BY DIMITRIOS PANAGOPOULOS
Saint Nikodemos the
Haghiorite is an offspring of the island of Naxos in the Cyclades Islands.
While young, he studied Greek letters in Smyrne under Ierotheos the Teacher. He
came to the Holy Mountain in 1775 and was tonsured a Monk in the Sacred
Dionysiou Monastery being renamed Nikodemos from Nicholas. In 1809 on July 14th
he reposed, at 60 years of age.
Saint Nikodemos is a
Saint unknown to most people even today, despite the fact that our Church from
1955 has officially proclaimed him a Saint and celebrates his memory.
Many visitors to the
Holy Mountain don't know that in Karyes, the Cell, of the Skourtaion, houses
the relics of his Holy Skull, and due to this ignorance they are deprived of
the blessing of this treasure.
The works of Saint
Nikodemos need to be revealed need to be projected, need to be read. Our Church
and our people are deprived of many things because they have not yet come to
know the full work of Saint Nikodemos.
Saint Nikodemos has
left a multitude of writings of incalculable spiritual Orthodox value which in
summary are the following: The Philokalia, Evergetinos, Concerning Constant
Divine Communion, Alphabetalphabetos, Handbook of Spiritual Council, All the
Writings of Symeon the New Theologian, Confessional Handbook, Invisible
Warfare, New Martyrology, Spiritual Exercises, Neon Eklogion, The extant
Writings of St. Gregory Palamas, The Sacred Rudder, The Epitaphion Engomia, New
Theotokarion, Christoetheia, Euchologion, The Catholic Epistles, Epistles of
the Apostle Paul, Commentaries on the Psalms, Garden of Graces, Barsanouphios,
Commentary of holy Haghiorite men, New Synaxaristes, Confession of his own
Faith, Eortodromion, New Ladder, and a multitude of troparions, oikos asmatic
canons and engomia to many Saints.
The Holy Skull of Saint
Nikodemos is kept by Father Ananias, over 90 years old in our opinion.
Furthermore it is Father Ananias' efforts to erect a church in Saint Nikodemos'
Saint Nikodemos the
Haghiorite, does not only have an eminent place in the literature of the Greek
Church, as a Father and Teacher who has written a multitude of writings, but by
rights enters in as one of the greatest factors, in the area of the very stormy
history of Orthodoxy. He lived at a very critical time of our Church's history,
and the Venerable Nikodemos was called to play a primary role in the spiritual
and religious life, clearing up the thickening clouds of Aristotelian
scholasticism appearing from the West, and influencing a great number of his
contemporary Greek Orthodox Scholars, who adopted this prevalent western
Saint Nikodemos the
Haghiorite's work presents a very multifaceted radiance of the Spirit. Other
than its voluminous side, the great role played by his work during that age of
full illiteracy concerning pure Orthodox though, and the consequence which his
very spiritual writings had on the subsequent course of the Church, has not
been duly appreciated. However, Saint Nikodemos was fully conscious of the
mission, which Divine Providence had for him. This is ascertained by his
struggles against the Westerners and towards those "Orthodox", who
perverted the Orthodox teaching.
Saint Nikodemos' work
judged from the above mentioned viewpoint, in the time period of the final
quarter of the eighteenth century creates the obligation for those occupied
with it, to confess that the Venerable Father contributed, as no one else,
during the post Byzantine years, in refuting the threatening wind, of western
humanism, and in preserving the spiritual treasures of Orthodoxy.
At an age during which
not only Orthodox spirituality was virtually unknown, but also those
multifarious false beliefs, which were coming in "in sheep's
clothing" in the courtyard of Orthodoxy," it would not be the least
bit difficult for the rationalist spirit of "humanism" to infiltrate
and satisfy those waning souls and have them accept the false spirit over the
genuine one. The Venerable Nikodemos alone arose, to obstruct the foreign
teaching and to reveal the sacred heritage of Orthodoxy to the Orthodox Church.
When the great
personality of Saint Nikodemos draws more attention from the students of Church
history and ends up an object of special research, then it will become apparent
what work of huge importance proceeded from the holy mountain, through the most
wise Saint Nikodemos the Haghiorite, and what consequences this work had for
the later course of the religious life of the believers. Here we will limit
ourselves to point out, that, had the Church not become familiar with the
writings of Nikodemos, one after the other, which are very voluminous and
completely faultless regarding truth and Orthodoxy, she would have undergone a
period of uncertainty and would be ignorant of all that the divine pen of the
Venerable Father wrote and organized with so much precision and fullness.
His great contribution
is not only concerning the dogmas of the Church and the Sacred Canons, which he
codified, simplified, and interpreted, but also the definition of the
relationships between them and the points wherein they coincide in his Rudder.
Also concerning the spirituality of Orthodoxy, which he wrote down in the
"Spiritual Exercises", the "Unseen Warfare", and the
"Eortodromion", and in General in all his writings, upon which he
also placed the seal of holiness.
The very fact that one
Ecclesiastical writer of tens of volumes of many pages manages to preserve the
spirituality of Orthodoxy in a refined analysis, means that he "has the
Spirit of God". Spirituality in the Orthodox understanding comprises the
reflection of what proceeds from the heart, which is a product of a constant
living of Christianity, of life in Christ.
It is difficult for one
to truly apprise what sort of influence the work of Saint Nikodemos had on the
course of the Church in an age, during which everything was characterized by
lethargy and Orthodoxy comprised an unobstructed vineyard and easy pray for the
"new demons" setting out from the West.
Our Holy Church honors
her servant Nikodemos, because she did not present someone similar to him in
the post Byzantine times. The Church also knows what a theologian means for
that time, with the multi-faceted Grace of Nikodemos, with the rare talent of
the Canonologist, the skill of the Academician, the elevation of the
Hymnographer, the penetration of the Critic, the fullness of the Haghiologist,
the mystagogicalness of the Liturgiologist, the experience of the Ascetical
author, very rare charismas, all of which were wonderfully combined in one
We could name Saint
Nikodemos, a plaster cast of all the Christian virtues, a vessel of the
unblemished and infinite cluster of gifts, an astonishing icon of Orthodox
dogma, and a Teacher of universal authority!
Because we don't know
many people in Orthodoxy doing "noetic pray" and authoring at the
same time, preparing a "Handbook of Spiritual Counsel", while they
are using the two-pointed mattock with the prayer rope in the left hand and the
pen in the right hand, as the Venerable Nikodemos lived and also fought unto
his last minute.
*Editors Note- This
original Greek text written by lay-teacher Dimitrios Panagopoulos was published
more than twenty-five years ago. Since then a number of this Saint's works have
been published in many languages and Saint Nikodemos is becoming a teacher of
universal authority. His books occupy a central position in the shelves of the
traditional Orthodox world wide.
Editing: Palis and Zalalas