St Spyridon - our Patron Saint
The Life of St Spyridon
| Saint Spyridon of Tremithus was born towards the end of the third century on the island of Cyprus. He was a shepherd, and had a wife and children. He used all his substance for the needs of his neighbors and the homeless, for which the Lord rewarded him with a gift of wonderworking. He healed the incurably sick and cast out demons.
After the death of his wife, during the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337), he was made Bishop of Tremithus, Cyprus. As bishop, the saint did not change his manner of life, but combined pastoral service with deeds of charity.
According to the witness of Church historians, St. Spyridon participated in the sessions of the First Ecumenical Council in the year 325. At the Council, the saint entered into a dispute with a Greek philosopher who was defending the Arian heresy. The plain direct speaking of St. Spyridon showed everyone the impotence of human wisdom before the divine Wisdom: "Listen, philosopher, to what I tell you. There is one God Who created man from dust. He has ordered all things, both visible and invisible, by His Word and His Spirit. The Word is the Son of God, Who came down upon the earth on account of our sins. He was born of a Virgin, He lived among men, and suffered and died for our salvation, and then He arose from the dead, and He has resurrected the human race with Him. We believe that He is One in Essence with the Father, and equal to Him in authority and honor. We believe this without any sly rationalizations, for it is impossible to grasp this mystery by human reason."
As a result of their discussion, the opponent of Christianity became the saint's zealous defender and later accepted holy Baptism. And after his conversation with St. Spyridon, turning towards his companions, the philosopher said: "Listen! Until now my rivals have presented their arguments, and I was able to refute their proofs with other proofs. But instead of proofs from reason, the words of this elder are filled with some sort of special power, and no one can refute them, since it is impossible that man can oppose God. If any of you thinks as I do now, let him believe in Christ and join me in following this man, through whose lips God Himself speaks."
At this Council, St. Spyridon displayed the unity of the Holy Trinity in a remarkable way. He took a brick in his hand and squeezed it. At that instant fire shot up from it, water dripped on the ground, and only dust remained in the hands of the wonderworker. "There was only one brick," St. Spyridon said, "but it was composed of three elements. In the Holy Trinity there are three Persons, but only one God."
The saint cared for his flock with great love. Through his prayer, drought was replaced by abundant rains, and incessant rains were replaced by fair weather. Through his prayers the sick were healed and demons cast out.
A woman once came up to him with a dead child in her arms, imploring the intercession of the saint. He prayed, and the infant was restored to life. The mother, overcome with joy, collapsed lifeless. Through the prayer of the saint of God the mother was restored to life.
Another time, hastening to save his friend, who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death, the saint was hindered on his way by the unanticipated flooding of a stream. The saint commanded the water: "Halt! For the Lord of all the world commands that you permit me to cross so that a man may be saved." The will of the saint was fulfilled, and he crossed over happily to the other shore. The judge, apprised of the miracle that had occurred, received St. Spyridon with esteem and set his friend free.
Similar instances are known from the life of the saint. Once, he went into an empty church, and ordered that the lampadas and candles be lit, and then he began the service. When he said, "Peace be unto all," both he and the deacon heard from above the resounding of "a great multitude of voices saying, "And with thy spirit." This choir was majestic and more sweetly melodious than any human choir. To each petition of the litanies, the invisible choir sang, "Lord, have mercy." Attracted by the church singing, the people who lived nearby hastened towards it. As they got closer and closer to the church, the wondrous singing filled their ears and gladdened their hearts. But when they entered into the church, they saw no one but the bishop and several church servers, and they no longer heard the singing which had greatly astonished them."
St. Simeon Metaphrastes (November 9), the author of his Life, likened St. Spyridon to the Patriarch Abraham in his hospitality. Sozomen, in his CHURCH HISTORY, offers an amazing example from the life of the saint of how he received strangers. One time, at the start of the Forty-day Fast, a stranger knocked at his door. Seeing that the traveller was very exhausted, St. Spyridon said to his daughter, "Wash the feet of this man, so he may recline to dine." But since it was Lent there were none of the necessary provisions, for the saint "partook of food only on certain days, and on other days he went without food." His daughter replied that there was no bread or flour in the house. Then St. Spyridon, apologizing to his guest, ordered his daughter to cook a salted ham from their larder. After seating the stranger at table, he began to eat, urging that man to do the same. When the latter refused, calling himself a Christian, the saint rejoined, "It is not proper to refuse this, for the Word of God proclaims, "Unto the pure all things are pure" (Tit. 1:15).
Another historical detail reported by Sozomen, was characteristic of the saint. It was his custom to distribute one part of the gathered harvest to the destitute, and another portion to those having need while in debt. He did not take a portion for himself, but simply showed them the entrance to his storeroom, where each could take as much as was needed, and could later pay it back in the same way, without records or accountings.
There is also the tale by Socrates Scholasticus about how robbers planned to steal the sheep of St. Spyridon. They broke into the sheepfold at night, but here they found themselves all tied up by some invisible power. When morning came the saint went to his flock, and seeing the tied-up robbers, he prayed and released them. For a long while he advised them to leave their path of iniquity and earn their livelihood by respectable work. Then he made them a gift of a sheep and sending them off, the saint said kindly, "Take this for your trouble, so that you did not spend a sleepless night in vain."
All the Lives of the saint speak of the amazing simplicity and the gift of wonderworking granted him by God. Through a word of the saint the dead were awakened, the elements of nature tamed, the idols smashed. At one point, a Council had been convened at Alexandria by the Patriarch to discuss what to do about the idols and pagan temples there. Through the prayers of the Fathers of the Council all the idols fell down except one, which was very much revered. It was revealed to the Patriarch in a vision that this idol had to be shattered by St. Spyridon of Tremithus. Invited by the Council, the saint set sail on a ship, and at the moment the ship touched shore and the saint stepped out on land, the idol in Alexandria with all its offerings turned to dust, which then was reported to the Patriarch and all the bishops.
St. Spyridon lived his earthly life in righteousness and sanctity, and prayerfully surrendered his soul to the Lord. His relics repose on the island of Corfu (Kerkyra), in a church named after him (His right hand, however, is located in Rome). His memory is also celebrated on Cheesefare Saturday.
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The Religious Processions of Saint Spyridon
|On Palm Sunday, Easter Saturday, August 11th and the first Sunday in November the body of St. Spyridon, is carried in solemn procession along the streets of Corfu on routes prescribed by tradition.|
The great Palm Sunday procession commemorates the miraculous deliverance of the island from a deadly plague. The windows of most houses along the route of the procession are decorated with purple, gold-fringed draperies in honor of the Saint; the custom dates back to Venetian times and has its origin in Byzantium. The procession is attended by the clergy, headed by the Metropolitan, by representatives of the secondary schools and Boy Scouts, the three brass bands of Corfu town, and others from the villages. All the civic and state authorities, as well as detachments of the armed forces, take part in the procession. We must return to the seventeenth century to learn the origin of the procession. Large crowds gathered in despair in St. Spyridon’s Church and prayed to the Saint for salvation from the plague, which had already taken the lives of sixty citizens. From that day the number of death was gradually reduced and at the same time a light like that of a small lamp was seen at night on the top of the Saint’s belfry and was observed by the night sentinels of the Old Fortress. By Palm Sunday the epidemic was over and this was ascribed to the miraculous intervention of the Saint. The whole of the rejoicing population, in a show of gratitude, carried their Patron Saint in procession. The Venetian Governor, at the request of the people of Corfu, decreed on the 21st of June 1630 that henceforth a procession would be held on Palm Sunday every year.
The Easter Saturday procession commemorates the relief of the island from famine, and is the oldest of the four processions and the most solemn, since it is combined with the Orthodox ritual carrying the ‘Epitaph’, a gilt bier representing the body of Jesus Christ being borne to the grave. On this occasion the canopy is not held over the Saint but over the Epitaph. This custom dates back to 1574, when the Venetian Senate prohibited the Greek Orthodox processions of the Epitaph taking place on Good Friday. Local custom and tradition has for this reason moved the Epitaph procession from Good Friday to Easter Saturday exclusively for the Church of St. Spyridon. The Saint’s body is not replaced in its permanent silver casket when the procession is over, but is exposed day and night for general worship by the faithful until the afternoon of Easter Tuesday. The story of this procession reaches back to the middle of the sixteenth century. According to the legend of the Saint, the inhabitants of Corfu were suffering from famine since no grain ships could sail owing contrary winds. Unexpectedly, on Easter Saturday, ships loaded with flour sailed into Corfu harbor. They were sailing past the island and had been diverted thither by St. Spyridon who appeared in a dream to the captains and induced them to change their course and sail at once to Corfu because the population was starving. The flour was unloaded and distributed to the inhabitants who thus satisfied their hunger and celebrated Easter joyfully. According to historical evidence Easter Saturday procession was probably first held in the second half of the sixteenth century.
The third procession of St. Spyridon is held on 11th of August, in remembrance of the Saint’s deliverance of the island from the Turkish siege of 1716. The legend of the Saint mentions that there appeared to the enemy Saint Spyridon surrounded by a glorious heavenly host, holding in his right hand flashing sword, and furiously pursuing them. On its return to the church the Saint’s body is exposed for general worship for three days and two nights.
The last in the calendar of the processions of St. Spyridon is that on the first Sunday in November in commemoration of the miraculous intercession of the Saint in saving Corfu from deadly plague, which twice visited the island in the seventeenth century. The history of the procession goes back to 1673. The pestilence was first identified in one of the suburbs and soon spread all over the town; the entire population was gripped by terror of death. For three nights a light was seen by the local inhabitants on the bell-tower of his Church and the figure of Saint Spyridon, carrying cross in one hand, appeared driving the pestilence away. The Venetian Governor, at request of the people of Corfu, sanctioned by decree on the 29th of October 1673 that the procession be held every year on the first Sunday in November.
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Apolytikion in the First Tone
O Father, God-bearer, Spyridon, you were proven a champion and Wonder Worker of the First Ecumenical Council. |
You spoke to the girl in the grave and turned the serpent to gold.
And, when chanting your prayers, most sacred One, angels ministered with you.
Glory to Him who glorified you;
glory to Him who crowned you;
glory to Him who, through you, works healing for all.
Της Συνόδου της πρώτης ανεδείχθης υπέρμαχος,
και θαυματουργός Θεοφόρε Σπυρίδων πατήρ ημών,
διο νεκρά συ εν τάφω προσφωνείς
και όφιν εις χρυσούν μετέβαλες
και εν τω μέλπειν τας αγίας σου ευχάς.
Αγγέλους έσχες συλλειτουργούντας σοι, Ιερώτατε.
Δόξα τω σε δοξάσαντι, δόξα τω σε στεφανώσαντι,
δόξα τω ενεργούντι δια σου πάσιν ιάματα.
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