Saint Nektarios the Wonderworker (1846–1920) has become one of the most well-known and much beloved Orthodox Christian saints of the contemporary age since his saintly glorification in 1961. Born in Selymbria in the Ottoman Empire, he was educated in Constantinople and in Athens. At the age of thirty, he was tonsured a monk and given the name ‘Nektarios’ on the island of Chios and then ordained as a deacon three years later.
It was during his years as a deacon and student of theology in Athens that Saint Nektarios first honed his skills as a preacher, for which he would later be renowned. The ten homilies compiled in the present book were delivered towards the end of this period, during and around Saint Nektarios’s final Great Lent as a deacon. With topics ranging from the free will of man, repentance, confession, and the Holy Eucharist, these sermons bring to light the emerging brilliance of the saint as a young man. Not only do they demonstrate his deep knowledge of Holy Scripture and understanding of the human person, which can only come from a grace-filled spiritual life and devotion to God, but also his sharp intellect and familiarity with subjects outside of scripture and patristics, as he draws examples from history, literature, and the Greek and Latin philosophers with great ease, bringing everything together to craft practical pastoral exhortations. These sermons were, without a doubt, immeasurably beneficial to the souls who heard him in person, as they will be to anyone who reads these words today.
On Concern for the Soul was first published in 1894, at the end of Saint Nektarios’s tenure as a preacher in Athens (1891–1894), before he began his fifteen-year career as the director of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School in Athens. In this collection of eleven homilies, Saint Nektarios takes us through the central issues of life and the purpose of a human being and of his eternal soul. Saint Nektarios first lays out the foundation of man’s moral freedom in order to talk about why he is culpable for his sin. As the consequences for man’s sin are the offending of divine justice and the death of his soul, repentance and confession are required of him to rectify those consequences. Finally, having accomplished these things, the ultimate healing of man’s soul is found in his participation in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist.
Each carefully crafted homily pivots upon a passage from the Bible from which Saint Nektarios launches into an engaging explanation of each theme, drawing deeply and broadly from the Holy Scriptures, the Church Fathers, liturgical texts, church canons, and Classical writers. These timeless homilies speak with as much pertinence and relevance to the eternal soul of every human being today as they did at the turn of the 19th century.