Monday, September 13, 2021

Movie Review: "Man of God" (2021) - Reviewed by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

I watched with interest the film "Man of God" which refers to Saint Nektarios, Metropolitan of Pentapolis, founder of the Sacred Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Aegina, the production of which the Sacred Monastery of Vatopaidi from the Holy Mountain took part.

The life and conduct of Saint Nektarios, but also the miraculous charisma given to him by God, are wonderful, as well as his theological patristic training is also wonderful. His texts show the meeting of theology and pastoral care.

Watching this particular movie, the first thought that came to my mind is that our director and producers are not engaged in the projection and presentation of the elements of Orthodox tradition, but are content with presenting the various diseased elements of everyday men, with their various passions, love affairs, rivalries, violence, divorces, murders. A Serbian director, Yelena Popovic, had to come to show us that the people need to follow the healthy models which can be found in the Orthodox ecclesiastical environment.

Of course, I am obliged to point out the important efforts of Mary Papalios, who with her own expenses and personal struggles, without substantial support, presented the important series "You Are Not Alone" ("δέν εἶσαι μόνος") , as well as the life of Saint Philothei the Athenian.

However, as soon as the work that presents parts of the life of the "Man of God" was finished, what I observed from those present there, was that the film was considered riveting. A well-known scientist told me abruptly: "I remained speechless."

I do not have directorial knowledge to analyze the way the film was made, but I noticed that the actor who played the role of Saint Nektarios mainly showed the thoughtfulness of the Saint, his various trials and slanders that he endured in his life, as well as the way he faced them as a true "man of God".

He also presented, in an abstract way, the whole work of Saint Nektarios, namely the liturgical, the preaching, the teaching and the writing. Both the director and the actors wanted to present, in addition to the slanders that Saint Nektarios endured, his patience, silence, humility and inner greatness, that which is expressed by the title "Man of God".

Of course, those who saw this film and those who will see it will come to various conclusions. The fact is that even in the small town of Nafpaktos there was interest and crowds, so I assume that this will be done in other cities, but also abroad, especially in various Orthodox countries.

I will now try, briefly, to set out my thoughts on how I viewed this film, and how I viewed the life and work of Saint Nektarios as it is presented in it, and in this I see its timeliness.

I think that the timely message that comes out of this production is indeed that Saint Nektarios was considered a "man of God", living in the Church, and mainly it shows how the unity between the sacred institution of the Church and the spiritual gifts of its members is expressed.

Saint Nektarios grew up in the sacred institution of the Church, received the charisma of monasticism and was ordained a Deacon, Priest and Bishop, in order to liturgize, to teach and to live as a monastic and as a Christian, from Hierarchs who had the charisma of the priesthood.

However, there were clergymen and bishops who slandered him to the Patriarch of Alexandria, Sophronios, and accepted the conspiracies and accusations of others, with the result that he was "wounded" throughout his life.

Nevertheless, he himself, having the charisma of the Priesthood, of monastic life, of prayer, of humility, did not turn against the sacred institution of the Church, which was represented in his circumstance by Bishops who had made mistakes, but he remained humble and silent during their false synodal decisions against him.

Living humbly within the Church, without turning against its sacred institutions, even when the exponents of these institutions made mistakes, he met other members of the Church, who sought the hesychast and monastic life. By this I mean that this same Bishop and monk-hesychast, attracted interested young people, who sought this inner and mystical side of the ecclesiastical life and founded the Monastery based on this patristic model, which revolved around the Divine Liturgy and prayer.

Thus, in this new film, an external contradiction is manifested at some points between the clergy who represented the institutional structure of ecclesiastical life, who did not understand the inner charismatic state of the Church. However, Saint Nektarios also faced this external tempting situation with his own inner charismatic life. Eventually the clergy representing the institutional role of the Church, the sacred institution of the Church, recognized the inner charismatic life of Saint Nektarios, his holiness, and by a Synodal Act of the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1961, he was numbered among the Holy Bishops and Fathers of the Church.

Also, on January 15, 1998, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, during the proceedings of their Synod, issued an apology to the Saint in front of his icon for the unjust punishment, which was imposed on him, and annulled it, as we see in the announcement from that day:

"His Most-Divine Beatitude at length investigated the issue of the unjust punishment of the removal from his jurisdiction and the climate of the Church of Alexandria, our Holy Father Nektarios Kephalas of Pentapolis. This event led to it being proposed by the Holy and Sacred Synod, as this was the subject of a serious matter. With much care the Holy and Sacred Synod scrutinized, with the fear of God, and finding the icon of the Saint in the Synodal Chamber, the decision was made to restore the broken canonical order and ask forgiveness from our Holy Father Nektarios for the persecution and the most-unjust rage, due to the insolence of the evil one."

Therefore, observing the life of Saint Nektarios, as it is clearly presented in this film, it shows how the charisma of the sacred institution of the Church works in combination with the charisma of the inner life of its members. These two gifts (Sacred Institution - Inner Life of Members) at first were considered united, then it seemed that they diverged from each other and finally converged again.

This apparent divergence occurs because from time to time in the sacred institution of the Church some passions of its members are manifested, and the convergence occurs because of the humility, prayer, silence and obedience of its unjustly accused members, and this helps in establishing unity between the charisma of the sacred institution of the Church and the charisma of its members.

Thus, we understand that the Church is expressed by the deified-charismatic Christians and Clergy, and the deified charismatics live in the Church and are nourished and increased by it. This is what it means to be a "man of God".

This message is relevant and especially in our day, in which some people try, with their teaching and their lives, to break the relationship between the charisma of the institutional organization of the Church and the charisma of its members. And they do this in a demonic and luciferian way, as can be seen in their texts and actions.

That is why all of us, clergy, monks and lay people, must live humbly and prayerfully in the Church, obeying its institutions. When we need to express our views, we must do so with reference to the Holy Synod, without breaking the link between the charismatic structure of the Church and the individual gifts of its members, because it creates divisions within the Church.

This feeling remained with me from the film about Saint Nektarios titled "Man of God", but also from all the studies I did with the great literary and patristic works of the Saint. He was a deified Bishop who lived humbly in the Church, and God, through the Church, despite the mistakes of some of its leaders on occasion, glorified him.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.