimon was arrested also, and having endured many wounds, he was finally beheaded in the year 305, during the reign of Maximian. Saint Panteleimon is one of the Holy Unmercenaries, and is held in special honour among them, even as Saint George is among the Martyrs.
3rd SUNDAY OF MATTHEW, Matthew 6: 22-33
– Geronda (spiritual elder in Greek), does worrying about too many things take us away from God?
Look, let me try to explain. When a little child is playing and is all absorbed with his toys, he s not aware that his father may be next to him caressing him. If he interrupts his play a bit, then he will become aware of his father’s caresses. Similarly, when we are preoccupied with too many activities and are anxiously concerned about them, when we worry too much about worldly matters, we cannot become aware of God’s love. God gives but we do not sense it. Be careful not to waste your precious energy on redundant worries and vanities, which will turn to dust one day. When you do this, you not only tire your body, but you also scatter your mind aimlessly, offering God only your fatigue and yawns at the time of prayer – much like the sacrifice offered by Cain. It follows that your inner state will be like that of Cain’s, you will be full of anxiety and sighs provoked by the devil standing by your side.
Two weeks ago we celebrated the great feast of Pentecost at which the Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord’s followers, making them members of His Body, the Church. A week ago we celebrated the Sunday of All Saints, remembering all those who have become living icons of our Lord’s salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit. Since then, we have begun the Apostles Fast, a period in which we embrace a fairly light discipline of self-restraint in our diets in order to gain the spiritual strength that we need to become more like the apostles who responded faithfully to Christ’s command “Follow Me.”
If you are like me, sometimes when you read the lives of the saints you shake your head and think, “I could never do anything like that.” Many endured horrible tortures to the point of death because they refused to deny Christ. Others denied themselves food, clothing, and shelter in ways that seem beyond the strength of human beings. Some accepted insult and abuse while forgiving their tormentors and turning the other cheek in a fashion that seems not of this world. As today’s epistle reading reminds us, the Old Testament saints endured such trials purely in anticipation of the coming of the Saviour. Most of us, who have received the fullness of the promise in Christ, cannot fathom how we could be nearly as faithful as was this cloud of witnesses who point us by their examples and prayers to commend our lives to Christ.