As Christmastide is knocking at our door, we honour the memory Saint Spyridon, bishop of Trymythous. A contemporary of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, he is depicted on the icon wearing a woollen hat. He led a simple life of a shepherd, ate simple food and spoke simple words. Simplicity was his name. Yet with his whole life, he showed that simplicity works miracles when it comes from the heart and steadfast faith. In the words of our Lord, he received the kingdom of God like a little child” (Luke 18:17). This gave him the power to speak the truth of God in a way that trumped all learnedness and to become a genuine model of God’s love for man.
He lived at an age when heresies were capturing the minds of many people. They were defended by learned philosophers skilled like no one else in reasoning and logic. His simple words and speech seemed no match for their skill. Yet his heartfelt faith, his ascetic deeds and vehement prayer made him the messenger of the Divine wisdom and showed the impotence of human reason against it.
In the church tradition, we find an impressive account of his speech at an ecumenical council. At one point, he grasped a brick and squeezed it so hard that a flame flew up, water trickled downwards, and only a small amount of crushed clay remained in his hand. He exclaimed: “There are these three elements, but one brick; likewise in the Holy Trinity there are three Persons, but One God".
A learned philosopher who was defending the Arian teaching said: "As I argue with other learned men, I offer reasoned proofs against other reasoned proofs, and in this way, I can challenge almost anything that others might assert. But with this elder, I understand that he is speaking the truth of God that no man can stand up to. It is God himself speaks from his lips”. Later, the philosopher accepted the Holy Baptism and became the saint’s disciple. Saint Spiridon also defended the truth of God with his acts of charity and mercy for others. He gave a portion of his harvest to the poor, and another part to those in debt. He took nothing for himself, but let others borrow as much as they needed without looking how much they were taking. He also let them pay back at their convenience, also without controls or accounts. He prayed for good weather during droughts and heavy rains.
One night, thieves entered his barn but were tied up by some invisible power. When he came in the morning, he set them loose and convinced them to earn their bread by doing honest work. He then gave them each a sheep and let them go saying: "Take this so you will not have spent your night in vain".
We honour the life of Saint Spyridon of Trymythous on the day when many Christians celebrate the Nativity of Christ, and this is not a coincidence. To quote an English classic, Christmas is to us a kind and charitable time when men and women will open their hearts freely. Saint Spyridon, much like our grandfather in heaven, is praying for us, so we have no need for food and shelter. He hears our daily concerns and looks kindly upon us, even when we act up and do mischief.
As we gather around the Christmas table with our family and loved ones, may the presence of Saint Spyridon make your celebration all the warmer and merrier. Merry Christmas to all of you, and a happy New Year.
On the 11th of September, the Orthodox Christians that follow the Julian calendar commemorate Saint John the Forerunner by celebrating the feast day of his Martyrdom. John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus Christ.