Ever since I was a boy, I have always admired Saint Spyridon of Trymithus. When I would get bad grades on math tests, I would instinctively look at his icon on my wall for support. His icon depicts, on the exterior, utter simplicity. However, his face wears a veil of Grace, unwavering commitment to God, and courage to do God’s will, whatever the consequences. As a child, I was taught that it is not essential to have great head knowledge of God. But rather, that an experiential relationship with Him is much more precious than knowledge alone. Gazing at his icon from my small, childhood desk, I would talk to Saint Spyridon about my successes and failures, and draw support from his life and miracles. As an Orthodox priest, I see that the seminary education I have received is indeed precious, yet it in no way replaces my relationship with God, and my need to progress in that relationship, through the essential spiritual practices of the church.

Living the majority of his life in the 4th Century, Saint Spyridon was a simpleton by worldly achievements. He did things like working in muddy irrigation ditches and shepherding livestock with his own workers. He had little formal education, if any, and was looked at with disdain by very learned hierarchs of the church. His icon depicts him wearing a hat of woven rushes, common for shepherds of his time (there is a Greek play on words here also, as the Greek word “spyridas/σπυρίδας” refers to a woven basket, such as in the feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew 15:37). Saint Spyridon was a man who knew the meaning of hard work. He’d roll up his sleeves,  get into the muck and mire, care for his animals, his irrational flock, only to then put on clean garments, and sit upon the bishop’s throne to serve his rational flock. He was a widower, with a daughter, who was elevated to be a bishop after his wife passed away. Certainly, Saint Spyridon was someone who was acquainted with loss. But his relationship with the Lord blessed him with strength and endurance to serve, rather to be consumed by the hardships of life.

Looking at Saint Spyridon’s life of simplicity, trust and courage, I cannot help but hear the call of Christ to “Go and do likewise”. Τhe Lord’s telling of the Parable of the Good Shepherd (O poimin O kalos/Ο ποιμὴν Ο καλός) in Luke 15:3-7 connects well with Saint Spyridon, who was spiritually, and literally, a shepherd, both to his actual sheep, which he herded for sustenance, and his spiritual flock and community of Trymithus in Cyprus. Many came to him with diverse needs; physical, spiritual, mental and financial, and so on. Whether he knew them personally or not, he had heartfelt compassion on them, prayed for them, and sought out aid for them. As a good servant of the Lord, he prayed for the world, like so many pillars of the faith have done, and will continue to do, until the second coming.

Our world has many common expressions that echo, if only in part, the exhortation of the Lord to “Go and do likewise”; to see a good example, and to imitate it. Some are: "Actions speak louder than words", "Talk is cheap", “Don't tell me what you're going to do: show me", "He's all talk", and “His bark is worse than his bite". There are a thousand-plus phrases on how our actions, not words alone, are what others esteem us by. Saint Spyridon was holy, a vessel of divine grace, but not someone who lorded authority over others. He was someone who taught, “rightly dividing the word of truth” as the Divine Liturgy says. He taught, encouraged, loved, and rebuked as a holy father, training up his spiritual children in the way they should go (cf Proverbs 22:6).

In like manner, let us, the children of God, “Go and do likewise”. Let us remember the example of Saint Spyridon during this month of December. As we prepare for the great feast of our Lord’s Incarnation, let us seek to make room within our hearts for the Lord to be born in us daily, just as Saint Spyridon did. 

Through his intercessions, may we use our God given faculties to love God with all we've got, and love our neighbor as ourselves, to serve God with all we have, and strive to love others from our hearts.