You were a champion of the First Ecumenical Council, O Spyridon, our God-bearing Father and worker of miracles. You addressed your daughter who was dead and entombed, and you opportunely turned a snake into gold. There were Angels celebrating along with you, O sacred man, when you served the holy liturgy. Glory to Christ who glorified you! Glory to Him who put a crown on you! Glory to Him who through you gives cures and healing to all!Hymn of St. Spyridon the Wonderworker
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This Sunday, December 12th is the Feast Day of St. Spyridon the Wonderworker, Bishop of Tremithus. I offer a special Name Day greeting to His Grace Bishop Spyridon of Amastris. Formerly, Fr. Spencer Kezios, the longtime pastor and pastor emeritus of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Northridge, California. His Grace has been elevated for just over a year now, and it was a great blessing for me to attend his Ordination, and to serve as one of only two priests at his fist Hierarchical Divine Liturgy the following day. Bishop Spyridon’s Namesake is an important figure in our Church History. Let us learn about this wonderous saint.
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 those who were 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 a bishop, the saint did not alter his manner of life, but combined pastoral service with deeds of charity.
According to the witness of Church historians, Saint 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 power of Saint Spyridon’s plain, direct speech showed everyone the importance of God’s wisdom before human 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 (consubstantial) 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 received holy Baptism. After his conversation with Saint Spyridon, the philosopher turned to his companions and 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 for man to oppose God. If any of you thinks as I do now, let him believe in Christ and join me in following this man, for God Himself speaks through his lips.”
At this Council, Saint 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,” Saint 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 prayers, 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 prayers 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 Saint 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.
Saint Simeon Metaphrastes (November 9), the author of his Life, likened Saint 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 traveler was very exhausted, Saint 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 Saint 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’” (Titus 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 Saint 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 Saint 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.
Saint 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. (OCA)
With Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I pray and trust that you are all well and that the joy of Christmastime is blessing your homes. When you come to church this weekend, tomorrow for St. Barbara, and Sunday, you will see a transformed space thanks to the gifted hands and eyes of Sandra Zoolakis and Stephanie Chachas. Thanks also to Chuck Karpakis for the heavy lifting and to Jim Karpakis for donating the large Christmas Tree that is placed in the sanctuary. Merry Christmas!
As you are surely aware, all of the ministry and administrative events that were scheduled for this Sunday have been supplanted to Sunday, December 12th. That is, Stewardship Sunday, the Special Parish Assembly, and the 2021 Parish Council Election. Please allow me to share some thoughts about these events.
For the past several years, we have treated the blessing of our Stewardship Offerings as a special and prayerful event. We have been distributing 2022 Pledge Packets for the past couple of weeks. It is important for people to pick them up as soon as possible. That way you have time to prayerfully contemplate your Pledge, and it saves the church the costs to mail these large envelopes. Please, please, please be swift, deliberate and thoughtful in your 2022 Pledge.
We will be mailing the packets out on Monday so that as many Pledge Cards as possible can be blessed upon the Altar as an offering to God. Since we are still not at pre-Covid capacity on Sundays, I presently have the fewest returned Pledge Cards at this point. Hope to see you in church this weekend, and with your packet in hand. Thanks in advance for your continued commitment!
Special Parish Assembly
At the Fall Parish Assembly, you were introduced to our final plans, layout and timeline for our massive renovation project. You have all been very patient and understanding as we conduct worship, fellowship, ministry activities, classes, rehearsals and meetings in the wide-open interior space of our building. God willing, and with the good pleasure of our St. Anna Community, we will soon have a permanent sanctuary, ballroom space, classrooms, new bathrooms, offices, a kitchen and storage. Not to mention the transformed exterior with the bell tower and appropriate crosses on the building. The entire cost will be about $2.5 million dollars. We have a plan. We have the means. We have the vision. We have the faith to execute such a large undertaking. Be sure to have your 2021 Stewardship up to date in order to vote. Be present and let your voice be heard.
On Monday, December 6th, the Feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, I am traveling to Denver to receive the blessing of Metropolitan Isaiah. I have not seen His Eminence since Covid times, and I am eager to be in his pastoral, warm and engaging presence. The specific purpose of my visit is to present to him the same information we will share at the Special Parish Assembly. Anything voted upon can only move forward with his guidance and permission. It is important that he see, beforehand, our intentions. That way, once the Assembly has spoken, he can proceed quickly with his archepastoral blessing upon our project. Let us build our House unto the glory of God!
Parish Council Election
There are five seats open on the Parish Council and nine people have been properly nominated to fill those positions for a two-year term. I wish I could just add all of these new candidates to our current and complete board. But that is not possible or my call to make. Your voice, the collective voice and individual voices of the parish, choose our leadership. Each and every one of them are capable, faithful and engaged. Please pray upon their names, faces and experiences.
Jacob currently assists Leo in the chanting of our services and also sings in the choir. He is in the technology field and has always demonstrated a tender love for our St. Anna parish.
Though Doug is only recently Christmated in the Orthodox Faith, he has been a parishioner of St. Anna’s for the past two years. He is an engineering consultant and former Marine. Very committed.
Tom is a retired professor, consultant and analyst. He has designed and executed all of our parish surveys and currently sits on or all-important Medical Advisory Ministry Team. Tom is a gifted leader.
As the editor of our Parish Bulletin and chairman of our St. Anna Name Day Events, including last year’s successful dinner in honor of the Archbishop, Elaine is a capable and energetic leader.
Currently sitting on our Parish Council, Joe brings a great wealth of wisdom, experience, humility and expertise – especially in construction/buildings, especially as we begin our buildout.
Currently sitting on our Parish Council, George brings his expertise in insurance and business acumen to the parish and its leadership. George is an active, energetic and supportive leader. He’s funny, too!
Bruce has served before on our Parish Council, Legal Ministry Team and heads up our efforts in Sustained Giving. Highly organized, highly capable and always willing to serve, Bruce is trusted and valued.
Steve currently serves as the Vice President of our Parish Council and has been involved and vital to all decisions concerning operations, stewardship, communications and strategic planning.
Sam is a successful businessman who then pursued the sacrificial vocation of education and became a high school teacher. Highly engaging and capable. Sam is always willing to serve.
If you are in need of an absentee ballot, please follow the instructions on the election notice that has been sent to all parishioners. Craig Stagg will send you a ballot and it will be returned to me. I, in turn will preesent all absentee ballots to the chairman of the election committee on the day of the election. Well, I suppose this message was more administrative than pastoral. But let us all remember that the business, the activity and the very purpose of a Greek Orthodox Church is to witness, glorify, serve, and celebrate Christ.
With Much Love in XC,
Fr. Anthony Savas