Saturday, January 9, 2021

Short Film: "Strange Mystery" (2020)


To commemorate the 100th anniversary since the death of Saint Nektarios (1920-2020), a short film about the childhood years and struggles of Saint Nektarios was made by Alexandros Fotopoulos and Stelios Fetanis, titled "A Strange Mystery", which was shown virtually to all the Middle School and High School students of Crete on December 23, 2020, as a Christmas story. The film is in Greek, but should not be missed, so I have written out the story below presented in the film in order to understand what you are seeing as you watch it.
Before he became known as Saint Nektarios, he was born and baptized with the name Anastasios Kephalas. He was one of the six children of Demmosthenis and Vasiliki, and was born on October 1st, 1846, in Eastern Selybria of Thrace. His parents were very poor but pious Christians who brought up their children according to the teachings of our Church. His grandmother also played a major role in inspiring him to live a life consistent with his Christian beliefs.

His early years were spent at the local elementary school in Selybria. Upon completion of his school curriculum there were no schools in the area for him to continue his academic studies and he was too poor to study abroad. Saddened by the state of poverty that his parents were in and urged by his ever-growing love for our Lord Jesus Christ, at the age of fourteen and with his parents’ blessings, Anastasios went to Constantinople to find work for their financial assistance and in hope that he would be able to continue his studies.

The young Anastasios set off then for the seaport where he would board a boat to Constantinople. He was faced with a problem, however. Anastasios did not have the money to pay the required fare for the boat. Nevertheless, as the boat for Constantinople was ready to sail, Anastasios bravely walked up to the captain and asked to take him along. The captain, however, seeing him so young, said to him jokingly, "Take a walk, little one, and when you come back I will take you." The boy understood what the captain was actually telling him, and began to walk away sadly. The captain turned on the engines in order to sail. The engines were propelling, but the boat would not move. He increased the power to the engines, but to no avail. Even at full throttle, the ship still would not move. In his helplessness the captain glanced up, and his eyes met the gaze of the boy who was standing on the shore in sorrow. Against his will he was moved and, relenting, he told the boy to get on the boat. Anastasios jumped into the boat, and the captain again became engrossed in how to make the ship move. But he did not have a chance to worry long, for it began to move immediately, since it had received its "special passenger."

The ship rushed along now in open sea on route to Constantinouple and the crew conducted a ticket inspection. The young boy became terrified since he did not have a ticket nor any money to purchase one. He looked about for the captain who knew his secret but he had stepped away. “I will tell the truth”, he thought to himself. When asked for his ticket he said, "I am poor. I have no money. I have left my poor parents to seek work, so that I can help them." His cheeks glowed red, for Anastasios was very embarrased. But, as our Lord does not abandon those who believe in Him, the sailors felt sorry for young Anastasios and let him go. Other passengers heard his story and went to his aid. They listened to his story, his problems. One man in particular, a cousin of a very rich man, John Horemis, was particularly impressed by the young boy’s courage and dedication.

Sure enough, young Anastasios Kephalas reached the port of Constantinouple and the very next day went looking for work. But he found mostly rejection and indifference. Eventually he found employment in a factory with a tobacco merchant. However, he was a young boy and his pay would barely be enough for his daily meals as he walked about barefoot and with ragged clothes. He found his comfort in prayer for he had much faith in God. The boy did not become entangled in worldly cares, but fixed his mind entirely upon building up the inner man in the image of Christ.  With his childlike mind and guileless heart, when he saw that his employer wrote and received many letters in his business, Anastasios also wanted to write a letter, for he had much to say. But to whom?  He had no acquaintances. He could not write to his mother, because mail was not taken to the small villages. Yet he felt the need to write. He wanted to write grievances. To tell how he would work and they would not pay him. How he wanted to eat and be clothed and the money would not suffice. He did not abandon his hope in God, and one day in order to make his prayer more living, he thought of writing a letter to Christ and telling him of his needs. And truly, he lost no time. He took a pencil and paper and wrote:

 “My Little Christ, I do not have an apron or shoes. Please send them to me. You know how much I love You. Anastasios “

He sealed the letter with confidence and wrote on the envelope: "To the Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven." He took his letter and went to mail it right away. On the way, by divine providence, he met the owner of a merchant shop that was opposite where he worked. This man knew him well and, knowing very well of the boy's innocence and diligence, had come to feel great compassion for him. He also was going to the post office. "Anastasios, where are you going?”, he said to the boy. Anastasios became troubled and whispered something, holding the letter in his hands. "Give it to me so I can mail it, and you won't have to go all the way." Frightened and unthinking, the little Anastasios gave him the letter. The merchant took the letter with much love, patted him on the head and told him not to worry while he put the letter in his pocket with his own other letters. He told Anastasios to go back and that he would take care to mail the letter safely.

Anastasios cheerfully returned to his work, and the merchant continued on his way full of happiness over that good and exceptional boy. As he was about to mail the letter the merchant noticed the address noted on Anastasios’s letter. Thunderstruck, he stopped and, conquered by the temptation of curiosity, opened and read it. He was overwhelmed with emotion and the man began to cry. He put an amount of money into an envelope and sent it, anonymously, to the boy along with fatherly advice on how the money could be spent wisely. Anastasios was filled with joy when he received it, and gave many thanks to God.

The next day Anastasios set out to purchase new clothes. Upon his return, his employer noticed him and thought that the boy had stolen the money from him. Therefore, he was going to beat him and fire him. But Anastasios cried: "I have never stolen anything in my life! Don't hit me! My little Christ sent them to me!" The merchant across the street overheard the commotion and took Anastasios' employer to the side in order to explain the matter to him.

Therefore, as a shop assistant of a tobacco merchant, Anastasios spent long and hard hours. He started early and finished late but somehow made the time to continue his studies late at night. He read as much as he could the Holy Scriptures and writings of the Holy Fathers, and made a collection of wise sayings, which he used to write on the paper used to wrap his customers' goods since he did not have the money to buy paper. Later he worked as a teacher of the lower grades in the orphanage of the All-Holy Sepulchre.