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.
Written eleven years into Saint Nektarios’s tenure as the Director of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School in Athens, The Priestly Engolpion is the distillation of over a decade of direct experience in the guidance, formation, and spiritual and ethical cultivation of future priests and lay leaders of the Church.
This book is a compilation of three works: The first chapter, “On the Priesthood”, offers an in-depth explanation of the nature of the Christian priesthood, its purpose, the work of a Christian priest, and how he must conduct himself. The second and third chapters entitled “On the Primacy in the Hierarchy” and “On Equality in the Hierarchy” respectively are set against the historical context of drastic changes undergone by the Roman Catholic Church as a result of Vatican I, and are both a reminder to the Orthodox of their sacred Apostolic inheritance and what it means, as well as a reminder to adhere to Holy Tradition. Saint Nektarios’s masterful articulation of the ages-old unchanging understanding of the Priesthood in the Orthodox Church is beneficial not only for those who are called to become priests, or to those who are already priests, but also to lay people who yearn to deepen their understanding of this integral pillar of the Christian Faith.