Nicodemos the Hagiorite (of the Holy Mountain, Athos) was a Greek Orthodox ascetic, mystic, theologian, and philosopher. His life's work was a revival of traditional Christian practices and patristic literature. He is most famous for his work with St. Macarios of Corinth on the anthology of monastic spiritual writings known as The Philokalia. He was recognised as a saint by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in 1955.
Early Life and Education
St. Nicodemos was born Nicholas Kallivourtsis on the Greek island of Naxos in 1749. According to his biographer, he was possessed of "great acuteness of mind, accurate perception, intellectual brightness, and vast memory," qualities which were readily apparent to those who furthered him along in his learning. He passed from the tutelage of his parish priest to that of Archimandrite Chrysanthos
, who was the brother of St. Cosmas Aitolas
. From there he made his way to Smyrna
, where he studied at the academy which would later become known as the Evangeliki
. Here he studied theology, as well as ancient Greek, Latin, French, and Italian. Persecution from the Turks, who ruled the Greek world at the time, cut his schooling short, and he returned to Naxos
Nicholas made the acquaintance of St. Macarios Notaras
a few years after returning home, beginning a life-long friendship. It was shortly thereafter that he decided to embrace the monastic life, following the example of three monks he had encountered, Gregory, Niphon, and Arsenios. These men had come from Mount Athos, which had been an important center of monasticism for over seven-hundred years, and persuaded Nicholas to go there as well. He arrived there in 1775, at the age of twenty-six.
Nicholas took the name Nicodemos upon being tonsured a monk, as was the custom for those who had abandoned the world. He was initiated into the practice of hesychia, a method of prayer involving inner stillness, controlled breathing, and repetition of the "Jesus Prayer" (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner). Nicodemos aligned himself with the monks known as Kollyvades, who sought a revival of traditional Orthodox practices and patristic literature, and he would spend the remainder of his life at work translating and publishing those works. He would also compose many original books of his own.
St. Nicodemos' most famous work was his collaborative effort with St. Macarios of Corinth, The Philokalia.
He also published modern editions of other theological writings, such as those of Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas. In addition, he wrote original works, such as the Pedalion
, a treatise on canon law, and the Exomologetarion
a guide for confessors. His Handbook of Spiritual Counsel
, a theological-ethical tract which displayed both deep psychological insight and a keen scientific mind, was one of his most important books.