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Elder Nektary (1853-1928) was the last elder to function as such at Optina. He was in Optina when it was forcibly closed by the communists in 1923, and spent his remaining years in exile from his spiritual home. He lived through a time of persecution worse than any other in the thousand-year history of the Russian Orthodox Church. At this time of immeasurable sorrow for Christian believers, God gave Elder Nektary to Russia as both a consoler of souls and a voice of prophecy.
“You ask by what path to go towards God. Go by the path of humility; by humbly enduring the difficult circumstances of life, by humbly enduring the sicknesses that are sent by the Lord, by humbly hoping that you will not be abandoned by the Lord, by the Quick Helper and by the loving Heavenly Father; by humble prayer for help from on high, for the driving away of despondency and feelings of hopelessness by which the enemy of salvation endeavors to bring us to despair, which is ruinous for a man and deprives him of divine grace, and which withdraws God’s mercy from him.” — a letter from Elder Nektary.
Marked by simplicity, childlikeness, spontaneity and creativity, Elder Nektary radiated joy to the thousands of suffering souls who came to him. Having reached the summit of spiritual life, deification, he was beheld in Uncreated Light by his disciple, Fr. Adrian (Archbishop Andrew) Rymarenko. He passed on his Optina inheritance to many worthy disciples, who later transmitted it to America. Among these were Archbishop Andrew, Bishop Nektary (Kontzevitch), and the author I. M. Kontzevitch.
“… If you live and study in such a way that your intelligence will not spoil your morality, but rather that your morals will affect your intelligence, then you’ll be successful in life.” — Elder Nektary
Through the eyewitness accounts of Elder Nektary’s life contained in these pages, this “spiritual grandfather” of Orthodoxy in America can help to ground Orthodox converts in sober spirituality, rooted in unfeigned humility and repentance, which marks all true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
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