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.
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 Fr. Adrian, Bishop Nektary Kontzevitch, and the author I. M. Kontzevitch–all of who were the preceptors of the American editors and publishers of this volume.
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.