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Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker, Patron Saint of Kerkyra (Corfu)

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Icon of Saint Spyridon at Holy Cross Chapel in Brookline, MA Icon of Saint Spyridon at Holy Cross Chapel in Brookline, MA

The 12th of the month (December), Memory of our holy Godbearing Father SPYRIDON the Wonderworker, Bishop of TREMITHUS

 

Our holy father Spyridon lived in the island of Cyprus at the dawn of the fourth century, and led the peaceful life of a simple shepherd.  He was a plain, unpolished countryman and yet without equal when it came to love of neighbour, meekness, acts of kindness, almsgiving and practice of the virtues.  He would offer hospitality to all who came to his house like the Patriarch Abraham, waiting on every guest as if it were Christ Himself who had come to visit him.  Never did a poor or needy person leave his house without having received comfort in his distress. Spyridon put his money in a box which he always left open and available to all, without troubling whether it were full or empty, or whether those who dipped into it were deserving or undeserving of his assistance.  He lived as a chaste and pious married man, and God granted him a daughter called Irene.  After a few years, his wife died, and being now freed from cares of the flesh, his sole concern was to advance in virtue and grow rich in the everlasting gifts of Grace.

 

His way of life brought him unwished-for renown in the island so that, when the Bishop of the small town of Tremithus near Salamina died, the faithful with one voice chose Spyridon to succeed him, and he thus became the shepherd of Christ's spiritual flock.  Notwithstanding this elevation, the humble shepherd kept to his accustomed manner of life: wearing the same poor clothes, always going about on foot, lending a hand in the fields and watching over his flock just as before.  One night robbers broke into his sheepfold intending to make off with the ewes, but they were rooted to the spot by an invisible force.  When Spyridon found them early next morning, they shamefacedly confessed their misdeed.  Moved by compassion, he freed them from their invisible bonds and admonished them to live honestly from then on; but before letting them go he gave them two sheep- by way of compensation, he said with a smile, for their pains in keeping a night-long vigil.

 

Exacting toward himself, Spyridon was always full of compassion for his brethren, and showed great understanding for their infirmities.  For instance, he would break a fast without hesitation in order to give comfort to a wayfarer.  Like Christ the Good Shepherd, he was every ready to lay down his life for his spiritual sheep that they might find pasture in the meadows of grace.  His meekness, humility and simplicity found such favor with God that he wrought countless miracles for the salvation and consolation of his Church.

 

When the island of Cyprus was afflicted with a terrible drought which threatened to be the harbinger of famine, the heavens opened at the prayer of Saint Spyridon, and God sent a gracious rain upon the earth, which brought forth its fruit in due season.  Some rich men had hoarded large quantities of corn in their granaries, intending to profit from the scarcity by selling at extortionate rates, but, at the prayer of the zealous Bishop, their barns fell to the ground, and he delivered the island from starvation by distributing the grain equitably to the people.  At another time, for the sake of helping a poor man, he turned a snake into gold, somewhat as Moses had done in the desert (Numb. 21:8); but once the help had taken effect he restored the creature to its normal state lest divine favour give occasion to covetousness.  One day, as he was going with all speed to deliver a man condemned to death, he found his way blocked by an impassable torrent, so bidding the flow of rushing water cease, he crossed the bed of the stream dryshod.

 

Spyridon was granted power over death itself, for he lived in Christ through the holy virtues, and Christ acted in him through the Holy Spirit.  When a poor barbarian woman laid her son's body at his feet, he restored the child to life at her supplication.  On the sudden death of his beloved daughter, he rejected all thought of human consolation for himself and did not ask the Lord to bring her back to life; but, for the sake of a certain woman who had entrusted her fortune to Irene's safe-keeping, the holy Bishop leant over her grace to ask the dead girl where she had hidden the treasure, and she told him at once.

 

His virtue illumined the secrets of consciences with the brightness of a lightning flash, and inspired sinners to confess their misdeeds and to begin a life of repentance.  One such was the woman, upon whom the man of God has cast a look of compassion, who – like the penitent in the Gospel- fell at his feet, and bathed them in her tears while confessing her sins.  Spyridon bent down to raise her up and said, Your sins are forgiven (Luke 7;48), as if the Saviour Himself were speaking through his mouth.  Then sending her away in peace, he rejoiced like the good shepherd who has found the sheep which was lost and who calls together his friends and neighbours, saying: Rejoice with me for I have found my sheep which was lost (Luke 15:6).

 

Saint Spyridon was innocent of the wisdom of this world but rich in the gifts of prophecy and of foreknowledge.  He also possessed a deep knowledge of Holy Scripture which one day abashed a vain prelate, who wanted to show off his eloquence by altering certain words of the Gospel too common for his taste.

 

When the most pious Emperor Constantine the Great summoned the First Ecumenical Council (AD 325) in order to put down the damnable heresy of Arius, Spyrdion too made his way to Nicaea, dressed in his simple shepherd's coat, in order to bear witness to Truth along with the holy bishops and confessors and the most illustrious personages of the time.  During one of the sessions, a conceited Arian philosopher challenged the Orthodox to a disputation about the Holy Trinity.  The humble shepherd from Cyprus then came forward and, to the amazement of all, demolished his opponent's specious arguments and logical subtleties by the simplicity and authority of his Spirit-bearing words.  At a loss for an answer, the philosopher admitted that he was convinced; he embraced the Orthodox faith with sincerity, and he called upon the other followers of Arius, in their turn, to abandon the deceptive pathways of human wisdom in order to find in the Church the springs of Living Water and the power of the Spirit.

 

After the death of Saint Constantine, his son Constantius, who inherited the Eastern part of the Empire, showed an inclination for Arianism.  He fell sick while residing at Antioch, and, in spite of the efforts of his physicians, his life was despaired of; but then he had a vision which resulted in Saint Spyridon's being summoned to the palace. No sooner had he arrived at the Emperor's bedside in company with his disciple Saint Triphyllius (12 June), than he cured him of his fleshly illness, and made him promise to look after his soul's health by fidelity to Orthodox teaching and by mercy towards his subjects.  He returned to Cyprus loaded with gold and with riches of all kinds which he made haste to distribute.

 

Soaring above the things of the earth and taken up with the expectation of everlasting good things, Saint Spyridon celebrated the holy Liturgy and offices of the Church as though he were already before the throne of God in the company of the Angels and the Saints. One day, while serving in a remote and unfrequented church, he turned toward the invisible congregation and said, Peace be unto all! at which his disciple heard the response, And with thy spirit from the voices of a throng of Angels who proceeded to accompany the divine Liturgy with their celestial melodies.

 

At the end of a long life lived in the unfailing fellowship of the Holy Spirit, Saint Spyridon gave up his soul in peace to God on 12 December 348, at the age of seventy-eight, having, for the last time, encouraged those near him to follow Christ by taking upon themselves his light and easy yoke.

 

His holy body became an inexhaustible source of miracles and healings for the faithful of Cyprus until the seventh century, when it was taken to Constantinople to escape the Arab invasion and rested in a church near St. Sophia.  After the City fell to the Turks, his precious relic was taken secretly to Corfu (1456) where it has been kept ever since, miraculously incorrupt.  So many miracles have been wrought through it for particular persons as well as for the population as a whole – deliverances from cholera epidemics and foreign invasion – that Saint Spyridon is venerated as the principal protector of Corfu.

 

-From The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, Volume 2: November, December by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, translated from the French by Christopher Hookway, Holy Convent of The Annunciation of Our Lady Ormylia (Chalkidike), 1999.

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 19:04
Konstantinos Koutroubas

Konstantinos (Dino) is a seminarian at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is from Philadelphia and will be going into his 3rd year of studies in September.

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