Sycophants

Cooperating in the Devil’s Attack Against the Church

There is a new movie that is having a great impact upon the whole world, a movie that I was blessed to see while in Northern Idaho, as the speaker for the Women’s Tea at Saint John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Post Falls, Idaho. Man of God is a profound movie not only because it tells the story of one of the greatest saints in history, but because it demonstrates the powerful impact suffering can have on behalf of the Church. Saint Nektarios was Metropolitan of the throne of Pentapolis, a man of great humility, and perhaps one of the most believed and honored bishops of the Church.

The movie, which was nine years in production, is one that every Orthodox Christian should see, for it demonstrates the dangers that often befall Christ’s Church. That the Church of Christ is hated by the Evil One should be of no surprise. That the devil has often warred against the Church from within is a reality that we must all be aware of, for the best way to attack the integrity and holiness of the Church, is from within. That the Church is the Hospital of the Soul, is it any wonder that the physicians of this hospital would be the target for the Devil’s attacks? That some bishops of the Church should be the target of hatred and rage against Christ, only makes sense, even though we know from scripture that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church” (Matthew 16:18-19).
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The love and admiration of the people for Metropolitan Nektarios turned to his disadvantage. Because of the spotless life that he led, because of his holy sermons, and his inspiring writings, he stood out among his fellow fellow bishops, all Metropolitans of the See of Alexandria. They did not like Saint Nektarios because he was different from them. For this reason these bishops slandered him to Patriarch Sophronios, saying that he had his eye upon the Patriarchal Throne, because he had this “false show of piety,” as they called it. Not wanting to recognize his true virtue and unmatched spiritual beauty, they said that all his virtue was only a show so that he would be considered holy by the people. They accused him of using his popularity with the people to dethrone the Patriarch.  Since he was so popular with the people, the Patriarch was easily convinced that his position as Patriarch was in danger. Little did they understand that Saint Nektarios was not a proud man, and not ambitious, as they were. He was, unlike them, not interested in positions of power and glory. The Saint made no attempt to justify himself but placed all his hope in the promise of Christ who has said: Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account (Matt. 5:11).

Because they were threatened by him, they suspended their fellow bishop as Metropolitan of Pentapolis. The Patriarch, who had been a very great “friend” of Metropolitan Nektarios, wrote an ambiguous letter of suspension, which later became the cause of much scandal, saying that for “reasons known to the Patriarchate” he was suspended from the Metropolis of Pentapolis, but that he was allowed to remain at the Patriarchate and to eat at the common table. Saint Nektarios was essentially deprived of all means of lodge and shelter.

Although he was not defrocked per say, nor was he suspended from ecclesiastical functions, he was taken away from his throne to be without position. He humbly endured these slanders and the suspension from his throne, but because he was popular with the people there were grumblings and intrigues that arose, with the people demanding to know why he was suspended.

Not wanting to cause further disturbance in the Church of Alexandria, Saint Nektarios secretly left for Greece, but the letter of dismissal he received only complicated matters, since those against him knew that they would be embarrassed if the truth were known about the true matter of his dismissal. Therefore, they sent letters, both anonymous and signed, to influential people in Greece, slandering him as being unethical and immoral, and that this was the reason he was suspended from his position.

Alone and despised, he embarked for Athens. He faced many days without food, as he kept nothing for himself and gave all the little that he had to the poor. When the Saint appeared in Athens with this paper of suspension, many believed there must have been a cause for his suspension. Because he was removed, “for reasons known to the Patriarchate,” many chose to believe he must truly be an evil man. When evil rumors go around about someone, outsiders to the situation usually fall victims of believing them. Thus, both the State and the Church authorities refused to give him a position in the Church of Greece.  Saint Nektarios was left without means of support, a stranger amongst his own, without lodging, without food, without even the most simple means of subsistence.

Every day he would go to the office of the Minister of Religion so that something might be done for him and every day he was turned away. He thought about going to Mount Athos for monastic retreat but gave up the idea as he wanted to help others more than he wanted to help himself.

This movie will be shocking to many Orthodox Christians, for seeing bishops of the Church behaving in such an evil manor, even to the point of becoming sycophants to fellow bishops, desiring as they did to enjoy favore among them, is truly scandalous. But if we look closely at such behavior, we will see ourselves, for we have often been guilty of slandering others for the sake of gaining favor from those who have power and authority over us. If we are truthful, most of us have been guilty of slandering another for self promotion and potential personal gain.

Upon the death of Saint Nektarios, a cloth that had been covering him in his hospital bed, was placed upon the bed of a man sharing the small room. The man had been in a terrible accident, and had lost the ability to walk, or even to move his arms. As the saint reposed in the Lord, the man stood up, completely healed. Shortly after his repose, many miracles happened throughout the land, and upon hearing proof of his sanctity, he was reappointed as Metropolitan of Pentapolis, and within a short period of time, glorified as a saint of the Universal Church.

Saint Nektarios is one of the Patron Saints of our monastery, primarily because of the experience I had with him. In 1989 I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain of Athos, and while in Greece I made my way to the Island of Aegina, so I could pray before his holy relics. During my visit to the convent founded by him, there was a special service asking for his heavenly intercession. I wrote on a piece of paper that was placed on a platter that was set under his holy relics, asking that he heal me of my dyslexia. I walked away, having been healed.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

About the author

Fr. Tryphon is the Abbot of the Monastery of the All-Merciful Saviour, which was established in 1986 by Archimandrite Dimitry (Egoroff) of blessed memory. The Monastery is under the omophore of His Eminence Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

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