The life of men who were generous and full of love of God is of great profit for the soul and it strengthens it to give rise to virtue in abundance: the soul not only turns away from committing sin but it is transformed and becomes better. Because by listening to such accounts, he who is dominated by his passions fights them with greater fervour, and by admiration of his fellow creature, he is prompted to imitate him. A lot of others, of course, have imitated the tireless fight which was carried out by the saints in order to acquire virtue and have shown such force in the imitation of admirable men. More than all, the admirable Spyridon manifested great zeal in imitating the Patriarch Jacob and the divine David. Like them, he loved sweetness and simplicity, and, admiring Abraham’s hospitality, he distributed his goods to the poor. For his sweetness, he inherited, as is promised in the Scriptures, not only the earth, but Heaven itself! Having despised earthly riches in order to care only for the heavenly ones, for Christ, he made sources of miracles spring up, which gush permanently and never run dry.
Cyprus was his homeland. Neither talkative, nor proud, he liked neither the crowd nor noise. On the contrary, he was humble, a lover of hesychia1 and sought the simple life. In addition, imitating in everything – as we said before – the life of Patriarch Jacob, he became a shepherd. However, he did not become a boorish shepherd, coarse and harsh, but on the contrary he revealed himself full of virtues. If he avoided the crowds, he was on the other hand easily approachable and communicative with the poor and with strangers – to the point that he had more grace than anyone in his conversation and the greatest zeal for charity. If it happened that he missed a traveler who was passing by or was given accommodation elsewhere, he was greatly distressed and considered it a reproach. He remained nevertheless free in spirit and stranger to all vile flattery or baseness. In relieving the trouble of the travelers, washing the feet of those who were tired, laying the table for the guests or offering great services with love and humility, he had the eagerness and zeal of a faithful servant towards his master! For in him simplicity was combined with modesty, meekness with courage, impetuous and burning love with the grace of chastity. He loved this virtue more than all and he embraced it with zeal. Having been married to a chaste woman, he lived some time with her and had children. Then, after the death of his wife, he lived above all pleasure and all carnal desire. Practicing virtue with an even greater zeal and meditating on the Law of the Lord with care, he became all love and mercy. In short, Saint Spyridon was a divine archetype and a pillar of virtue. All virtues were engraved in his soul so well that few were able to imitate him! His virtues and his exploits shone so much, his life was so saintly that he was granted great gifts. However, I shall quote here only those, which outline his future glory and greatness: he granted health to bodies worn out by illness, gave the blind their sight, rebuked evil spirits. In addition, as soon as the rebuke was sent to the demons, cure was granted to the ill person: the possessed were delivered from the evil spirt immediately! By the Grace of God, he performed even more miracles! In addition, from a shepherd of sheep he became a shepherd of men. While Constantine the Great was the Emperor of Rome, the divine Spyridon was consecrated bishop of the city of Trimythous. The miracles he performed after his elevation to the episcopal throne revealed the ardour he had in the practice of virtue. To recount, however, in detail all that is related to the Saint, would be both heavy and impossible! However, to recount nothing, would be truly harmful! I shall restrict myself, therefore, to reporting the most interesting.
Once, God punished the island of Cyprus with lack of rain, and a terrible drought prevailed. This drought brought about mortal famine. A great number of people died every day, while others were in danger of suffering the same any moment. This calamity required the intervention of a new Prophet Elijah or of another Saint, who would be able to accomplish works similar to those of Elijah and to open the heavens by his prayer. Spyridon was this Saint! Since the calamity menaced and tormented the people, Spyridon had great compassion for his flock and inflamed by paternal love, the merciful shepherd entreated the merciful God who immediately filled the sky with clouds! The strangest thing however was this: so that one shouldn’t think that this rain obeyed any natural laws, God drove away the clouds, held them back and did not let them send down rain on the island until the Saint supplicated Him once again! He himself had hardly even finished letting his tears flow, when rain started to fall in abundance. The earth had enough of water, the products of the ground were nourished, the crops started to grow and all misfortunes ceased. Spyridon, I would dare say, appeared to be in this more merciful than Elijah, because the latter opened the heaven after he had closed it. The Saint, however, without imitating the first miracle of Elijah, was equal to him in the second.
A misfortune and the sterility of the earth hit the island once more. In this hour of punishment of God, the wheat merchants, being greedy to grow rich, made the disaster worse by “hoarding the wheat”, as the Holy Scriptures say. They accumulated, then, the wheat, taking advantage of the adversity of their neighbours in order to acquire a shameful profit. Now a poor man went to find one of those merchants who grew rich in this way. As he could not afford to buy the necessary provisions, he attempted to move this merciless man by crying and beseeching him. He implored him with a humble look and attitude, fell prostrate before him and mourned for his family. He did everything to move him! But as nothing could incline this stony heart towards sympathy, the poor man had recourse to the Saint. He hastened, therefore, to Saint Spyridon in order to recount to him his misfortune and the cruelty of the rich man. Listening to the story of the poor man, Spyridon had pity on him, detested the lack of compassion of the rich man and, filled with divine illumination, he prophesied, “Do not moan, do not weep! Tomorrow, you will see your house filled with goods. And the rich man, becoming pitiful and ridiculous, will give you despite his will all you have need of and even implore you to get them!”
The poor man thought that the Saint said this in order to console him, so he went away very sad, in view of the fact that his anchor, that is the hope he had pinned on the Saint had turned out to be useless and vain, When it got dark, however, God, in His Goodwill sent rain which was so heavy that in its violence it carried away the barns of the rich man. The wheat and the other products of the earth that were accumulated there, poured out in streams outside, being at the disposal of any who cared to collect them. At daybreak, the rich man, miserable and pitiful, ran here and there weeping over his just misfortune and imploring the passers-by to help him collect his grain. However, as the people were hungry, many of them rushed up to seize hold of them. The poor man came, too, astonished at the miracle, and, mocking the rich man with just cause, filled his house with wheat, having, as we would say, neither sown nor laboured. As for this cruel and pitiless rich man, he watched the people flocking from all sides – because all the prophetic words of the Saint had to be fulfilled – and his possessions being plundered.
In addition, this poor man himself, who, the day before, was begging him, now was rejoicing over his goods! Wishing to appear generous, and pretending to distribute his goods voluntarily, this avaricious and selfish man exhorted the poor man to take away anything he liked, without fear. Having mocked the stupidity of the rich man enough, the poor man came back home giving thanks first to God and then to Saint Spyridon. In this way, the Saint knew how to open the cataracts of heaven – not only in favour of many, but also in favour of one single person – and predict the moment in which the miracle would happen. He knew at once how to do good to the poor and chastise the rich. Even if this greedy man did not become any better, as we shall see further on, he did at least become the cause for many rich people to be chastened.
Another peasant, a friend of the Saint, was tormented by hunger, and he went to see the same miserable rich man, who still possessed many granaries full of wheat. The peasant supposed that the previous misfortune would have definitely chastened him. Unfortunately, he had indeed lost his wheat without having at all lost either his avarice or his cruelty of heart, and he had not become better! Although the poor man promised him that in summer he would return him with interest the wheat he wanted to borrow, the rich man replied, “The brainless live on hope, as the saying goes. Without money, you are not to get from me neither one single grain of wheat nor even its shadow!” Desperate, the poor man, in his turn, did as the previous one had done, and turned to Saint Spyridon as to a common treasure. He related his misfortune to him reporting to him what the rich man told him in answer to his supplications. After the Saint comforted him, he sent him back home. However, he did not restrict himself to consoling him only with words but, the following day, the bishop himself came to the poor man’s house, holding an object made of gold, which he carried with difficulty. The Great Spyridon put the object into the hands of the poor man saying, “Take this! Give the rich man his gold that he loves so much in pawn and receive from him all that you have need of!” The poor man rejoiced and ran immediately to the rich man. At the sight of gold, the rich man who, a short while before had been hard, inflexible and deaf to all supplications, gave the poor man so much wheat that he was able to fill his house with it and even sow it in his fields. His harvest was so abundant that he refunded his debt to his creditor, recovered the gold that he had given him in pawn, and returned it to the Saint with gratitude. Nevertheless, what was this gold before? Where then had the Saint got it from? When the Saint received back what he had lent, he said to the poor man, “Come, my brother, let us return this god to Him who has lent it to you with charity!” So, the Saint led him into the little garden he owned to ease his abstinence with some vegetables. Standing close to the stone wall, he raised his eyes to heaven and said out loud so that the poor man, who was standing at his side, could hear him, “Lord Jesus Christ, You who by Your single Will create and transform all things, You who formerly transformed the rod of Moses into a serpent before the eyes of the king of Egypt, You who have given this form to the animal that You have changed into gold, condescend now to give it its original form, so that Your servant can see how much you take care of us and learn of this miracle what the Holy Scriptures testify, “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he (Ps 135,6).” The Saint also prayed, and the gold was immediately transformed into a serpent which hissed, creeped and coiled up close to the stone wall, whence the Saint had drawn it with his own hands and changed it into gold in this prodigious way. At the sight of this extraordinary miracle that surpasses human reason, the peasant was taken by fright. He sank down, his face on the ground, spread dust on his head and in tears confessed that he was unworthy not only to enjoy such gifts and such high grace, but even to see the miracle or hear people talk about it. The Saint, however, raised him up and strengthened him spiritually and physically. Meanwhile, the serpent went through the wall and returned into its hole.
Another friend of the Saint, who was very virtuous, had because of his virtue aroused the jealousy of wicked people; he was slandered and accused of having committed crimes. He was arrested by the governor of the province, imprisoned and condemned to death. As the appointed day for the execution of the sentence approached, the Saint, who knew it thanks to his gift of clairvoyance hastened to go and deliver his friend from the misfortune. It was now the dead of winter and the torrent that flowed nearby had overflown. The river banks had been submerged by water that ran impetuously, making the crossing of it impossible. Thinking of Joshua the son of Nun and of what he had done at the time of the crossing of the Ark, with an unshakeable faith that God is the same today as He was yesterday, the Saint spoke to the current as to some servant and said to it, “Stop! The Lord of all orders you! As for me, I shall pass through and the man whose sake I am running for and for whom I have much supplicated God will be saved!”
His word was immediately a brake for the torrent that stopped its course: it opened a passage not only for the Saint but also for the other pilgrims. In addition, this place was no longer an unsurmountable obstacle. The secondary work, therefore, was as miraculous as the main one. Indeed it because of this that the main miracle happened. Because after the Saint’s companions saw what happened, they arrived ahead of him and ran into the city to announce the miracle. And the governor, dazzled by the miracle and afraid that he might appear to offend a man who was capable of accomplishing such miraculous things, freed the prisoner immediately and “returned” him to the Saint. Saint Spyridon came back home accompanied by his friend, having in this way performed two miracles at the same time: he stemmed the course of the torrent, and also, with great charity, the course of the man’s misfortunes.
I think, therefore, that there does not exist a greater sign of the gifts of prophesy and of wonderworking of the Saint, or of his compassion to the unfortunate, than the above-mentioned miracles. Those, however, that I am about to relate below exceed them in compassion and prophetic power. I am thinking here of the gift that allowed him to see the hidden sins of men and forgive them by the Grace of God and with charity.
The Saint kept humility in all things and was pleased in simplicity, willing like that to imitate his Lord. He never used a horse on his trips and kept nothing particular for himself, being content with what was of common use. One day, with his feet tired after having covered a long distance walking fast, he stopped for accommodation at a friend of his, a faithful sheep of his flock. This man, as a sheep of the good shepherd, considered the life of the Saint as a perfect model. He behaved in the same humble way as his master, or rather as his Lord and first Master, Christ: he brought a vessel with water and prepared himself to wash the feet of the Saint. However, the neighbours, finding out about the presence of the Saint rushed up, as well, with the same intention, quarrelling among themselves about the blessing to wash the feet of the Saint.
Now, there was among them a robust woman who set the others aside and insisted on washing the feet of the Saint herself. This woman had been recently caught in the nets of carnal desire and had succumbed to sin. Having the gift to discern the innermost heart of the woman and to know all her actions, the Saint turned his meek and gentle face away from her and told her calmly, “Do not touch me, woman!” Nevertheless, he did not pronounce these words out of pride or as if he held this woman in horror, because otherwise how would he have been able to be a disciple of Him who ate in the company of publicans, prostitutes and sinners? He only wanted to lead her gently to feeling ashamed, to realize her bad action and repent – and his aim was finally realized.
While the woman was still trying to do what she desired so much and was even persistent, the Saint reprimanded her more strictly and disclosed her sin. Filled with surprise that he had seen the unseen wounds of her soul, with a heart wounded by his wise reprimand, she washed the feet of the Saint not with the water but with her tears, confessing her sin with a broken heart. Seeing her behave towards him like the sinful woman of the Gospel towards Christ, the Saint addressed to her the words of the Lord full of courage, “Take courage, my daughter, thy sins are forgiven” (Lc 7,48), and again, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more!” (see Jn 5,14) – healing her of her illness, as a wise doctor, and strengthening her so that she would not fall again into the same sin. The woman obtained her healing in the best and the most profitable way, because she not only regained the firm health of her soul, but, what’s more, by recounting the miracle, she became the cause of salvation for many.
Miracles constitute irrefutable testimony of the sanctity of the person who works them. What follows will show what zeal for the faith the Saint had. When Constantine the Great was the emperor of Rome, and the first Christian emperor, and Plaulinus and Julian were consuls, in 325 in Nicaea the famous synod of the Holy Fathers took place. This council aimed to depose Arius, who with impiety, called the Son of God a creature, and to proclaim that the Son was of the same essence (homoousios) as the Father.
The first and the most well-known supporters of this blasphemy were Eusebius of Nicomedia, Maris, bishop of Calcedon and Theognis, bishop of Nicaea. With the fanatic Arius at their head, these perverted creatures proclaimed the dogma that the Son of God is a creature. Those who fought in defence of the Orthodox faith, those who came into prominence by their speeches and their life were the holy Alexander, a simple priest, but a representative of blessed Patriarch Mitrofan, who was absent because of illness and the famous Athanassius, deacon of the Church of Alexandria, who would later become the ornament of the Episcopal throne. They were also strongly envied, because they did not distinguish themselves from the others by their ecclesiastic rank, but they were more powerful than them in the word of faith. Among them was equally found the Great Spyridon, whose life and the divine Grace that rested on him convinced more than the rhetorical skill, the powerful reasoning and the eloquence of the others. According to the will of the emperor, the philosophers were to assist in the council and they displayed their knowledge with arrogance. They were well educated in the art of Sophist rhetoric. One of them, a famous speaker, possessed an irresistible force of persuasion. He conversed with the bishops and supported Arius strongly. He pleaded insistently on his behalf, so that many, wishing to see which of the opposing parties would win, were urged to listen to him. There was no objection so difficult that his rhetorical ability could not remove with ease! Moreover, if his plea led him into an impasse, he would slip out like an eel by means of specious arguments and language tricks. There was therefore a competition between truth and rhetorical art.
Those who defended the truth with loyal arguments attacked the Sophist, but he made use of the ambiguities of language, insidious arguments and misleading tricks like weapons, and he believed that like this he would win. However, so that words would not be those that would finally win, but Christ and Truth, the victory “passed over” the learned men and “stopped” upon the simple Spyridon. As soon as the Saint, who did not know anything save “Christ, and him crucified,” (1Cor. 2,2) as the Apostle Paul says, saw the philosopher become heated with his sophisms, speak about Christ using offensive language and trying to denigrate the Orthodox dogmas, he drew near and asked to speak to him. Nevertheless, the pious Orthodox, who knew the simple ways of the Saint and that he was ignorant of the Greek culture, prevented him from going to oppose the Sophist. Saint Spyridon, however, did not let them stop him, because he knew that the Wisdom from on high is superior to the human and ephemeral wisdom; he approached the Sophist, then, and said to him, “In the Name of Jesus Christ, note my words, philosopher, and listen to what І want to tell you!” The Sophist replied to him, “Speak and I will listen to you!” Spyridon then said, “There is only one God, Creator of heaven and earth. He created the heavenly Powers, made man from clay and created simultaneously all things visible and invisible. It was by His Word and His Spirit that heaven and earth were created, the sea flew out, the firmament stretched out, the animals were born, man was created, the most beautiful of His creatures. All the stars were created, the sun and the moon, night, day and all the rest. We know, then, that the Word is the Son of God and God Himself. We believe that, for us, He was born of the Virgin, was crucified and buried. Then he rose and raised us with Him, granting us incorruptible and immortal life. We assert that He will come a second time to judge all people and examine our own works, words and thoughts. He the same essence (homoousios) as the Father, equal in dignity, and reigns with Him. Don’t you agree, philosopher?” he asked him.
We must relate here the famous miracle of the tile. After these words, the Saint took a tile in his left hand and held it tight. Moreover, for a wonder! Fire rose up immediately in the air, water poured out on the earth and the argyle of the clay remained in the hands of the Saint, symbolizing in this way the lifegiving and indivisible Trinity. Everybody was amazed. The philosopher did not seem to be the same person any more, to possess neither the same mind nor the same language, he that knew so well to oppose and to quarrel. He remained stunned, his soul was filled with surprise and his voice faded away. After some time of silence, he could not say anything else but, “I share the same view!” Then the Saint said to him, “Then go on, if you agree with me, don’t be in disagreement by your works! Since you know who is the God who created all things, get up and go to church to confess the Orthodox Creed.”
At these words, the philosopher returned to the true faith and addressing himself to his disciples and to the other listeners, he said, “Until now, we fought in words and I won by means of my rhetorical skill. However, since a divine force which opposed me has manifested an ineffable and mystical power through the simple words of bishop Spyridon, I do not feel ashamed to admit that I have been defeated. I would joyfully advise then, myself as well as the others: if they are not so perverted so as to wish to change the Truth, to believe in Christ and to follow this saintly Venerable Father, whose human words are nothing else than the Words of God.”
Imagine the disgrace of the Arians at those words and the joy of the Orthodox mixed with pride! The victory of the Orthodox was so brilliant and the defeat of the heretics so bitter that almost all embraced the Orthodox faith. Only six bishops remained by the side of Arius in order to become the party of the devil, the father of lies, who is from the beginning the implacable enemy of truth.
After this manifest condemnation of the heretics, the bishops returned, filled with joy for the victory and full of admiration before the miracle, giving thanks to God for the miraculous things they had seen and for the defeat of Arius. Struck by the miracle, the emperor himself honoured the Saint greatly and saw him off, asking him to pray for him.
During these events, the daughter of the Saint suddenly died. Her chastity had been of greater beauty than her youth; she had indeed lived all her life in virginity and was a dignified fiancée of the Pure and Divine Bridegroom, Christ. When he returned from the synod, the Great Spyridon suffered this ordeal with courage, as it was fitting. Somewhat later, all upset, a woman arrived weeping, looking for him, because she had left a gold jewel with his daughter. However, she had suddenly died without having returned the jewel to her. The Saint cared for her case very much. His soul had such charity for his neighbour! “It would be truly unjust if this woman did not get back what belonged to her,” he said to himself. After he looked for the jewel all over his daughter’s house in vain, what did the Saint do? What solution did the Wisdom of God inspire him? Like Christ, who long ago went to Lazarus’ tomb, the Saint – who was His disciple and tried to imitate Him – came to his daughter’s tomb. A lot of people followed him. And there, as if he could see his daughter, not in the tomb, but still living and lying in bed, he called her by her name and said to her, “Irene, my child, where have you put the gold jewel which was confided in you?”
As if she was waking up from a light sleep, she answered him in a firm voice, “My lord, I have put the jewel in such and such a part of the house.” All those present were impressed. However, this was not the only miracle of the Saint! As if he was master of life and death, and had received freely this gift and this prestigious distinction from the beloved Christ, Saint Spyridon, who had given back the life to his daughter for a short span of time, ordered her to die again, “Fall asleep again, my child, until Our Lord resurrects you with all the deceased!”
Then the Saint went to his daughter’s house. He found the jewel and returned it to the woman, thus giving a wonderful confirmation to the miracle.
All these things happened in Cyprus. Nevertheless, as the account that follows will show, Antioch also became a witness of the virtue of the Saint and of the divine grace in which he lived.
After the death of Constantine the Great, his empire was divided between his two sons. Constantius emperor of the Orient, resided in Antioch in Syria. Once, he fell seriously ill and no doctor managed to heal him after he had tried everything. Discouraged he supplicated Him Who alone knows to heal souls and bodies. He prayed then to God with fervour, and, one night, he saw an Angel in his dream showing him a choir of saintly bishops. The emperor was, contemplating them and noticed two of them, who looked like bishops but seemed to be the protectors and guides of the others. The Angel pointed out to him these two bishops and told him that only they could heal his illness. When the emperor woke, unable to interpret this dream, he was wondering who these bishops might be, of whom he did not know either the name or the homeland! Besides, one of the two appeared before him in bishop’s vestments, even though he had not become a bishop yet! The dream showed a foreshadowing of the future. The emperor was at a loss. Shaken by the dream and oppressed by his pains, he did not know what to do. His profound faith, however, told him rightly that this dream was not fortuitous! Things being like this, he reacted as an emperor courageously, he convened to Antioch those bishops of the Roman Empire who had distinguished themselves for their sanctity. When they were all gathered like this, he would be able to recognize the two that had appeared to him! He dispatched, therefore, letters to all parts of his empire.
When all the bishops arrived, however, the emperor was not able to recognize the ones he was looking for among those who were present. He sent letters, therefore, to Cyprus summoning Spyridon, the most filled with grace. Now, he knew in spirit all that had happened, for the Grace of God had made them manifest to him in a dream. Confirmed by the letter of the emperor even more, he set off with Triphyllius in the company of whom he had appeared in the emperor’s dream. This Triphyllius had not yet been judged worthy of the episcopacy, but had received the Episcopal consecration by God Himself long before the vote of men!
Saint Spyridon presented himself with Triphylius at the imperial palace, under a poor and humble appearance: miserably dressed, with a palm tree stick in his hand, he wore a mitre on his head. A small bottle of clay-like the ones the inhabitants of Jerusalem make, to have with them the holy oil from the oil lamp of the Precious Cross – was hanging around his neck. As he was to imitate Christ, his Lord, not only in his poverty and humiliation, but also in meekness in the face of insults, a courtier, who mocked him at the poorness of his clothing and considered it improper for him to present himself to the emperor like this, gave him a blow. If fire from heaven did not fall then on the head of him who had dared to hit the Saint, it is because He who had suffered the same insults showed indulgence!
As for Saint Spyridon – what a courageous soul and how disposed to suffer for Christ! – he turned toward his offender and offered him the other cheek, too. Applying commandment of the Lord literally, he vanquished the insolence and roughness by his eagerness to suffer for Christ. The attitude of the Saint indeed bent the proud courtier and broke his heart – particularly when he learned that he whom he had insulted was a bishop! He repented, supplicated the Saint to forgive him and tried hard to make up for his sin and his insolence by fervent repentance. Saint Spyridon, who had learned to forgive all sins as well as to support insults, recompensed him by whom he had been offended. He filled him with kindness, gave him a lot of paternal advice, thus becoming the source of a profound inner conversion. After this incident, the leading dignitaries of the emperor, wishing to show their respect to the Saint, lead him to the emperor with all due deference.
Saint Spyridon saw that his disciple Triphyllius would soon become perfect and follow in his footsteps. For the moment, however, – and this was excusable, because of his youth – he still made much of earthly goods which, for the majority, are valuable. Therefore, he admired the things in the imperial palace, the glittering clothes and the brilliance of gold, and above all the emperor himself, who, seated on an elevated throne, seemed glorious and fearsome. Seeing him captivated by all this and almost in ecstasy, Saint Spyridon wanted to get him out of his torpor and his daydreaming; he took him then by his arm and shook him saying, “Triphyllius, show me the emperor, because I don’t know him!” Having not understood what the Saint meant, Triphyllius pointed out the emperor to him and replied, “It’s him!” “All right,” retorted Saint Spyridon, “why is he the most admired of all? If you cannot be positive that he’s the most virtuous on the earth, it would be therefore because of the vainglory and conceit which surround him? Isn’t he also to die in just the same way as a poor man will, who is unknown and abandoned? Won’t his body, like anyone’s, be subject to corruption? Won’t he have to appear before the Impartial Judge? Why then do you honour temporary goods as if they were lasting and admire the chimera, instead of seeking the immaterial and eternal goods and love only the heavenly and incorruptible glory?”
While Saint Spyridon was exhorting Triphyllius like this, the emperor, from the height of his throne, was keeping his eye on him. It was mainly by the outward appearance of the Saint that his attention was attracted. Everything corresponded exactly to what he had seen in his dream: the stick, the mitre, the small bottle of clay round the neck and the Episcopal vestments. He recognized at once the man who had appeared to him. However, he could not recognize Triphyllius and he did not take the trouble to examine him closely, because, contrary to what he had seen in his dream, this one did not have the outward appearance of a bishop.
The emperor got up from his throne and came up to the Saint. The desire to be healed made him despise the etiquette: he considered the palace and the majesty of the imperial authority as realities derisory and secondary in font of the honour that was due to the Great Spyridon. He came toward the Saint with simplicity, looking humbly for his compassion and showing by his attitude what difference exists between an earthly king and the servant of the Eternal King. Bowing his head before the Saint, he supplicated him with tears and implored his blessing, as if it were the most powerful remedy for dissipating every sorrow! In addition, as soon as the hand of the Saint touched the head of the emperor, he recovered his health. Who would be able to tell the admiration of those present and of the emperor himself in the face of the miracle? All day long, the imperial palace feasted. Joy was in the hearts and they forgot all other reason for joy. The name of Spyridon was on the lips of all, they did not speak but of Spyridon: the Saint was the centre of general attention.
The emperor obtained then the cure of the body. Nevertheless, perhaps the doctor had neglected the health of the soul? This would have been unworthy of Saint Spyridon! He gave the appropriate remedy to the soul, too. He advised the emperor not to forget the kindness of God, to act with indulgence and leniency towards those of his subjects who harmed and afflicted him, and to be beneficial and charitable towards the others. He told him, too, to be like a father, a generous protector and compassionate towards the poor.
“You are ranked the most elevated of all,” he said to him, “you must therefore be the most elevated of all in virtue! Because the sovereign who does not behave like this does not deserve to be called an emperor but a tyrant. One must not call him blessed for his power, but rather consider him miserable for his arrogance and hate him.” Besides, he advised him to be rigorous on matters touching the faith and not accept the smallest iota of change to the Church of God.
Wishing to recompense the Saint for the healing he was granted, the emperor gave him a great quantity of gold. The Saint, though, refused insistently to accept whatever it might be and he exclaimed, “It is not fitting, emperor, to recompense friendship with hatred. All I have done for you is only a proof of my true friendship: I have left my home, traversed the sea, suffered the rigour of winter and the roughness of winds on the waves, and in recompense for this you would like me to accept gold – which is the source of all evils and destroys all virtue – condemning myself like this and assuming the way of perversity!”
The emperor, for his part, insisted even more because he considered it shameful not to recompense the kindness with which he had been favoured. Having obtained his physical health, he wanted to prove his gratitude to the Saint and show him that his soul’s health was not inferior! He also supplicated him to accept, thinking that by this he was vanquishing the invincible! He only succeeded in persuading him to accept the gold, but not to keep it for himself! Saint Spyridon took his leave of the emperor and, on leaving the palace, he distributed the gold to the courtiers, teaching them in practice what attitude they should have towards riches and money if they wanted to have internal freedom. Because to incline towards money and succumb to the passion of becoming rich, is nothing else than pure voluntary slavery!
When the emperor found out what Saint Spyridon had done with the gold, he said that he was not surprised that such a man carried out such great miracles! He benefited by Spyridon’s advice and he was mindful of practicing almsgiving, showing his kindness towards the needy, and consoling the widows with charity, the orphans and the poor. Moreover, he promulgated the law of exemption from taxes for all clergy, priests and deacons, judging that it was not fitting for men consecrated to the service of the Immortal King to pay taxes to the mortal one! After leaving the palace, the Saint was accommodated at the house of a pious Christian. A woman, who was from a foreign country and who could not speak Greek, came there to meet him. She was carrying her dead child in her arms, and she laid it at the feet of the Saint. At the same time, she fell on her knees sobbing in a pitiful way. As she spoke in a foreign language, her words were incomprehensible for those who were present. Her tears, on the other hand, spoke for themselves: it was obvious that she was crying for her dead child and was asking the saintly bishop to bring it back to life. Spyridon, the most merciful, was moved, but he was torn between his natural humility and his compassion for the woman. On the one hand, seeing the suffering of this woman and the pain that burned her entrails, he was inclined to opt for the miracle and deeply desired to supplicate God to raise the child. On the other hand, though, seeing the gravity of the request, humble in heart and full of faith as he was, he retreated, hesitated and judged the act very daring! He also decided to take counsel with one of those who were near him, the deacon Artemidor, a man who was practiced in every virtue. One of the typical features of this deacon – like a colouring added to his virtues – was that he hid it from the others that he practiced the one or the other virtue. The Saint then asked him what he should do, and Artemidor replied to him what it was fitting him to hear, “Why do you ask me, Father? What must you do, especially you, if not supplicate Christ, the Giver of Life, who has proved to you in many occasions that He hears your prayers? Moreover, if the emperor himself was saved by your supplications, will the poor and the small ones be forgotten?”
The bishop obeyed this excellent counsel. The pain broke his heart, his eyes became full of tears. He fell on his knees, made the soil wet with his tears, cried toward God with fervour and compunction, supplicating with compassion Christ who is full of kindness to raise the child of the unfortunate woman and prove her – according to the words of the Scriptures – to be a joyful mother of children (see Ps. 113,9). Moreover, He who, by the prayers of Elijah and Elisha, raised the son of the widow of Zarephath (see 1K.17, 17-24) and of the Shunammite (see 2K.4, 18-30), giving life back to them, granted equally to Spyridon. The child that was lying dead, started moving and crying, like a child that is asking for his mother.
My eyes2 were filled with tears of joy at the sight of this miracle. The woman, however, when she saw her beloved child alive – ineffable are Үour Judgements, Christ – the mother could not bear this excessive joy: she collapsed on the earth and gave up her spirit. This incident shows us that it is good to avoid all kinds of excess because we know well that not only the excess of sorrow is mortal, but even the excess of joy! I know that, you also, suffer in your soul, passing from јoy to sorrow, because compassion and charity are natural to man. The Great Spyridon is always close, however, to transform the sorrow into joy!
Saint Spyridon obeyed Artemidor once more: the humble bishop decided to give, this time, the mother to the child! He turned, therefore, his eyes towards heaven, bowed with his heart to the Lord and entreated Him who raises the dead and transforms all things only by His Will. Then he said to the dead woman, “Rise up and walk!” (Acts 3,6). Immediately, as if it was sleep, not death which had seized hold of her, the woman rose up, stood upright at the side of the Saint and received her child in her arms. The latter, as we have said, was alive and thrilled with joy on her breast. Humble as he was, the Great Spyridon wanted all this to remain secret. He also ordered Artemidor and the woman to keep silence on these matters. After the death of the Saint, however, Artemidor thought it would be unjust to hide such a great miracle from Christians, and so he revealed it.
When Saint Spyridon returned from Antioch to Cyprus, a man came to him because he wished to buy 100 goats from his flock. The Saint allowed him to deposit the price of the goats himself and then get the beasts. This man, however, paid only the price of the 99 goats, saying the proverb to himself, “It is better to profit shamefully rather than keep your honour with loss!” He was thinking that it might escape the Saint, who was a simple man and without sense of money. After the two of them entered the fold, the Saint asked the buyer to get as many goats as he had paid for. Without hesitation, the man got out of the fold 100 goats. One of these, however, as a good slave, understood that her master had not sold her and, having gone half-way impetuously, she returned to the fold. The insolent buyer got her out again and he pulled her. This prodigious event was repeated two or three times. Every time the goat came back into the fold, the buyer angrily pulled her with all his strength. How then did this thing end? Seeing that he would not finish like that, the buyer caught hold of her and put her on his shoulders in order to take her away. The goat, however, started to bleat loudly and hit him with her horns, showing like this in a clear way the constraints she was suffering and seeming to take revenge on this greedy man for the injustice he had committed. The people who were present, perplexed, could not understand this strange phenomenon. Saint Spyridon, unwilling as he was to openly accuse the dishonest buyer, said calmly to him, “Be careful, my child, maybe there is a reason why the goat resists being abducted? Maybe you forgot to pay for her?” The man was pierced: he was converted, recognized his deed, confessed his fault and asked for forgiveness. Afterwards he paid for this one hundredth goat, which from that moment followed others peacefully, without bleating or resisting anymore!
There is a small town in Cyprus, called Erythra, situated near the metropolis of Constance, at a distance about six kilometres from the town. One day, when the Saint happened to be there, he went into the church to pray and asked one of the deacons to sing the service quickly, because he was tired of the long way and exhausted by the summer heat. The deacon, though, on the contrary sang in an even slower way, dragging on the service voluntarily, and with pride, probably seeking to take vain glory from his singing. Spyridon, who was very meek by nature, looked at him severely and reprimanded him by a “Keep silence!”. As if it was him who had bound the tongue for him, the deacon lost his voice immediately and remained mute: he could not even finish off the prayer he had started which was done by the Saint who completed it! At the end of the service, he, who, a minute before, was proud of himself and “talked” a lot, fell, pitiful and silent, at the feet of the Saint. Fear seized those who were present, and the rumour of the miracle made others rush up. Numerous people flocked, particularly the close relations of the deacon, because of the miracle that had been performed by the Saint and compassion towards the unfortunate deacon. As everyone was supplicating this generous soul, Saint Spyridon, to forgive him whom he had condemned to silence and to release him from the bond which chained up his tongue, do you know what he did, he who combined in himself all virtues with harmony? He yielded to the supplications, but seeing in advance, by the Holy Spirit, that the deacon still needed to be educated, he divided the punishment with great wisdom in two. He permitted the deacon to recover his speech, but in an entirely free way: his voice was no longer as harmonious and pleasant as before; it became slow, dull, as though it were stiff, even stuttering. The Saint taught him like this not to be proud of his pleasing voice nor to boast about the words one says, in view of the fact that he who is wise, despite his virtues, does not glory in them!
One day, Spyridon, this divine man, went into a church of the town to sing Vespers, as usual. As there was not anyone in the church, save the sacristans and the deacon, the Saint ordered more lights to be on than usual. As for him, he kept radiant, before the altar and addressed those “present” the traditional “Peace unto all.”3 As there was nobody to sing the usual wish to him, he heard a voice from on high, which seemed to come from myriad of mouths, giving the reply, “And to thy spirit!” This voice, melodious, harmonious, completely different, did not resemble a human voice. When the deacon, filled with the fear of God, ended the prayer, he heard once more – what a miracle – the same sweet voice answering “Kyrie eleïson”. This melodious voice was even heard outside the church, and numerous people hurried with fear and admiration. When, however, they came into the church, they could not hear anything anymore and they could not see anybody, apart from the Saint and his associates, who also asserted not to have seen anybody, but to have heard voices singing with divine elation.
One day, in the middle of the Vespers, there was almost no oil left in one of the oil lamps, and it so happened that there was no reserve. The wick, then, was about to go out. The Saint was very sorry and did not want to leave the service unfinished. At once, then, through an invisible power, the oil lamp was filled until the oil overflowed: the sacristans had to place containers on the floor in order to collect it! The Saint enjoyed such Grace from God that it overflowed his heart even more than the oil overflowed this oil lamp!
In the island of Cyprus, there is a town, which has the same name as the town of Cyrene in Libya. One day the Saint went there on business, accompanied by his disciple Triphyllius who, in accordance with what the dream of the emperor had predicted, had now become Bishop of Kallinikis. They went through Kytheria, which is situated at the foot of Mount Pentadactylo and reached Parymni. This town was pleasant and ornamented with beauty by nature. Charmed by the site, Triphyllius was seized by the desire to acquire land in Parymni to build his episcopal seat. He considered this idea important and he turned it over in his mind, which could not escape the spiritual eyes of Spyridon. Discerning clearly all this, he scolded his disciple with meekness, “Triphyllius, why do you concern yourself with vain and frivolous things? Why do you desire to possess fields and vineyards? These things have in reality no value; only their name impresses and gives pleasure. We have treasures in Heaven that no one can take away from us, we have a residence not made by human hand. Be captivated by those goods there and you will enjoy them from down here through hope. These goods are not transmitted from one to another, but he who has once become master of them is master of them once and for all; he possesses a heritage that no one can rob him of.” At his words, Triphyllius pulled himself together: he buried the words of the Saint in the depths of his heart and begged him to forgive him. He lived afterwards so virtuously that he became, according to the words of the Apostle Paul “a chosen vessel” (Acts 9,15) of Christ and was judged worthy of numerous gifts. In this way, the Great Spyridon educated at once those who were willing and those who were not. However, as what is going to follow proves, those who did not accept this education ended up badly!
A merchant, a compatriot of the Saint, went abroad, where he spent two years, and then he returned to his homeland. When he returned to his beloved village, he found his house completely inhospitable towards him. Actually, his wife had committed adultery during his absence, as was clearly proved by the fact that she pregnant. He nearly killed her! “For the soul of her husband is filled with jealousy,” the Scriptures say. However, he held his anger back and thought that it was not good either to live with his wife in future or to kill her. For, the first solution would signify lifetime disgrace for himself and a gentle torture for his heart, and the second, the death of his wife. He left therefore his wife, returned to the Saint at once and explained everything to him in detail: his absence, its duration, the adultery committed, and the irrefutable evidence of the pregnancy. Then he asked him how to suffer this ordeal and what to do. He added that he had decided to separate from his wife, but not without the Saint’s agreement. Spyridon admired him for his decision, felt sorry at the same time for his misfortune, and had his wife called. He did not ask her: every question would be superfluous, because who would have been able to speak in a more credible way than her belly? Since the fact was clear, he said to the woman, “What happened to you so that you did such dishonour to yourself and to your husband?” Shamelessly, however, the woman lied insolently asserting she had not approached another man. Once a woman is lost to shame, she is hardened, becomes insolent and impudent. The Saint reminded the woman of the time of her husband’s absence – something which clearly proved that she was lying – but she did not lose her insolence in the least. On the contrary, the impudent hussy was shouting and making efforts to refute her accusers, so that those who heard her justifications were more irritated by her present attitude than by the adultery she had committed! In fact, she claimed, “The baby has been in my womb for as long as my husband has been abroad, so that the two of them arrive at the same time: my husband from abroad and the baby from my belly!” She assured the Saint of this and said even greater things without feeling the slightest shame. Besides, she provoked agitation and filled the town with her complaints – as if she was the victim of great injustice – and called those who were present to help her.
The very meek Spyridon still hesitated to punish her and was rather trying to make her be afraid, so that she should repent. He said to her then, “You have fallen into a great sin, woman. If, in the same way, you had shown great repentance, perhaps there would have remained for you a hope of salvation. For no sin can defeat the Love of God for man. Since, however, the adultery generated despair, and the despair generated the insolent lie, it would be just for you to taste in practice the reward for your bad actions and be submitted to severe punishment. However, I want to offer you one more chance to repent and I predict you this: the baby that you carry will not see daylight as long as you do not stop concealing the light of truth by the obscurity of lying, thinking, as it is said, that you are concealing what even the blind can see!”
These words were realised very quickly. The woman was seized by sharp pains before the delivery: her bowels were retracting violently preventing the baby from being born. The worst, however, was that even like this she did not abandon her insolence and died in a painful and lamentable way. Some people pitied this woman for her misfortune. I, myself, pitied her for her perverse and inveterate obstinacy. It is said that the Saint was saddened mainly for this, he cried over it and said, “I will not condemn anybody anymore, since the sentence is executed so quickly!” Those who were witnesses of these events drew from them great respect for the Saint: they behaved towards him with deference and gazed at him with fear – like those who, long ago, had been witnesses of the miracle performed by the Apostles against Ananias and Sapphira! (see Acts 5,1-11).
A pious and chaste woman under the name of Sophronia was married to a man not Christian and a pagan. She never wearied of going often to the Saint to entreat him with fervour to deliver her husband from his spiritual distraction. Besides, he did not prevent her from going, because, on the one hand, he ignored the reason she was going there, and, on the other hand, he had great respect for the Saint. He also frequently visited him, treated him as a friend and considered that to honour the Saint was an honour for himself. Saint Spyridon, for his part, visited him from time to time. They were therefore in contact with each other. Moreover, one day that they were having dinner together, the Saint wanted to profit from the opportune moment in order to catch his pagan friend in his nets. He turned towards one of the servants and told him in a way that everybody could hear, “Sleep has seized hold of the young servant whom I have assigned to look after the flock and the animals have escaped. When he woke up, after he had looked for them very carefully, he found them all gathered in a cave. Before finding them, he hastened to send a messenger here so that he could tell me about the incident. The messenger has arrived and he is standing at the door. Go down and tell him that the animals have been all found again and that the flock is complete!” The servant hastened to transmit the words of Saint Spyridon to the messenger who was standing at the door. The guests were still at table, when another messenger arrived bringing the same news: he had found the entire flock again, in that area! As his words corresponded exactly to what the Saint had predicted, profound admiration seized hold of the pagan. He considered the Saint a god and had the same intention as the inhabitants of Lystra towards Paul and Barnabas: he wanted to offer him bulls and hang laurel wreaths at his door. Like the Apostles in the past, Spyridon exclaimed, “I am not a god, but a servant of God, a man like you. The fact that I know well the only true God gives me the grace to know equally these things. If you as well confess Him Lord, you will come to know with certainty His invincible power and His strength!”
As for this woman, who loved Christ more than her husband, she profited from this extraordinary event as from a favourable occasion for her to bring forward, herself, her own arguments and convinced her husband to renounce his spiritual distraction, to mock the devotion he rendered to idols, have a good catechism and put on Christ by baptism.
It is said that the Great Spyridon, with his natural modesty and the humble feeling he had about himself, fulfilled in an excellent way his duty of the pastor, without neglecting his flock at all. One night, then, thieves got into his sheepfold and stole some animals. God, however, who took care of the pastor, cared very much about the fate of his flock, too! The thieves were strongly twisted by invisible bonds, with their hands tied. It was impossible for them to go! At daybreak, when the Great Spyridon realized what had happened and saw that the thieves had their hands fastened behind their backs, he untied them by his prayer. Then he gave them a lot of advice as to how to provide for their subsistence by honest means and gave them a ram as a gift, saying gracefully, “Here you are, so that your vigil was not for nothing!”
A captain of the merchant navy, a native of Trimythous, who needed gold for his trade, came to ask the Saint to supply him with it. Spyridon, who, besides the other commandments of Christ, also practiced the one that commands you to give to those who want to borrow from you, gave him with eagerness the little gold which he had at his disposal for his bishopric. The captain got it, his journey was favourable, and he came back having made a profit. He returned to the Saint, then, in order to reimburse his debt. Without examining anything or verifying the total amount, contrary to what the majority of the people do, Saint Spyridon told him to put the sum himself into the casket, where he had got it. Full of respect for the kindness and trust of his creditor, the merchant put the gold to the place that was indicated to him. Another time, pressed by the need, the merchant found recourse again to the Saint, who gave him the gold with the same eagerness, and afterwards he put it back again honestly to its place. This was repeated, and the merchant ended up by succumbing to the passion of avarice. He betrayed the confidence of the Saint, acted with perversity and lied. Abusing the freedom granted to him, he pretended to have put the money into the usual place – while, without having put anything at all, he had sealed the casket empty before he left. However, “It is written, He who taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (1Cor. 3,19) was not going to let the Saint be wronged like this, so that the simple and innocent man should not be easily deceived, scorned and dishonoured by the wicked people. See then how the wise and just Providence of God disposes all things, so that he who attempts to harm his neighbour, rather harms himself. As this merchant spent this gold in harmful consumption and found himself in need, he remembered his old last hope.
He came back to the Saint and asked him for the gold he had not returned, as if it were in the casket. This dishonest action did not escape the Saint’s notice, who nevertheless told him with meekness to do as usual. Moreover, the merchant, as if he had not done anything bad or shameful went to the casket to get the gold that he had allegedly put there. He opened then the casket and, finding it empty, as he had left it, he told the Saint about it, thinking that he was deceiving him easily. He, however, answered him, “Search better, because since you placed the gold in its place, nobody has taken it!” The merchant pretended to be searching from the beginning. Unable to find in the casket what could not be found there, he pretended not to understand anything and repeated that he found nothing. Then Spyridon, meek and kind as he was, told him, “In truth, my dear, if you had put the gold in there, you would have found it easily. If you ask me now, however, to give you what has remained in your hands, know that you are deceiving yourself rather than me!” At these words, the merchant, whom the secret reproach of his conscience tormented, was not able to resist any more: he prostrated himself on the ground and embraced the Saint’s feet, asking his forgiveness. Moreover, the Saint was even more eager to forgive the merchant than the merchant was in asking his forgiveness. He advised him, therefore, not to desire the goods of the others and not to sully his conscience by deceptions and lies, because the profit that one believes to draw like this reveals itself not as a profit, but as pure loss.
In the lifetime of the Saint and while he was ruling his diocese, the Patriarch of Alexandria convened a synod of his bishops in order to overthrow by their common prayer the idols and the statues of the Greeks. Indeed the city was still full of idols, and the Patriarch, like the Apostle Paul, burned with a sacred zeal against the idolatry. When, therefore, the bishops were gathered, they prayed with fervour and, by the Will and the Power of God, all the statues except one were shaken and collapsed. Despite the numerous prayers that the bishops said, each one separately and all together with the Patriarch, this statue remained unshaken. It was not as if God did not hear the saintly prayers of the bishops or contempted them, but He wanted to glorify His servant by this wise economy and reveal to the bishops what they ignored: what great Saint was hidden among them in the person of Spyridon!
Night had fallen, and the Patriarch continued to pray when in a vision he heard these things, “Do not be sorry for not having been able to overthrow the idol, because its destruction has been vouchsafed to Saint Spyridon! Send a messenger quickly to Cyprus to invite him, because he is the bishop of Trimythous.” The Patriarch obeyed and sent a letter to invite the Saint. He explained in it the motive for this invitation, told him about the vision and wrote to Spyridon that he should arrive at all costs! Saint Spyridon obeyed: immediately after he read the letter, he left for Alexandria. The ship berthed in Nea Poli, the major port of the town. As he was disembarking, the Saint prayed inwardly, and as soon as his feet touched the firm ground, the infamous statue that appeared more powerful than the prayer of numerous bishops, was destroyed as well as the temple where it was placed: it all collapsed and was reduced to dust. This was for the Patriarch an obvious sign of the Saint’s arrival, of which nobody knew anything yet. Indeed, since those who had seen the idol collapse announced it to the Patriarch, he exclaimed, “Spyridon, the bishop of Trimythous, has arrived, my friends!” Moreover, he ordered them to go out and meet him. The Patriarch’s messengers ran and found the Great Spyridon at the landing stage.
It was summer. The crops were beautiful and abundant in the fields of the Saint, which, moreover, he cultivated himself for the most part. The Saint took then the sickle and started to reap. Suddenly, though it was not raining, thin drops of water fell on his head. God wanted to signify to him by what he was doing that flowers of virtues would bloom, and received the dew as a beautiful, ripe ear of corn, which would soon be collected by the heavenly Master and Cultivator. This strange phenomenon was followed by another even more strange. When Spyridon put his hand on his head and was showing the drops of water to the people who were present, immediately on his head sprouted blond, black and white hairs. God’s manifestation here seemed quite obscure. It seems, however, that Spyridon understood it and said, “Know, my dear ones, that my soul will soon be separated from my body. God will wrap my memory with great glory, the anniversary of my Departure will be a feast day for many and people of every age, young, adults and old ones will celebrate it with fervor.” The Saint added more words and prophesied various events. Then he gave them advice concerning their life and reminded them briefly to do good and salutary works, and above all to cultivate the greatest virtue of all, love towards God and one’s fellow man. A little bit after this, as he had predicted it, he gave his pure and saintly soul over to God, and was judged worthy to join the choir of Angels. He hasn’t gone at all away from the people, though. On the contrary, he is more their protector now that he is near God and enjoys greater boldness towards the Lord!
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