One of the greatest Orthodox of this century has been canonized. Many have read about Papa-Nicholas in a small book written by his disciple, Nun Martha, with several others who were fortunate enourgh to have known and followed him. The book, transulated by Holy Transfiguration Monastery (Boston 1981/$10.00) introduces us to this simple shepherd of simple sheep. We are told in this humble book that we must become as simple as this sainted man if we are truly to appreciate his hallowed life:
Blessed, therefore, is the man whose life is told in this humble little book. Blessed too, is the person who tells it. But blessed too is the person who reads it and rejoices because of its simplicity. Simple was he whose life is told, simple is the teller, and simple must be those who read it. For this sanctified harmony must exist among the Elder whose life is being told, his pious disciple who wrote all she remembered from his God-pleasing life, and the one who is reading this account —for this harmony not to be broken, it is necessary that all three have lived ‘in simplicity of heart.
This humble introduction begins for many what will be an ongoing love affair with the great man that Mother Maria reveals to us. She knew Papa-Nicholas for a lifetime, following him everywhere on his journeys from one small church to another to serve an unbroken string of 50+ years of daily Divine Liturgy. And yet for all that she saw, for all the miracles she witnessed around Papa-Nicholas, for all the delightful stories shw could have revealed in a much larger book she has kept the account of his life short and simple as was Papa-Nicholas. She has given us enough to reveal the man, to show us, the reader, his love and dedication for our Lord...and further still, enought to even inspire us to seek such a dedicated life ourselves.
At first reading, Papa-Nicholas seems merely a fine priest worth imitating, or merely admiring. His deeds seem somehow achievable. He served Divine Liturgy every day, and he commemorated seemingly endless lists of people who had asked or begged for his prayers. He appears a good priest doing the job all Orthodox priests are called to do—to love the Lord and pray for the faithful. Yet he goes far beyond that of which we are required to do.” In the midst of all the difficulties of Orthodox Greece in the early part of this century, his patience was endless. While conflict happened around Papa-Nicholas, the peace of Christ remained constantly in his heart.
He, in his utter simplicity, is a man that heaven walks with and protects. Such single-mindedness bends heaven toward earth...It rained and he remained dry in torential downpours as he walked from Church to Church praying the whole time...it got dark and an invisible light (revealed to many) would light up both him and his path so that he could carry his body from church to church...if he got lost, heaven would send an angel or a saint to appear to him and guide him to his destination. At times, which he prayed, people saw him raise above the ground.
To this end, he spoke with those of heaven like most of us speak to each other. The Heavenly Saints to whom the churches where he served were dedicated, would often, from Papa-Nicholas youth up, appear and encourage him through the troubled times that he lived...and they also protected him. They would protect him from any scorn and ridicule from short sighted people around him. Once when a woman spoke to him harshly, a saint appeared to her in a dream and slapped her for daring to insult such a man of God. This brought her to her knees before Papa-Nicholas who i immediately forgave her.
Papa-Nicholas was clairvoyant, seeing deeply into the souls of those around him. He neither understood nor cared to understand the politics of his times...he served only the Lord. He readily sacrificed his time and rest to pray the prayer requests for those that petitioned him for the healing services of the church. If he was without bread for Divine Liturgy, God would put a small loaf on the altar for him.
To this end, because of his love for the Lord, because he remained with a single eye, everyone in Athens, Greece, where he served as a priest, loved him...Christians and Non-Christians alike. Though he was loved by all, he was so simple and humble that he did not insight jealously in others. One communist who hated priests and said he wanted to kill priests first when the Communists took power, was converted by Papa-Nicholas because he showed this man patience and kindness. Papa-Nicholas's goodness won him over. Papa-Nicholas just did not see human ugliness in others.
He was a tireless faster, spent hours in prayer and vigil, and would sacrifice everything for the flock he had been given. Even after his death in February of 1932, his intercession for those who have called upon him has brought healing and the overcoming of difficulties.
To find such simple holiness in a priest nearly of our times is a great joy. To know that in our dark times of the later part of this century, that God has given us two saints, Archbishop John Maximovitch and Papa-Nicholas Planas can give us unfortunate ones, struggling to persevere in a life of holiness, an inspiration to carry on and to continue to scratch out a little holiness in our own lives. These saints, having lived in our times, are our aids on our journey to heaven, and as such, guide our footsteps in the way of richeousness. Calling upon these two who stand before God's throne will surely give us inner strength and will straighten our paths.
It is true that we have few elders left. But it does seem that even in the most impossible of times, when true holiness appears to have vanished i from the earth, that God, somehow, by His own unfathomable means, i raises up men and women to manifest the fullness of holiness.
Fr Jacob Meyes