Saint Nikodemos (Νikόdēmos) of the Holy Mountain was born on the Greek island of Naxos in the year 1748, and was named Nicholas in Holy Baptism. As a child he was well-behaved, avoiding bad company and everything which might harm the inner man. He was zealous in his love for that which is good and beneficial, and he loved sacred and secular learning. His first education on Naxos came from the village priest, who taught him to love Christ and His Church. He also assisted the priest during the Divine Liturgy and other Services.
Later Nicholas attended the school at Naxos, where Archimandrite Chrysanthos, the brother of Saint Cosmas Aitolos (August 24), taught him sacred and secular letters.
At the age of twenty-six, he arrived on Mount Athos and was tonsured at Dionysiou Monastery with the name Nikodemos. As his first obedience, Father Nikodemos served as the monastery’s secretary. Two years after entering Dionysiou Monastery, the Metropolitan of Corinth, Saint Makarios Notaras (April 17), arrived there, and assigned the young monk to edit the manuscript of the Philokalia, which he had found in 1777 at Vatopedi Monastery. Editing this book was the beginning of many years of literary activity for Saint Nikodemos. He soon moved to Pantokrator Skḗtē, where he was under obedience to Elder Arsenios of the Pelopónnēsos, under whose guidance he studied Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Holy Fathers.
According to the testimony of his contemporaries, Saint Nikodemos was a simple man, without any malice, unassuming, and distinguished by his profound concentration. He possessed remarkable mental abilities: he knew the Holy Scriptures by heart, and even remembered chapter, verse, and the pages they were on. Moreover, he could recite long passages from the writings of the Holy Fathers from memory.
In 1783 Saint Nikodemos was tonsured into the Great Schema, and spent the next six years in complete silence. On his next visit to Mount Athos, Saint Makarios gave Nikodemos the obedience of editing of the writings of Saint Symeon the New Theologian (printed in three volumes: Syros, 1790). This meant giving up his silence and occupying himself once more with literary work. From that time until his death, he continued to devote himself to such endeavors.
One of the ascetic’s remarkable books was his Exomologitarion (Manual of Confession), which was published in 1794. This was the first book of its kind in the Orthodox Church. Drawing from Holy Scripture and from the Fathers of the Church, Saint Nikodemos lists the qualifications a confessor must have, if he is to be a true confessor, and offers advice on how one should prepare for Confession, how to confess, and how one ought to guard himself against sin after Confession.
The Saint also made great contributions by publishing liturgical books. Using materials from the manuscript collections on Mount Athos, he published sixty-two Canons to the Most Holy Theotokos under the title, New Theotokarion (Venice, 1796).