Quick Links

Daily Readings

Daily Scripture Readings, Troparion and Kontakion

Read More

Holy Fathers

Selected quotes and teachings of the Holy Fathers

Read More


Learn about the lives of the saints of the Orthodox Church

Read More


Bishop Spyridon of Trimythus

(1888 - 1963)

+ + +
In His loving providence, God often permits many trials and temptations to come upon those that love Him. St. Isaac of Syria writes: "Affliction willingly borne brings to light the proof of love."

This "proof of love" is twofold. It is a proof of God's love for us, for "the Lord disciplines him whom He loves and chastises every son whom He receives" (Heb. 12:6). Likewise, tribulations test our love for God. "That is why the saints were proved by tribulations for Christ's love, and not by ease," says St. Isaac. This is how Job triumphed. This is how the martyrs prevailed over their tormentors. This is how the confessors of true piety and Orthodoxy won their crowns and gained eternal glory.

In this life, there can be no other way for those who love God. St. Paul is very emphatic about this: "If ye be without chastisement ...then ye are illegitimate offspring, and not sons" (Heb. 12:8).

Even in our own perverse and unbelieving generation, God has given us splendid examples of individuals who have suffered afflictions and calumny for the sake of truth and righteousness. In the Soviet Union, how many millions were sent to the death camps, cynically accused of engaging in "anti-Soviet propaganda" -- that is, preaching a sermon, or chanting a church hymn? St. Nectarios of Aegina too, is an example of a remarkable and holy hierarch, who even in his old age became the victim of the very basest sort of slander.

Bishop Spyridon of Trimythus, also, is such an example. He was born in 1883 in Cydonia of Aetoloacarnania. His name in the world was George Pasios, and his parents, Spyridon and Maria, saw to it that their gifted son was reared "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." In 1907, at the age of nineteen, George departed for the Holy Mountain. After a short time, he joined the brotherhood of the Monastery of Xenophon. With the passage of the canonical trial period of three years, he received the Great and Angelic Schema and was re-named Gideon monk.

Very quickly, the fathers of the monastery came to esteem the young Fr. Gideon, who impressed all with his modesty, obedience, humility and self-denial. In time, he was ordained to the priesthood, and then, after fourteen years in the community, upon the demise of the abbot, Fr. Gideon was chosen by the brotherhood to be the new superior. Thus, at the age of thirty-three, in the year 1921, Fr. Gideon took upon himself the yoke of spiritual fatherhood.

He did not remain abbot for long, however. In 1924, the Ecumenical Patriarchate sought to coerce the Athonite community into changing to the new calendar. Seeing that the secular authorities were bent on forcing the monasteries to commemorate the innovating Ecumenical Patriarchate, Fr. Gideon submitted his resignation as abbot. He withdrew to the Skete of Kafsokalyvia, where he remained for three years. Then, seeking greater solitude for silence and prayer, he went to the wilderness of St. Basil and the hermitage of St. Peter of Athos, where he remained for another seven years.

By this time, the persecution against the old calendarists had reached fever pitch in Greece. Unleashed by the new calendar church authorities, the police openly harassed, jailed and physically beat both clergy and laypeople. There were even incidents where Orthodox Christians, including a young mother, were clubbed to death in "Christian" Greece. Their crime? Attending a church service held according to the traditional ecclesiastical calendar.

At the invitation of the priest-monk Matthew (later to become Archbishop of the "Matthewite" old calendarists), Fr. Gideon came to Athens to help strengthen and encourage the Christians. This was in 1934. It was during this period also that the old calendarists began organizing their monastic communities. The convent at Keratea was established and eventually came to have some 500 nuns. At about two hours walking distance from the convent, in Kuvara of Attica, the men's monastery of the Holy Transfiguration was founded and, at its peak, had some ninety to one hundred fathers in its brotherhood. It was in this monastery, on May 31, 1941, that Fr. Gideon was elected to the abbacy.

But here, too, his tenure as abbot lasted only a short three years.

What happened?

One day, in the spring of 1944, a group of monastics appeared at Archbishop Matthew's residence at the convent. The head of the group, Fr. Victor Matthew, one of the senior fathers of the monastery, requested an audience with the Archbishop concerning a "serious matter."

Archbishop Matthew welcomed the fathers into his quarters and asked them the purpose of their visit.

"Your Eminence, we wish to speak to you about Fr. Gideon," replied Fr. Victor.
"It's a very serious matter, Your Eminence. All of us here are ready to testify, in writing if necessary, that Fr. Gideon is immoral. He has an unbecoming and perverted fondness for young men."

Archbishop Matthew was thunderstruck. He had always revered Fr. Gideon greatly, and knew him for his strictness in fasting, his vigils in prayer, and his spiritual diligence. The charges were incredible. Indeed, they were preposterous.
"No, Your Eminence, everything we are saying is true, and we are willing to swear on it and put it in writing.

The Archbishop found himself in an impasse. On the one hand, he knew and loved Fr. Gideon and respected him for the strictness of his life and his steadfastness in matters regarding the Faith. On the other hand, the witnesses were many.

Furthermore, they were senior members - the pillars, so to speak, of the monastery. They had neither run away from the monastery, nor stolen anything, nor done anything dishonorable. They were evidently in their right minds and, at least from a canonical point of view, had to be esteemed as trustworthy and reliable. In fact, the head of the delegation -Fr. Victor Matthew - was the one who later was to print the monumental series of the Lives of the Saints (The Great Synaxaristes) in fourteen volumes.

Archbishop Matthew now found himself in a very difficult position. After the others left, he summoned Fr. Gideon to question him concerning these grave charges.

"What do you have to say to these accusations, Fr. Gideon?" asked the Archbishop.

"Holy master, the only thing I can say is that I have many sins; but I am not guilty of these particular sins of which I am accused."

"But the witnesses are many, and they are all responsible members of your monastery."

"What more can I say, holy master?"

Archbishop Matthew was left with no other course of action: Fr. Gideon was defrocked and sent into exile away from the monastery.

Unperturbed, and at peace with himself, Fr. Gideon - now a simple monk - packed up his shoulder bag and headed for the mountains. He found himself a quiet spot and began to build a small hut. To this structure, he added a little chapel where he could chant his daily office in peace and quiet.

From time to time, shepherds passed through the area grazing their flocks. They noticed the little hut and often saw the black-robed figure tending a small garden of herbs, vegetables and greens. Moved by curiosity, they came to investigate. Fr. Gideon greeted them in a kindly manner and spoke with them briefly. A little later, when their flocks were again grazing in the area, the shepherds went out of their way to visit the monk. Fr. Gideon spoke to them from the parables of our Lord, from the lives of the Saints. He spoke to them of the things they understood -- of flocks, of good pastures, of wolves that seek to devour the sheep, of the Good Shepherd. He told them of the rocky earth, of thorns and thistles that choke out the grains of wheat, and he spoke also to them about the good earth. They were simple men of the mountains, and so they understood these simple things which he told them. They themselves were men of the earth, the good earth, and so Fr. Gideon's words began to take root.

On returning home, the shepherds told their wives of the kindly little father they had met in the mountains. They related how the father spoke to them about how they should be pious, and kind, and fair in all their dealings, and about how they should love God and man, and be faithful to the Orthodox Faith.

Naturally, the women felt they had to check out everything that their husbands had told them.

Hence, they too began hiking up into the mountains to visit Fr. Gideon. Of course, their philótimo * precluded them from going empty-handed. So, loaded down with bags of food and bottles of olive-oil ("for the icon-lamps, little Father"), these sturdy little women trekked up to Fr. Gideon's hermitage.

As he spoke with the men, so did Fr. Gideon speak with the women also. He told them many parables and accounts from the Lives of the Saints. He told them about prayer, about fasting; he admonished them how to struggle in the life of piety, and also how to cope with their husbands.

As the numbers of Fr. Gideon's new spiritual children continued to increase, many of them began to wonder why they could not have a parish nearby which followed the Church's traditional calendar and usages.

"Fr. Gideon, you have explained many things to us about the spiritual life, and about Orthodoxy, and about the church calendar," said his faithful disciples. Then came the big question: "Why don't you become our priest?"

Fr. Gideon cleared his throat and looked here and there desperately. "Well. . .the matter is difficult," he hedged.

His new flock - most of them former new calendarists - were not put off. It was obvious, they said among themselves, that Fr. Gideon was being evasive only because of his humility. They would write a petition directly to Archbishop Matthew, requesting that the good Fr. Gideon be ordained to the priesthood for them.

On receiving their petition, Archbishop Matthew was astonished, for he understood how great a number had returned to traditional Orthodoxy thanks to Fr. Gideon's teaching and example.

The report of these doings eventually reached the men's monastery of the Holy Transfiguration also. Pricked by his conscience, Fr. Victor Matthew - the leader of the group who had originally accused Fr. Gideon - made his way to the Archbishop's office once again.

"Your Eminence, I must speak with you."
"What do you have to say, Fr. Victor?"
"I have a confession to make to you. All those charges that we brought against Fr. Gideon some four years ago. . ."
"Yes, what about those charges?"
"They were false -all of them."
"False?" exclaimed the Archbishop. "In God's name, what prompted you to do such a thing?"
"He was too strict! - what with his unrelenting fasts and his incessant work hours - he even had us working in the olive groves during the Great Fast while we had to keep the fast of the Ninth Hour! The fathers said that if we didn't get rid of him, he would kill us all for sure!"

According to the holy canons, if Fr. Victor and the other accusers had been priests or deacons, then they would have been subject to defrockment for slandering another. However, Fr. Gideon agreed to come back to the monastery only if his accusers were not punished.

He was re-instated to the priesthood, and on September 1, 1948, Matthew ordained him to the episcopate and gave him the name Spyridon. His diocese was Trimythus of Cyprus, and thus he became "Spyridon of Trimythus."

Even though his stay in Cyprus lasted only two years, the new Bishop Spyridon ordained many clergy, established monasteries, convents, and parishes, and, in general, completely organized the church life of the traditional Orthodox Christians.
The British government authorities in Cyprus, however, felt that he was too active and too popular. Therefore, at the urging of the new calendarist hierarchy, the British exiled him back to Greece.

However, in Greece also, the traditional Orthodox Christians were weathering terrible new persecutions from another Spyridon - the new calendarist Archbishop of Athens. Nonethe1ess, Bishop Spyridon of Trimythus remained active for another three years, until the repose of Archbishop Matthew in 1953.

Immediately after Archbishop Matthew's funeral, Bishop Spyridon disappeared. He simply vanished into thin air without a trace. For ten years no one had any idea what happened to him.

In fact, Bishop Spyridon had gone into seclusion. Just below the convent in Keratea, there is a village by the sea-side. An old-calendar family living in the village of Keratea had agreed to receive the bishop into their home secretly. There, in the basement of this home, Bishop Spyridon established a secret hermitage, and for some ten years no one knew of his whereabouts.

About one year before his repose, he came down with cancer. Bed-ridden for most of this time, he patiently endured the terrible agony of his malady without once complaining. Together with the righteous Job, he cried out, "The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. As it seemed good to the Lord, so hath it come to pass. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

He was determined, however, to make one last pilgrimage. Many decades before, he had been tonsured rassophor at the Skete of St. Anne on the Holy Mountain. Now his last wish was to visit the Skete church - the kyriakon - so that he could venerate the icon of St. Anne there in the very church where he had made his renunciation of the world.

He never got there.

He got only as far as Daphne, the "second capital" of the Holy Mountain. As he was waiting to transfer to another boat which would take him down the coast of the Athonite peninsula, someone recognized him. Immediately, this individual rushed to the local police station and reported that an old calendarist bishop was trying to sneak into the Holy Mountain. Alarmed, the gendarmes ran down to the harbor and arrested Bishop Spryidon.

"You must leave immediately. The Holy Mountain is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and you have no right to be here."

"My children, I am close to death. I have no purpose for coming here except to kiss the icon of St. Anne in the Skete church where I was first tonsured. If you do not believe me, come with me. You may even hold me by the arms if you wish. My only wish is to venerate the Saint's icon and to return to my hermitage to die."

"Absolutely not! You are going no further. You must leave immediately under guard."

Broken-hearted and dejected, Bishop Spyridon, now accompanied by a gendarme, returned to the mainland and began to make his way back to Keratea.

He had to pass through Thessalonica. When he arrived at that city, he was again recognized... The report spread like wildfire: "Spyridon of the Matthewites is here in the city!" Immediately, great numbers of the faithful began to gather, including those of the other Old Calendarist jurisdiction. Everyone wanted to receive his blessing, to kiss his panagia, to venerate the hem of his rassa, to kiss his hand, to touch him.

Finally, with great difficulty he made it back to his little hermitage. There, after a few weeks, he peacefully reposed in the Lord on February 18, 1963.

Of course, even if Bishop Spyridon's enemies had not recanted, it would have made no difference, for God knew the innocence and sincerity of his soul. Even if they had continued to denounce him - as the enemies of St. Symeon the New Theologian continued to denounce him until his death -- Bishop Spyridon would have suffered no harm from them.

Few people know that St. Symeon the Theologian - who is one of the Church's greatest monastic fathers - was on one occasion violently attacked by thirty of his monks when he was abbot of the Monastery of St. Mamas in Constantinople. If they had been able, those monks would have killed him -- such was their malice against him. The reason? The saint had repeatedly rebuked them for their wrongdoing. As it says in Proverbs:

Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.Rebuke a fool, and he will hate thee. (Cf. Proverbs 9:8)

This was not the only grief which St. Symeon suffered during his life. Several bishops of the Ecumenical throne nurtured a deep malice against him. Thanks to their jealousy and hostility -- which was cloaked in the guise of politeness -- St. Symeon spent the last thirteen years of his life in exile.

The saint accepted this injustice because, although the bishops of his day were spiritually remiss and led astray by their passions, they were, nonetheless, Orthodox. Had his bishops been faulty in their faith, however, the saint would have been under no obligation to obey them. St. Athanasius the Great, St. Maximus the Confessor and St. Gregory Palamas are examples of Church fathers who were slanderously accused of many misdeeds and who fought back -- for in their case, it was not simply a matter of vindicating themselves, but of standing up for the Orthodox Faith.

Yet, here is the irony: despite the fact that St. Symeon - like St. Nectarius and Bishop Spyridon - suffered untold slanders and calumnies, what Orthodox Christian today does not deeply honor him? And who remembers the names of his implacable enemies? Indeed, who is not deeply moved at reading his spirit-soaring poetry? And who can restrain his tears when reading his compunctionate prayer in preparation for Holy Communion?

Truly, as David the Psalmist says, "Many are the tribulations of the righteous, and the Lord shall deliver them out of them all."

It is precisely because of their hope in the Lord that they who love God can accept their tribulations with joy. And this too - despite all the grief that he suffered and his banishment - is why St. Symeon, like all those who have suffered because of the malice of others, could end his famous poem with the words:

Wherefore, with a mind most thankful,
And a heart most thankful also,
Thankful also in the members
Of my soul and of my body,
I adore and magnify Thee,
As One verily most blessed,
Now and ever, to all ages.

*An all-encompassing Greek word that includes the meanings of common decency, good manners, plus a personal sense of honour and self-respect.