“Not in Words, But in Power”: St Spyridon at the First Council

On this, the twelfth day of December (Dec. 25, N. S.), we commemorate with great joy Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker, Bishop of Trimythous, Champion of the Orthodox faith, and fervent intercessor for the Christian people.

“The grace which worked in Saint Spyridon proved to be more powerful in clarifying matters than all the rhetorical knowledge which the others possessed. At the invitation of Emperor Constantine, there were a number of Hellenic philosophers who were called Peripatetics present at the Nicene Council. Among these philosophers was one who was very wise and adept, and a supporter of Arius. His sophisticated rhetoric was like a two edged sword which cuts deeply. He boldly attempted to destroy the teaching of the Orthodox.

“The blessed Spyridon requested an opportunity to address that particular philosopher. Because this bishop was a simple man who knew only Christ, and Him crucified, the holy fathers were hesitant to let him speak. They knew that he had no knowledge of Hellenistic learning and were afraid to allow him to match verbal skills with such philosophers. But Spyridon knowing the strength and power which is from above, and how feeble human knowledge is in comparison to that might, approached the philosopher, saying to him, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, listen to me and hear what I have to say to you.’

“The philosopher, looking at this country bishop, felt somewhat amused. Quite assured that his own rhetorical talents would make the simple cleric look like a fool, he proudly replied, ‘Go ahead, I am listening.’

“The saint began, ‘God, who created heaven and earth, is One. He fashioned man from the earth and created everything that exists, both visible and invisible, by His Word and His Spirit. That Word, we affirm, is the Son of God, the true God, who showed mercy on us who had gone astray. He was born of the Virgin, lived among men, suffered the passion, died for our salvation and arose from the dead, raising the human race together with Himself. We await His coming again to judge all with righteousness and to reward each one according to his faith. We believe that He is consubstantial with the Father, dwelling together with Him and equally honored. We believe all these things without having to examine how they came to be; nor should you be so brazen as to question them, for these matters exceed the comprehension of man and far surpass all knowledge.’

“Silent for a moment, the bishop then continued, ‘Can’t you now realize how true all of this is, O philosopher? Consider this simple and humble example: We are created and mortal beings and are not worthy to resemble the One who is divine in being and ineffable. Since we tend to believe more readily through what the eyes perceive than through what we merely hear with our ears, I want to prove something to you using this brick. It is composed of three elements which combine to make it one single being and nature.’

“Saying this, Saint Spyridon made the sign of the holy Cross with his right hand while holding a brick in his left hand, and he said, ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” while squeezing the brick. At once, flames rose into the air, water poured down upon the ground and clay alone remained in his hand!

“Those who were eyewitnesses to this miracle were filled with fear, especially the philosopher. He remained speechless, like one who had been mute from birth, and found no words to respond to the saint in whom Divine power had been manifested, according to what is written: ‘The kingdom of God is not in words, but in power’ (1 Cor. 4:20).

“Finally, humbled and convinced, the philosopher spoke, ‘I believe what you have told us.’

“Saint Spyridon said to him, ‘Then come and receive the sign of holy faith’ [i.e., Baptism].

“The philosopher turned to his colleagues and his students who were present and said, ‘Listen! As long as someone questioned me verbally, I was able to refute their statements with rhetorical skills. But my words fail against this elder who, instead of using mere words, has worked through power and miracles. My rhetoric is futile against such a might, for man cannot oppose God. If any of you feel as I do, let him then believe in Jesus Christ and follow this elder together with me. God Himself has spoken through him.’

“Then the philosopher accepted the Christian faith, rejoicing that the saint had overcome his own logic. All the faithful were glad, and the Arian heretics were at a loss.”

(From the Life of St Spyridon, translated and adapted by Mother Cassiana of the Protection of the Holy Virgin Monastery, Lake George, CO.)


Apolytikion, Tone I:

Thou wast revealed as a champion of the First Council,
And as a wonderworker, O our God-bearing Father Spyridon;
Wherefore thou didst call out to a dead woman in the tomb,
And didst turn a serpent into gold,
And while chanting thy holy prayers,
Thou hadst angels as thy fellow ministers, O most holy Father.
Glory to Him who glorified thee!
Glory to Him who crowned thee!
Glory to Him who who works healings for all through thee!

 

HAPPY FEAST DAY TO ONE AND ALL!

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