Chapter XI.—Account of St. Spyridon: His Modesty and Steadfastness.
Spyridon, 1092 bishop of Trimythun in Cyprus, flourished at this period. To show his virtues, I think the fame which still prevails about him suffices. The wonderful works which he wrought by Divine assistance are, it appears, generally known by those who dwell in the same region. I shall not conceal the facts which have come to me.
He was a peasant, was married, and had children; yet was not, on this account, deficient in spiritual attainments. It is related that one night some wicked men entered his sheepfold, and were in the act of stealing his sheep, when they were suddenly bound, and yet no one bound them. The next day, when he went to the fold, he found them fettered, and released them from their invisible bonds; but he censured them for having preferred to steal what it was lawful for them to win and take, and also for making such a great exertion by night: yet he felt compassion towards them, and, desirous of affording them instruction, so as to induce them to lead a better life, he said to them, “Go, and take this ram with you; for you are wearied with watching, and it is not just that your labor should be so blamed, that you should return empty-handed from my sheepfold.” This action is well worthy admiration, but not less so is that which I shall now relate. An individual confided a deposit to the care of his daughter, who was a virgin, and was named Irene. For greater security, she buried it; and it so happened that she died soon after, without mentioning the circumstance to any one. The person to whom the deposit belonged came to ask for it. Spyridon knew not what answer to give p. 247 him, so he searched the whole house for it; but not being able to find it, the man wept, tore his hair, and seemed ready to expire. Spyridon, moved with pity, went to the grave, and called the girl by name; and when she answered, he inquired about the deposit. After obtaining the information desired, he returned, found the treasure in the place that had been signified to him, and gave it to the owner. As I have entered upon this subject, it may not be amiss to add this incident also.
It was a custom with this Spyridon to give a certain portion of his fruits to the poor, and to lend another portion to those who wished it as a gratuity; but neither in giving nor taking back did he ever himself distribute or receive: he merely pointed out the storehouse, and told those who resorted to him to take as much as they needed, or to restore what they had borrowed. A certain man who had borrowed in this way, came as though he were about to return it, and when as usual he was directed to replace his loan in the storehouse, he saw an opportunity for an injustice; imagining that the matter would be concealed, he did not liquidate the debt, but fraudulently pretending to have discharged his obligation, he went away as though he had made the return. This, however, could not be long concealed. After some time the man came back again to borrow, and was sent to the storehouse, with permission to measure out for himself as much as he required. Finding the storehouse empty, he went to acquaint Spyridon, and this latter said to him, “I wonder, O man, how it is that you alone have found the storehouse empty and unsupplied with the articles you require: reflect whether you have restored the first loan, since you are in need a second time: were it otherwise, what you seek would not be lacking. Go, trust, and you will find.” The man felt the reproof and acknowledged his error. The firmness and the accuracy in the administration of ecclesiastical affairs on the part of this divine man are worthy of admiration. It is said that on one occasion thereafter, the bishops of Cyprus met to consult on some particular emergency. Spyridon was present, as likewise Triphyllius, 1093 bishop of the Ledri, a man otherwise eloquent, who on account of practicing the law, had lived alone while at Berytus. 1094
When an assembly had convened, having been requested to address the people, Triphyllius had occasion, in the middle of his discourse, to quote the text, “Take up thy bed and walk,” 1095 and he substituted the word “couch” (σκίμπους), for the word “bed” (κράββατος ). Spyridon was indignant, and exclaimed, “Art thou greater than he who uttered the word bed, that thou art ashamed to use his words?” When he had said this, he turned from the throne of the priest, and looked towards the people; by this act he taught them to keep the man who is proud of eloquence within bounds and he was fit to make such a rebuke; for he was reverenced and most illustrious for his works: at the same time he was the superior of that presbyter in age and in the priesthood.
The reception which Spyridon gave to strangers will appear from the following incident. In the quadragesima, it happened that a traveler came upon a journey to visit him on one of those days in which it was his custom to keep a continuous fast with his household, 1096 and on the day appointed for tasting food, he would remain without nourishment to mid-day. Perceiving that the stranger was much fatigued, Spyridon said to his daughter, “Come, wash his feet and set meat before him.” The virgin replying that there was neither bread nor barley-food in the house, for it would have been superfluous to provide such things at the time of the fast, Spyridon first prayed and asked forgiveness, and bade her to cook some salt pork which chanced to be in the house. When it was prepared, he sat down to table with the stranger, partook of the meat, and told him to follow his example. But the stranger declining, under the plea of being a Christian, he said to him, “It is for that very reason that you ought not to decline partaking of the meat; for the Divine word shows that to the pure all things are pure.” 1097 Such are the details which I had to relate concerning Spyridon.
Ruf. H. E. i. 5; Soc. i. 8, 12. Ruf. gives the first two stories; Soc. copies and gives credit; Soz. appends three more, and gives credit to himself only throughout. Ruf. had already said, “sed et multa alia ejus feruntur gesta mirabilia, quæ etiam nunc ore omnium celebrantur.”247:1093
This Triphyllius is mentioned by Hieron. de vir. illust. i. 92, as the author of a commentary on the Song of Solomon, which his biographer had read; and of many other works which had not come into his hands.247:1094
Berytus in Phœnicia was celebrated for its school of law, in which, among others, Gregory Thaumaturgus is said to have studied. Biographers, imitating Valesius, have imagined that Sozomen studied there.247:1095
Matt. ix. 6.247:1096
τῆς τεσσαρακοστῆς ενστάσης. While it was Lent and probably Holy Week. See Tertull. de Pat. 13, and de Jejun. 14.247:1097
Tit. i. 15.