Teachings: St Nektarios
1. Path to Happiness:
Nothing is greater than a pure heart, because such a heart becomes a throne of God. And what is more glorious than the throne of God? Of course nothing. God says about those who have pure heart: “I shall dwell in them and walk, and shall be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor. 6:16).
So who is happier than these people? And from what good can they remain deprived of? Aren’t all the goods and the gifts of the Holy Spirit found in their blessed souls? What more do they need? Nothing, in reality, nothing! Because they have the greatest good in their heart: God Himself!
How much people are deceived who seek happiness far from their own self, in foreign countries and trips, in wealth and glory, in large estates and in enjoyments, in pleasures and in all the luxuries and vanities whose end is bitterness! The erection of the tower of happiness outside of our heart, resembles an edifice which is built on ground which is shaken by constant earthquakes. Soon such an edifice will crash down on the ground…
My brethren! Happiness is found in your own self, and blessed is the person who realized this. Examine your heart and see its spiritual state. Did she maybe lose her boldness towards God? Maybe does the conscience protest the transgression of His commandments? Examine if maybe evils and passions filled your heart, if she maybe slipped on crooked and difficult paths to traverse…
Unfortunately he who neglected his heart, was deprived of all the goods and fell into a multitude of evils. He chased away the joy and got filled with bitterness, affliction and worry. He chased peace away and obtained anxiety, disturbance and dread. He chased away love and accepted hate. He chased away, finally, all the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit which he received with baptism and adopted all those evils, which make man pitiable and thrice wretched.
My brethren! The Very merciful God wants the happiness of us all both in this and in the next life. For this reason He instituted His holy Church. For her to cleanse us of sin, to sanctify us, to reconcile us with Him, to grant us the blessings of heaven.
The Church has her embrace open to receive us. Let us run, and the Church is ready to lift our heavy burden, to grant us boldness towards God, to fill our, to our heart with happiness and blessedness…
(Written to his nuns)
Purse love. Seek love daily from God. Together with love comes all the multitude of goods and virtues. You love so that you also are loved by others. Give to God all of your heart, so that you remain in love. “He who remains in love remains in God and God remains in it.” (1 John 4:16).
You ought to have much attention in your relationships with one another and to respect one another as sacred persons, as images of God. Don’t ever look towards the body or to his beauty, but the soul. Be careful of the feeling of love, because when the heart is not warmed by pure prayer, love is in danger of becoming fleshly and unnatural. It is in danger of darkening the intellect and burning up the heart.
We must daily examine in case our love does not proceed from the association of our common bond with Christ. In case it does not spring from the fullness of our love towards the Lord. He who keeps vigil to keep love pure, will be safeguarded from the traps of the devil who tries slowly – slowly to alter Christian love into common and emotional love.
3. Christian politeness:
Christians have a duty, according to the Lord’s command, to become holy and perfect. Perfection and holiness are carved first deeply in the heart of the Christian, and from there it is imprinted in his thoughts also, his desires, his words, his deeds. Thus, God’s grace which exists in the soul is poured out also to all the external character.
The Christian ought to be courteous towards everyone. His words and words should breathe the grace of the Holy Spirit which dwells in his soul, so that his Christian lifestyle is witnessed and the name of God is glorified.
He who is measured in words, is also measured in works. He who examines the words he is about to say, also examines the deeds he is about to perform, and never will exceed the boundaries of good and virtuous behavior.
The graceful words of a Christian are characterized by refinement and courteousness. These are which give birth to love, bring peace and joy. On the contrary, vain talking gives birth to hates, enmities, afflictions, arguments, disturbances and battles.
So let us be courteous. Let an evil word never come out o our mouth, a word which is not salted with the grace of God, but always graceful, good words, words which witness courteousness in Christ and the development of our soul.
The Christian ought to glorify God both with his body and with his spirit. Furthermore, both belong to God, and consequently, he doesn’t have the authority to dishonor or corrupt them, but as they are holy and sacred he should use them with much gratitude.
Whoever remembers that his body and his spirit belong to God, has a piety and a secret fear for these, and this aids in him keeping them pure and clean of every stain, in ceaseless communication with Him from whom they are sanctified and strengthened.
Man glorifies God with his body and with his spirit, first, when he remembers that he was sanctified by God and was united with Him, and afterwards when he unites his will with God’s will so that he always performs His good and pleasing and perfect will. Such a person does not live for his own self, but for God. He works for God’s kingdom on earth. He glorifies God in everything, with words and with deeds. His actions, which are done for the good of his fellow humans, give cause for glorifying the divine name. His life, illumined by divine light, shines like a strong light. Thus his life becomes a guide towards God for those who did not yet come to know Him.
I urge you to have discretion and prudence in everything. Avoid the extremes. Strictnesses go along with the measures of virtue. He who does not have great virtues and struggles along with the perfect ones, wishing to live with strictness like the holy ascetics, he is in danger of becoming prideful and falling. For this reason
proceed with discretion and do not exhaust the body with toils beyond measure. Remember that ascesis of the body simply aids the soul to reach perfection. Perfection is achieved mainly with the struggle of the soul.
Don’t stretch the cord out more than the measure. Know that God cannot be forced into giving His gifts. He gives, when He wants. Whatever we get, we get freely out of divine mercy.
Don’t seek to reach high up with great ascesis without having virtues, because you are in danger of falling into delusion for the haughtiness and the daring. Whoever seeks divine gifts and high contemplations while he is yet burdened with passions, he like a senseless and prideful one is deluded. First of all he ought to struggle for his purification. Divine grace sends the gifts as a reward to those who have been purified of the passions. It comes down to them without noise and at a time they don’t know.
Peace is a divine gift which is granted richly to those who reconcile themselves with God and perform His divine commands.
Peace is light and it leaves sin which is darkness. A sinner never is peaceful.
Struggle against sin and do not let the uprising of the passions disturb you.
If in your battle against hem you win, the uprising of the passions became for you a cause of new joy and peace. If you are defeated-may this not happen-then affliction and disturbance is born. If again, after a harsh battle, sin prevails for the moment, but you insist in the struggle, then you win and peace comes again.
“Pursue peace with everyone, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
Peace and sanctification are the two necessary presuppositions for him who seeks with longing to see God’s face. Peace is the foundation on which sanctification is supported.
Sanctification cannot remain in a disturbed and angry heart. Wrath when it lingers in our soul, creates enmity and hate against one’s neighbor. For this reason the quick reconciliation with our brother is imposed so that we not be deprived of God’s grace which sanctifies our heart.
He who is peaceful with his own self, is also peaceful with his neighbor, and peaceful with God. Such a person is full of sanctification because God Himself dwells inside him.
Temptations are allowed by God so that the hidden passions are revealed, and can be fought and thus the soul can be healed. They also are a sign of divine mercy. For this reason trust in God and ask His help, so that He strengthens you in your struggle. Hope in God never leads to despair. Temptations bring humble mindedness. God knows the forbearance of each of us and allows the temptations according to the measure of our powers. Lets strive however to be vigilant and careful, so that we not put our own self into temptation on our own.
Trust in the Good, Strong, Living God, and He will guide you to comfort. After trials spiritual joy follows. The Lord observes those who forbear the trials and the afflictions for His own love. So don’t get fainthearted and don’t cower.
I don’t want you to grieve and be confused for everything that happens contrary to your will. No matter how just it is. Such an affliction witnesses the existence of egotism. Be careful of the egotism which is hidden beneath the form of one’s right. Be careful also of the untimely sadness which is created after a just censure. Excessive grief for all these things are of the temptation. One is the true grief. That which is created when we know well the wretched state which exists in our soul. All other griefs don’t have any relationship with the grace of God.
Strive to guard in your heart the joy of the Holy Spirit and don’t allow the wicked one to shed his bitterness. Be careful! Be careful, that the Paradise which exists inside you not be altered into hell.
The main work of man is prayer. Man was created to hymn God. That is the work which suits him. This alone explains his spiritual hypostasis. This alone justifies his exceptional place in creation. Man was created to worship God and to partake in His divine goodness and blessedness.
Being in the image of God, he longs for God and hastens with longing to be elevated towards Him. With prayer and hymnody man rejoices. His spirit rejoices and his heart leaps for joy. The more he prays, the more his soul is denuded of secular desires and he is filled with heavenly goods. And the more he departs from earthly things and the pleasures of life, the more he enjoys heavenly gladsomeness. Trial and experience assure us of this truth.
God is pleased in those prayers which are offered in the proper way. That is with consciousness of our imperfection and unworthiness. For such a feeling to exist however, complete rejection of our evil own self and submission to God’s commandments are necessary. Humility and ceaseless spiritual work are necessary.
Place all your cares on God. He provides for you. Don’t become fainthearted and don’’ be shook up. He who examines the secret depths of men’s souls, knows your own desires also and has the power to fulfill them as He knows. You seek from God and don’t lose your courage. Don’t think that because your longing is holy, you have the right to complain when your prayers are not heard. God fulfills your longings in a way you don’t know. So be peaceful and call upon God.
Prayers and petitions on their own don’t lead us to perfection. The Lord leads to perfection Who comes and dwells in us, when we perform His commands. And one of the first commands is that the will not of ourselves, but of God be done. And it should be done with the exactness in which it is done in heaven by the angels. For us to also be able to say: “Lord, not as I want, but as You want, “let Thy will be done, as in heaven as upon earth”. So without Christ in us, the prayers and petitions lead to delusion.
Translated by Fr. Nicholas Palis from the Greek Book “Voice of the Fathers” The Sacred Paracletos Monastery, Oropos, Attica.