June 13, 2010

Saint Triphyllios, Bishop of Leukosia and Disciple of Saint Spyridon

St. Triphyllios the Bishop of Leukosia (Feast Day - June 13)


Triphyllios stood near the Highest,
Beholding the light of the tri-hypostatic Highest.

Saint Triphyllios, Bishop of Leukosia (modern Nicosia), was likely born in Cyprus, and he received his education at Berit (Beirut, in Lebanon). He was very intelligent and eloquent. Being a time of persecution against Christians, it was also during this time he became a Christian. In spite of his excellent education, Triphyllios returned to Cyprus and chose as his guide a man neither bookish nor learned, but one of conspicuous holiness and simplicity: Saint Spyridon of Tremithos (Dec. 12).

Eventually Triphyllios was ordained deacon and followed Spyridon, who was Bishop of Tremithos. When Spyridon traveled to Nicaea for the First Ecumenical Synod in 325, Triphyllios accompanied him as his deacon. Triphyllios was charmed by the beautiful palace, the majestic figure of the emperor, and the pomp of palace life. Spyridon said, "Why are you astonished? Does all this make the emperor any more righteous? All of them, emperors and dignitaries alike, will die and stand together with the very poorest before the judgment seat of God. One should seek eternal blessings and heavenly glory."

Upon their return to Cyprus, the people of Leukosia requested that Triphyllios become their bishop, thus becoming the first bishop of Leukosia. There were still many idolaters in his diocese, so his preaching was very simple but filled with powerful conviction. His home was open to all day and night. He received the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the sick and gave them comfort. He served as a shepherd to his flock with much zeal and love, which was something he learned from his teacher and spiritual father, Saint Spyridon.

When Emperor Constantius II (337-361) fell grievously ill in Antioch, and receiving no help from the doctors, he turned to God. In a dream he saw an angel, directing him to a group of hierarchs. Pointing out two of them, the angel said that only through them could he receive healing.

Constantius issued an imperial edict, commanding the local bishops to assemble. Bishop Spyridon also received this order, and went to the emperor with his disciple Bishop Triphyllios. The sick one immediately recognized them as the healers indicated by the angel. He bowed to them and asked them to pray for his health. Saint Spyridon with a prayer touched the head of the emperor, and he became well.

Triphyllios would often visit with Spyridon while they both served as bishops. Once, they passed through an area of vineyards and gardens of special beauty and abundance, named Parimnos. Saint Triphyllios, attracted by the beauty of nature, considered how they might explore this land. Spyridon discerned the thoughts of Triphyllios and said, "Why do you always think about earthly and transitory blessings? Our habitation and riches are in Heaven, for which we ought to strive." Thus did Saint Spyridon lead his disciple toward spiritual perfection, which Saint Triphyllios attained through the prayers of his instructor. Triphyllios had a charitable soul, a heart without malice, right faith and love towards all, and many other virtues.

Once, a Synod of bishops assembled in Sardica (modern Sofia, Bulgaria). The Fathers of the Synod requested that Bishop Triphyllios, known for his erudition and eloquence, address the people. Speaking about the healing of the paralytic by the Lord (Mark 2:11), in place of the word "bed" he used the word "folding-stool" [σκίμποδα*]. Impatient with the imprecise rendering of the Gospel text, Saint Spyridon said to Saint Triphyllios, "Are you better than He who said 'bed', that you should be ashamed of His wording?" and abruptly he left the church.

In this way Saint Spyridon gave Saint Triphyllios a lesson in humility, so that he would not become proud of his own eloquence. Saint Triphyllios wisely shepherded his flock. From the inheritance left him by his mother, he built a monastery at Leukosia named Odigitria (or Chrysodigitria) together with a cemetery. Together with this male monastery he also built a convent for women where it is said his mother served as a nun. It was at this convent that nuns traveling to the Holy Land would stop and receive hospitality both upon their going and their leaving. It is believed however that both of these monasteries were destroyed by Arabs centuries later, though some believe the present church named "Phaneromeni" is built over the Odigitria Monastery. The Saint died in old age in about the year 370 and was buried at Odigitria Monastery.**

The Russian pilgrim Abbot Daniel saw the relics of Saint Triphyllios in Cyprus at the beginning of the twelfth century. There was a church dedicated to the Saint in Leukosia, but it was destroyed at some point in time.

Chapel of Saint Triphyllios in Nicosia

In the Chronicon of Leontios Machairas, written in the 15th century, it is recorded that when Saracen Arabs were searching for treasure, they opened the tomb of Saint Triphyllios. Instead of treasure they found his body to be intact and fragrant. Filled with rage an Arab pulled out his knife and beheaded the Saint, then suddenly and miraculously blood began to flow. In fear, they took the body of the Saint outside and sought to burn it in a fire. However, because the body still remained intact in the fire, an Arab called out: "In the name of Jesus your Christ, accept to be burned in the fire." The flame then lightly touched the body and hair of the Saint. The chronicler testifies that he was a witness of this miracle which took place on May 3rd when he saw the half-burned relic of the Saint.

When Saint Diomedes, who lived in asceticism near Leukosia in a cave, heard of what happened to the relic of the Saint, he went and took the head of the Saint and brought it back to his cell for safe-keeping. Someone saw him do this, however, and betrayed him to the Arabs. 500 Arabs therefore went  to capture him. Realizing there was no hope for his escape, he stopped near the gallows, which was located next to today's gates of Famagusta. After saying a few words of prayer, he turned towards the Arabs and spit in their direction. This caused them all to fall down, and their stomachs became bloated, which prevented them from running. The Saint therefore was given enough time to return to his cell. The soldiers followed him, slowly, and when they arrived they begged that he would heal them and take pity. Out of compassion the Saint healed them, and all of them became Christians and were baptized.

To commemorate this event with the relic of Saint Triphyllios, every year it was celebrated in the church of the Saint on May 3rd. At this time the half-burned relic of the Saint was displayed for veneration. On that day the people would also gather and burn various herbs and grasses to remember how the swamp had dried up. Unfortunately, the relic of the Saint nor his church have survived, however the head of the Saint is located today in Kykkos Monastery.

The only church today in Cyprus dedicated to the Saint is the small chapel dedicated to him which is located in the courtyard of the Eleneion Elementary School in Nicosia.


* A σκίμποδα (skimboda) was a sort of folding-stool or couch for travelers, invalids and sedentary persons. Socrates was known to possess such a stool or couch.

** The above account is based on the Synaxarion of the Saint up until the 12th century, but a later manuscript from the 17th century reveals other details, which can be read here.

HYMN OF PRAISE: Saint Triphyllios

By St. Nikoali Velimirovich

Saint Triphyllios while yet a deacon was he,
The Psalter and the Gospels he read;
And with a sweet voice, to the people he humbly read,
And Spyridon holy, attentively listened.

Once when in church, crowded with people
The chapter on the Paralytic he beautifully read,
How the gentle Lord, the sick one saw,
"Take up your folding-stool," said He and the sick one departed.

Triphyllios, the word "folding-stool", with the word "bed" substituted,
Then, said Spyridon: "My son, come to me!"
How, my dear deacon, do you change words,
The word which our gentle Savior uttered?
The word "bed" from His mouth came
And "folding-stool" you said, His word you omitted!

My son, this is a Book from on High inspired,
Therefore, everything as it is written in it, let us read.
Full of power, the Gospel words are
And weak and decayed human words are.
The "folding-stool" of man is not the same as a "beastly bed,"

Therefore, my son, say God forgive me!
Triphyllios the deacon, his error realized,
Bitterly repented and was much ashamed.
Triphyllios blessed, because of his spiritual father
Saint Spyridon, glorious miracle-worker.

Reflection of St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Meekness and kindness adorned our saints and it gave them strength and understanding not to return evil for evil. When Emperor Constantius, the son of the Emperor Constantine the Great, became ill in Antioch he summoned Saint Spyridon to offer prayers for him. Saint Spyridon, in the company of Triphyllios his deacon departed Cyprus and arrived at Antioch before the imperial palace. Spyridon was clad in poor clothing. He wore a simple woven cap on his head, in his hand a staff from a palm tree and draped over his chest he bore an earthen vessel which contained oil that was taken from the lamp in front of the Honorable Cross (which at that time was the custom of Christians in Jerusalem to carry). So dressed and in addition to that, exhausted by fasting and prayer and the long journey, in no way did the Saint reflect his rank and dignity. When he wished to step foot into the imperial palace, one of the emperor's servants, thinking him to be an ordinary beggar, struck him with his fist on the cheek. The meek and kind Saint turned the other cheek to him. When, with great difficulty, he succeeded to reach the emperor, Spyridon touched the head of the emperor and the emperor recovered.

Apolytikion in Tone Four
In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith, an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence; your humility exalted you; your poverty enriched you. Hierarch Father Triphyllios, entreat Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

Another Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Having zeal of faith, All-Blessed one, you bore ripe fruit, putting to shame the battle line of the enemy, and you slayed Beliar, Triphyllios; Venerable Father, entreat Christ God, to grant us the great mercy.