Orthodox America


  God’s Providence in Our Lives


     Worldly-oriented people attribute great significance to chance, ascribing to it a great deal that cannot otherwise be explained by those who try to be free of faith in God and His Providence in our lives. By contrast, believing people try to find the ways of God's Providence in the most seemingly ordinary occurrences, and they find them by the light of faith, edifying themselves in the struggle for salvation, and edifying others in conversations which frequently make striking impressions on listeners who share the faith. 

     St. Spiridon lived on the island of Cyprus. Like his parents he was a peasant farmer, and even after his wife died and he became a bishop, he did little to change his humble way of life. Through simplicity and deep devotion to God, he became a vessel of the Holy Spirit and a great wonderworker, calling forth rain in the midst of drought, healing and even raising people from the dead, and foretelling future events. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council where he astonished many with his simple explanations of the Orthodox Faith. There, too, he met St. Nicholas, with whom he formed a lasting friendship. St. Spiridon reposed in 348 and was buried on the island of Corfu To this day his incorrupt relics continue to manifest the power of God, wondrous in His saints. He is commemorated by the Church on December 12.

 THERE IS a belief among pious, God-fearing people that whoever is burdened by debt should pray to the holy God-pleaser and wonderworker, St. Spiridon, Bishop of Tremithus. This belief is undoubtedly founded on a story from his life, in which there once came to the Saint a man indebted to a merchant for bread to feed his family at a time when bread was both scarce and expensive. The Saint, pitying the poor man, went into his garden and brought him a substantial amount of gold, instructing him to return the whole amount when he had acquired a sufficiency and the lean years were over. And so it happened. After a time of honest labor, the man was able to accumulate some capital and, remembering the hierarch's bidding, returned the same amount of gold he had borrowed. The God-pleaser called the man into the garden and told him to put the gold in a designated place. Then, he prayed, and the gold suddenly turned into a snake, which crawled off into a nearby hole. The Saint explained that just as the gold had been transformed into a snake, the snake had been likewise transformed into gold at the time of need, i.e., through the Saint's prayers to God. 

    In 1871 my cousin died, and I inherited some property saddled by considerable public and private debts. I was in a difficult position. Lacking the necessary funds to pay off the debts, I was at a loss as to how I should manage and became very distraught. Not far from my cousin's estate, where I had to spend some time in bringing his affairs to order, lived some elderly spinsters-landowners, very kind and pious, with whom I had long been acquainted. Tired of the various contentions at the estate, where I was almost daily beset by creditors, I drove over to see these neighbors of mine as a diversion and also to share my troubles, knowing, certainly, that the elderly ladies would sympathize with me.

     The neighbors were happy to see me. They sat me down in their cozy, country-style living room, treated me to all kinds of homemade goodies, and showered me with questions concerning my deceased cousin, his management of the estate and his debts, which they had heard about. I spoke frankly and did not hide the fact that I had absolutely no hope of being able to resolve matters financially. The estate was already mortgaged and it was quite impossible to take out a second mortgage, nor was this advantageous. The only solution was to sell the estate on as favorable terms as possible, and use the money to pay off the debts. But people always try to take advantage of another's difficult circumstances, and so it was with me: there were many prospective buyers, but they all offered such a low price, counting on my straightened circumstances, that it was impossible to agree to them.

     The dear old ladies took a lively interest in my affairs, exclaiming "Oh!" and "Oh!" in a typically feminine way. Finally, the eldest sister said to me seriously, "Don't lose heart. Bettor pray to St. Spiridon of Tremithus, the wonder-worker. Have a moleben served to him and promise to have his icon in your home. I am certain that if you do this with faith he will soon help you to be free of your present distress and ail the anxieties concerning your cousin's debts and their liquidation."

     I smiled involuntarily at the old lady's words. She noticed this and, not in the least put off by my skepticism, began again to speak, this time with greater feeling.

     Your disbelief is unfounded. Like you, I, too, did not believe when, in similar circumstances, an acquaintance gave me the same advice as I am giving you now. But something happened that was so amazing and extraordinary that I could not fully explain it as mere coincidence, and this made me believe ever after in the power of the prayerful intercession of St. Spiridon and to have great veneration for him.

     "What I am about to tell you is not fabricated, it is not a product of the imagination; rather, it is a fact, known to our entire household.

     We had for a long time in our home an icon of St. Spiridon, and as we were frequently in debt, we would often run to pray to him about this. But we didn't seem to experience any particular help from him, so that I, a sinner, lost faith in the powerful intercession attributed to him in such eases. I even allowed myself to express my doubt, saying to my sisters, 'See, we have an icon of St. Spiridon and often pray to him, but he does nothing to free us of our debts and does not send us money to pay them off.'

     "Once we needed to pay our creditors 500 rubles, which we did not have, and we were at a loss as to how we would make the payment. A neighbor came to visit and, having heard our woes on this account, gave us the same advice as I have given you today: to pray to St. Spiridon, to serve a moleben to him, and to get his icon for our home, which she even offered to send us. I answered, not without some irritation, that we had had his icon for a long time and that we had been praying to him for a long time, but so far we hadn't seen any results.

     "Our visitor left, and soon afterwards I had a dream. It was as if I were standing with this same visitor in the room where we had the icon of St. Spiridon, depicted in a monastic habit. Pointing to the icon, she asked, Whose is that icon? I told her that it was St. Spiridon, and repeated my complaint that we always pray to him to deliver us from our debts but that he does not help us. At these words I suddenly heard a voice from behind me, 'Now you'll see. Tomorrow St. Spiridon will send you 500 rubles to pay off your debt.' I turned around to see who was speaking and at that moment woke up.

      "I hastened to tell my sisters about my dream, that today we will receive 500 rubles to pay off our debt. Understand, they did not put much stock in my dream, and when half the day had passed my sisters began to tease me. I didn't resist, feeling that I had simply been deceived once again.

      "Then, after dinner, one of our relatives arrived and announced that he had heard of our financial difficulty and, to save us from unpleasant consequences, had hurried to bring us the necessary 500 rubles that we might speedily resolve our debt. There was nothing to do but to thank our kind relative for his timely offer, but even more fervently did we thank St. Spiriden, for it was to him that we ascribed the unexpected opportunity to pay off our debt. I, in particular, felt guilty before this Saint of God, and thanked him while reproaching myself. We then had a moleben served to St. Spiridon, and ever since I dare not doubt in the power of his heavenly intercession.

      "You may say: this was mere coincidence, an ordinary concurrence of events, and the dream you might ascribe to my susceptibility under the influence of the day’s conversation with our visitor. But I tell you that at that time I clearly felt in my innermost being that this was no ordinary coincidence but rather the definite action of the Saint of God, and to this day I remain so firmly persuaded of this that I never miss an opportunity to advise people burdened by debts to pray for deliverance to Saint Spiridon and to have his icon Having told you this from my heart, I know that if you listen to me you will not regret it." 

     Having thanked the lady for her kind advice, I left, involuntarily impressed by what she had told me. On my return home I served a moleben to St. Spiridon, and on my next trip to the city I ordered an icon of the Saint from a local iconographer. When the icon was ready, I blessed it and served another moleben to the Saint. In a very short time I had an extremely profitable offer from a buyer of nearly double what I had been offered before. He even paid in cash, without any time-payments, which is very rare in eases involving such large sums. Having sold the estate, I paid off all my cousin's creditors and afterwards even had some profits left, something I'd never imagined possible before. In this way, at peace and rewarded for all my troubles, I was able to offer heartfelt thanks to Saint Spiridon for his grace filled help in this matter, which was so obvious to me.

      Here again, people may say this was just an ordinary coincidence. In response I would repeat my neighbor's words: Why is it that the inner man is unwilling to accept this and is compelled to attribute this coincidence to the help of God's saint? Think as you like, but a believing man would be led to conclude that this is how it really is.

Andrei Kovalevsky 

(Translated by Vera Kenciss from Pravoslavnoye Obozrentye where it was reprinted from Dushepoleznoye Chieniye, 1884)

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