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Πέμπτη, 12 Δεκεμβρίου 2013

Saint Spyridon - Feast Day celebrated December 12

Saint Spyridon, an important figure in the Eastern Orthodox Church, was an early Church Father. Corfu's history is entwined with its patron saint and his incorrupt relics a testament to his sanctity. Moreover, many miracles are still attributed to Saint Spyridon even though we live in an increasingly secular world. Saint Spyridon's glory has a worldwide appeal – even as early as 1717, Pope Clement XI ordered that the feast of Saint Spyridon be observed throughout the Venetian Republic. The Saint's Feast is on December 12; his life is short but fascinating.

Saint Spyridon was born in Cyprus, in the village Asha, near Tremithous in 270 AD and lived during the reign of Constantine the Great. He came from a poor and humble family and never had the opportunity to receive the kind of education other great Church Fathers received. From a young boy, Saint Spyridon tended his father's sheep as a shepherd but this was not a hurdle to his studying the Scriptures. In fact, he often invited other shepherds to join him in singing hymns and preached his message of faith and hope. During the persecutions of Emperor Maximinus in 308-313, he was arrested, tortured and condemned to hard labour which resulted in a lame leg and an injured eye, yet he never abandoned his faith in God, he persevered and became a source of strength and inspiration to the faithful around him.

On his return to Tremithous, his family forced him into a marriage and he had a daughter Irene. The trials and tribulations in Saint Spyridon's life were many but he never complained. He was widowed young. At this point in his life, his nearest and dearest recognised his calling and urged him to become a priest. He devoted himself body and soul to God and tended his ministry dutifully. Soon, the fervour of his faith was rewarded by being invited to serve the Church as Bishop of Tremithous.

Even as Bishop, Saint Spyridon remained humble and simple as evinced in his clothing and he wore a hat made out of palm tree leaves. During his sermons, there were those among his congregation, who had visions of him with angels by his side and there were those who could hear heavenly psalms. Many miracles are ascribed to him even when he was still alive; he cured precious jewel she had given to his daughter for safe-keeping. He was not aware of any such event but the woman was desperate. He prayed on his daughter's grave and asked her to let him know the location of the jewel. Irene from beyond the grave responded and told him where to find it. He then asked her to return to her eternal rest and patiently await the Second Coming.
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Saint Spyridon took part in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and was instrumental in countering the heretical arguments of Arius and his followers. Arius preached the Reign of only one God. Along with the monotheistic belief in the single nature of God as an entity (that there is only God and no Son or the Holy Spirit) he promoted poytheistism (the Son of God as made and only the Father as bourne – intangible and by nature). Among the 318 Church Fathers there, the one who was least educated yet truly blessed was Saint Spyridon and it was he who managed to counter the arguments of Arius by performing yet another miracle: he took a tile and by exclaiming “In the Name of the Father” a flame came out, “and of the Son” water came out and finally “of the Holy Spirit”, he was left with just dirt in his hands.


Saint Spyridon was laid to rest on December 12th 348 AD in Cyprus, aged 78. His relics remained in Cyprus in a marble larnax until the 7th century and the Saracen raids. His relics were moved to Constantinople for safe-guarding and it was then that it was observed that his relics remained incorruptible and that myrrh emanated from them; these relics are the same we venerate today apart from his right hand. Three years after the Fall of Constantinople, in 1456, Georgios Kaloheretis, a priest, brought Saint Spiridon's and Saint Theodora the Augusta's relics to Corfu. Following Kaloheretis's death, the relics were inherited by his three children and there was a period during which two of the siblings wished to move the relics elsewhere but the faithful of Corfu and the Venetian courts managed to stop them from doing so. In 1524, Saint Spyridon's relics came to the possession of Corfiot Stamatellos Voulgaris. Up until 1925, the relics belonged to the Voulgaris family until finally they were given to the Church. Significantly, up until November 1984, the Saint's right hand was in the temple of the Order of the Oratorians. After intense pressure on the part of the then Archibishop of Corfu and Paxi Islands, Timotheus, Rome agreed to reinstate the holy relics in Corfu.

Ever since the Saint's relics were brought to Corfu, a special bond between the Saint and the Corfiot people was formed, a unique spiritual relationship and a strengthening of their faith and hope. Countless are the times the Saint has saved Corfu from disasters, invasions and pandemics and those ill who have sought God and the Saint's divine intervention have been cured. In honour of the Saint's many miracles, there are many Litanies to venerate him; numerous pilgrims experience miracles and testaments of the Saint's grace as theypay their respects to his holy relics.

The following are the 4 Litanies:
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1)Easter Saturday Litany to commemorate Saint Spyridon miraculously delivering Corfu from famine in 1553.
2)Palm Sunday Litany to commemorate Saint Spyridon delivering Corfu from
the plague.
3)The first Sunday of November Litany to commemorate Saint Spyridon delivering
the island from the plague for a second time in 1673.
4)The August 11th Litany to commemorate Saint Spyridon's grace repelling a Turkish siege in 1716.
The holy relics of Saint Spyridon are enclosed in an ornate larnax which was commissioned in Vienna in 1867; it is made of resilient but well-crafted wood with a silver finish. It is situated in a specially-designed crypt at the right corner of the Saint Spyridon church. The church is at the center of Corfu town and was built in 1589 in the rhythm of the Ioanian single-nave basilica; it is one of the most important post-byzantine monuments on the island.

The distinctively tall bell-tower was a later addition (1620). The marble templon was crafted in 1864 out of marble from the island of Paros by the Austrian architect Mowers and the icons painted by the Corfiot painter Spiros Prosalentis.

The gorgeous dome consists of 17 gold-gilded coffers with panels that narrate the Saint's life as well as depict scenes from the Gospels. Panagiotis Doxaras had crafted the original wall paintings in 1727 but humidity damaged them so they were replaced with wall paintings crafted by the Corfiot painter Nikolaos Aspiotis in 1852. Finally, it is interesting to note that the original church was built at the site where Sarocco Square stands today (formerly San Rocco, named after the old fortress and San Rocco church) but because the fortress walls expanded a new grander church was built.

Saint Spyridon is the patron saint of Corfu but his miraculous presence is felt throughout the world and his grace is endless. The fact that we can all stand before his relics and bask in their myrrh-scented holiness 1.642 years after the Saint was laid to rest is a miracle in itself. It is time, therefore, to restore our faith in miracles…


by Spiros Anthis

source : My Kerkyra 

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