December 12, 2013

Saint Spyridon as a Model for our Lives

St. Spyridon the Wonderworker (Feast Day - December 12)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

In a previous article we discussed Saint Katherine who was wise and of the world, having studied nearly all the sciences of her day. Presently we will deal with Saint Spyridon, who was a private man and uneducated, according to human knowledge, yet both are found among the chorus of saints. With the sacramental life and asceticism they purified their vessel and reached the experience of true love. Human education is useful insofar as it helps in finding the truth and the path that leads to eternal salvation. The great Saint of Romiosini, Kosmas Aitolos, built schools for people to learn to read Holy Scripture, as he said, as well as the lives and writings of the Saints. But it must be said that books are useful and necessary until one acquires God. Saint Symeon the New Theologian tells us: "Acquire God, then you will have no need of books." Besides, what will one do with human knowledge, when they hold the knowledge of God!

Saint Spyridon knew God, because from childhood he learned to communicate with Him through prayer. So he became truly wise and this was clear to everyone, especially during critical and decisive moments in his life. At the First Ecumenical Synod he preached the consubstantiality of the Persons of the Holy Trinity, in his own unique way, and he overcame Arius. He acquired the gift of wonderworking due to the purity of his heart and his great love towards God and man. He was made worthy to speak with his dead daughter, to ask her where she hid the jewelry entrusted to her by her neighbor, and she responded to him from the grave. He didn't have money to give to a certain poor farmer who was in distress due to the drought, which caused him and his family to go hungry, so he thought to give a gold object to pay off his lenders so he can obtain wheat. But as a Bishop he was more poor than he was, which is why he resorted to a miracle. A certain snake was circulating outside his house so he changed it into gold and gave it to him. Most importantly, however, was that when he was liturgizing he would see Holy Angels coliturgizing with him. These wondrous events raise doubts among unbelievers, but impression and awe among believers. But we must not remain in wonder, but proceed to the cause of the events. We should look to see how he acquired these gifts and move on to imitate his pious life.

The Bishop of Tremithus was guileless and simple. He experienced the words of the Apostle to the Nations: "That being enriched in all things, you may abound unto all simplicity, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God" (2 Cor. 9:11). He had true compassion in his heart which fit the entire world. Precisely because he was rich in his heart, he did not measure perishable and false wealth at all. He was very poor materially and not a lover of money in the least. Very characteristic is the incident with Emperor Constantius, which allows us to unfold the splendor of his sanctified soul and his utter disdain for material goods. When he healed the Emperor of an incurable disease, the Emperor wanted to reward him and give him gifts of great worth, but the Saint refused everything. Of course after much perseverance he got a little money for the poor of his District and, humble as he was, he rushed to return to his flock, avoiding the glories and honors towards his person. This is the ethos of the Saints. He did not want to exploit his acquaintance with the Emperor and the gratitude felt by this higher Ruler towards him, in order to extort money or glory, which is common in our days. He wasn't avaricious and ambitious, but a lover of God and lover of man. He built palaces and castles in the hearts of people and saved money in the bank of heaven. Our society has a need for such people, for they are the salt which preserves it from rot and decay. They are the true consolation of the people of God, their cane and their support.

Saint Spyridon, humble shepherd of Tremithus, bishop and pastor of reasonable sheep, pray for Kerkyra, which holds your incorruptible Holy Relic, and for Cyprus, the much-tortured island that gave you birth. Even for Turkish-trodden Tremithus, your Diocese, "wasted by misery, rescue them through your intercessions".

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΓΙΟΣ ΣΠΥΡΙΔΩΝ", December 1997. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.