The Feastday of St. Spyridon falls each year on December 12. Hence, tomorrow’s Epistle is for the saint. Saint Spyridon lived in the late third and early fourth centuries. He died peacefully in the year 350. He was a shepherd, was married, and had a daughter. After his wife passed away, he was appointed Bishop of Trimythus. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, together with other men who would become saints like St. Nicholas and St. Athanasios. He fought, together with the others, to put down the heresies promulgated by Arias. Through their efforts, we have what today is known as the Nicaean Creed, the statement of faith we recite often in church, as well as the Canon of Holy Scripture, the books of the Bible that guide our church and our individual lives.
The Epistles lesson read on December 12 is read at other times of the year, such as on the feast of St. Nektarios in November, and on the feasts of other Hierarchs. The words of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians are directed towards not only other hierarchs of the church, but to all of us. These verses provide directions as to what is a good Christian life, in other words, the things that Christians should be doing as we seek to grow towards Christ.
First, Christianity is supposed to change us. We do not walk in darkness, but rather we are to walk in the light of the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8) After all, Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:14, that we are the light of the world, so we should walk like that. If we are not sure what it means to be a light or walk in the light, St. Paul clarifies in verse 5:9 that “the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.” So if we are not sure what to do or how to behave, start with what is good and right and true.
Second, no one becomes a Christian knowing everything there is to know about being a Christian. In fact, even the most devout Christians can continually learn more and more. This is why St. Paul tells us in verse 5:10 to “learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”
Third, we are not only to not participate in the “unfruitful works of darkness” which would be the opposite of the works of light, in other words, things that are bad and wrong and untrue, we are to expose these things. When we see things that are bad, wrong and untrue, we are supposed to speak up about them. Saint Paul reminds us that things done in secret and in darkness are eventually exposed to the light, sometimes in this life, and certainly they will be before the awesome judgment seat of Christ. Saint Paul encourages us to “awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” (5:14) In other words, do not be sleepy or inattentive to the things that make us “dead”, the aforementioned things that are bad, wrong and untrue, but wake up, and “Christ shall give you light.” (5:14)
Fourth, once we’ve made the decision to follow after Christ, once we’ve embraced His light, there are some expectations. We need to walk carefully, “not as unwise but as wise.” (5:15) This calls us to walk purposefully and intentionally. Doing what is good and right and true needs to becomes second-nature to us. We need to do these things as part of our everyday lives, we need to lead with them. We are to be efficient, “making the most of the time” (5:16). We need to continually seek to “understand what the will of the Lord is” and “not be foolish.” (5:17) There needs to be a sense of urgency “because the days are evil.” (5:16) We are not to fill ourselves with wine, to become drunk and engage in debauchery. (5:18) Instead we are to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” We know from Galatians 5:22-23, that the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We can’t be any of these things when we are drunk or raucous—these things take us out of the game, so to speak, which is why we need to avoid them.
Fifth, and finally, once we’ve made the choice to follow Christ, when we understand what it means to follow Him, and when we avoid the things that distract us from following Him, we can get down to the basic work of Christianity, which starts with worshipping God, “addressing one another is psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” (5:19) As for “singing and making melody with all your heart,” (5:19) this refers to our behavior as Christians at all times, because the heart and the mind lead to our actions, which should reflect a joy of Christianity and a joyful desire to reflect God in our thoughts and actions at all times.
Indeed, these words apply to everyone who serves God as a bishop or priest, but they can also serve to guide every human life as well.
Fully imbued with the Spirit’s brightness, the wise Hierarch brought down the murky nonsense of the Arian doctrine. Therefore, when he simply but faithfully taught the truth of the Trinity, he was revered by the erudite and the wife for confirming what the Synod decreed.
The rays of heavenly brightness shine all around you, O Saint, as by the Savior’s power you provides and healing for the souls and bodies of those who with faith now observe your memorial. O Father Spyridon cease not to pray for us, as a Wonderworker blest by God. (From the Praises of Orthros, Feast of St. Spyridon, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Take these words to heart today and every day. These few words by themselves can be an effective guide on our path to salvation.