The Orthodox Pages



10th January 2008











































































































































I would first like to wish everyone a happy and blessed New Year. With our last talk before Christmas, we finished with a look at the Nativity of Christ according to the Gospels. Over the holidays we celebrated three Great events in the life of Christ. The first was his birth – the Incarnation of the Second person of the Holy Trinity – the Word of God took upon himself the form of his creature and became flesh. The second was eight days after the Nativity on New Years day in which we celebrated his Circumcision in the flesh. Although people celebrate New Years day with the feast of St. Basil the Great, the main feast of the day is the Lord’s Circumcision. Christ fulfils the Law that he himself established with Abraham. The main theme of the feast is that Christ came into the world to fulfil the law and not to destroy it. With the third Feast we leave the baby Jesus and see him as an adult ready to reveal himself to the world and begin his public ministry of teaching the people the way that leads to eternal life. The feast is Theophany or Epiphany as it is more commonly known in the West: the festival of the Lord’s Baptism celebrated on the 6th January. We call it Theophania which means the showing of God because at this feast the Holy Trinity became manifest to mankind. The hymn for the day clearly teaches this appearance of the Holy Trinity: “When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father bore witness unto Thee, calling Thee the beloved Son, and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed His word as sure and steadfast. O Christ our God who hast appeared and enlightened the world, glory to Thee.” From ancient times this Feast was also called “Τα Φώτα” the Feast of Lights, the Day of Illumination because God is Light and has appeared to illumine "those who sat in darkness," and "in the region of the shadow of death" (Mt.4:16), and to save the fallen race of mankind by grace. The Feast of Lights also had another meaning. It was customary in the ancient Church to baptize catechumens at the Vespers of Theophany. A great number of Baptisms took place at once and with each new member of the Church holding a candle; it was truly a festival of lights.
I don’t want to stay on the feasts or on the Gospels which we will have many other opportunities to examine closer especially the parables and teachings of Christ. What I do want is to progress with our History of the Church, so leaving the Gospels behind we can go straight to the Acts of the Apostles and see how the Church was established. The Acts begin with Christ telling the Apostles just before his Ascension into heaven that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit by which they would be baptized with in a few days. The Apostles then see Christ being taken up into heaven and a cloud receiving him out of their sight. At the same time two angels appeared telling them: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” In other words the Angels foretell how Christ will appear at the Second Coming. We next see the Apostles in the upper room of Mark’s house where they had the Mystical supper and hold an election to fill the place of the 12th Apostle left vacant with the departure of Judas. They cast lots and the lot fell upon Matthias.

Now fifty days after the Resurrection on the day of Pentecost, they were all gathered together again in that same upper room and suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. We have seen this phenomenon of speaking in tongues at a previous talk so we won’t concern ourselves with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit but with what the event means for the Church. Christ promised that after his Resurrection and Ascension into heaven he would send another Comforter, the Spirit of Truth who would abide with us for ever. This new covenant was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Holy Apostles and other disciples in the form of tongues of fire. Since that day The Holy Spirit abides in the Church and leads her into all truth, it performs and sanctifies the divine mysteries and through these it sanctifies the faithful. Christ established the Church when he chose His Twelve Disciples, but this was only the nucleus of the Church. The Church as a divine institution was founded by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost so in fact we can say that Pentecost is the celebration of the Church’s Birthday. From that day the Apostles began baptizing people in the Holy Trinity and laying their hands upon them to transfer the gifts of the Holy Spirit to each member. The miracles associated with the event of Pentecost must have been so convincing because we are told that on that one day three thousand souls were baptized.

So now with the Church truly established, everyone continued in prayer and in the daily celebration of the Eucharist. A new community was formed where everyone who believed came together and they had all things common. They sold their possessions and goods and divided them among the people. It says that no one thought of the things that he had belonged to him but that they belonged to everyone. Many who had lands and houses sold them and brought the money and laid it down at the Apostles’ feet, and the Apostles distributed to everyman according to his need. St. Barnabas, a Levite from Cyprus also sold his land and laid it down at the Apostle’s feet. Of course they were not obliged to do this, they had the free will do it by chose. We see this with the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. They sold a possession and kept back part of the price secretly for their own use. When Ananias brought the money to the Apostles, Peter knew what he had done and said to him: “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” For lying to God, Ananias died there and then and they took his body and buried it. After three hours his wife came not knowing that her husband had died and Peter asked her how much they got for the land. She told them the same as did her husband. Peter then said to her: “How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.” The first Church was very different from what we have today, who today, except monks and nuns, would sell everything they possess and give it to the Church trusting that she would give them according to what they need? I think we would all end up as Ananias and his wife.

As the Church grew in numbers, the Apostles couldn’t continue their preaching and at the same time deal with the increasing needs of the daily administration so the office of the diaconate was established. Seven men were chosen to be ordained deacons: Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas. Ordination was established with the laying on of the Apostles hands. Now at this time there was a great persecution against the church at Jerusalem. Stephen was arrested for preaching about Christ and was stoned to death, becoming the first martyr for Christ. Among those present at his stoning and who also consented to the stoning was a man called Saul who was later to become the Greatest of the Apostles to the Gentiles and be known as Paul. After Stephen’s Martyrdom, the Apostles began to preach outside of Jerusalem. Philip went into Samaria and preached there and was soon followed by Peter and John. Saul in the meantime continued his persecution of the New Church, entering into houses and casting people into prison. Having received authority from the high priest to arrest any man believing in Christ, he headed for Damascus to continue his persecution. On the way he saw a vision of a bright light from heaven and heard the Lord asking him why he continued to persecute him. He was blinded by the light for three days until he came to a place which the Lord told him and was met by a man called Ananias. This Ananias laid his hands upon him and he was filled with the Holy Ghost and received his sight. Saul was immediately baptized and with all the zeal he had for persecuting Christ he now opening preached him in the synagogues.

Acts continues to tell us of the Apostles’ preachings and miracles and the continuing persecution of the Church. Peter and John were arrested and after being flogged were set free and Paul was stoned and left for dead. The Acts of the Apostles mentions how the members of the new religion came to be called Christians first in Antioch. Before this they were probably called Nazarenes or just disciples of Jesus Christ. It continues with King Herod’s persecution of the Christians and how he killed James the brother of John with the sword and because it pleased the Jews, he had Peter arrested and cast into prison bound with chains. God sent an angel and miraculously freed Peter from the chains and from prison.

In chapter 15 of Acts we are told of the first Apostolic Council held in Jerusalem. A question arose about whether the Gentiles who came to believe in Christ should also fulfil the Law of Moses and be circumcised. After much discussion it was decided that as God had put no difference between the Gentiles and themselves and had given them the gift of the Holy Spirit, then circumcision was not a necessity for salvation, but all who believe will be saved through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ. This Synod of the Apostles established the way for future synods in the Orthodox Church. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church where the Pope is infallible and has the last word, Peter who was probably the acting chairman of the synod did not say he had decided what was to be acceptable, neither did James the Lord’s brother who was the first Bishop of Jerusalem, but all the Apostles being of one accord said “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us” (Acts 15:28). During their consultations the Holy Spirit was present and directed the thoughts of the members of the synod who sat and conversed as equals. This is how the Orthodox Church conducts her synods to this day. There is a Chairman but he does not make the decisions. All the bishops are equal whether they be Patriarch, Archbishop, Metropolitan, or just an assisting Bishop. The Apostolic Council dealt with other matters of Church life. We have in the Book called the Rudder, a collection of Church canon laws from all the Ecumenical Councils, some Local Councils and from certain individuals, also 85 canons supposedly From the Apostolic Councils. A great many must have originated from the Apostles, but others were probably added at a later date. They deal mainly with who can become a bishop, a priest or a deacon, how they should be ordained and for what reasons they should be deposed from office.

The rest of the Acts of the Apostles tells mainly of Paul’s three apostolic journeys to the gentiles, the first bringing him to Salamis in Cyprus and then to Paphos. It finishes with Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea and then in Rome. Paul is not called the Great Apostle to the Gentiles for nothing, he spread the word of the Resurrected Christ among many nations of the Gentiles like no other Apostle did. He would go to one city and stay there long enough for him to teach them the Christian faith and establish a Church there before moving on to another city. Later he would write to the established Church to support their faith. At other times, he would receive letters from them asking him to intervene when problems arose that caused scandal or schisms within the Church. His letters are a wealth of God-inspired spiritual instructions and at the same time a great source of information on the life of the early Church. They combine a dogmatic and ethical teaching without the dryness of formality, but with love and warmth in a way a brother would write to a brother and a father to his son: sometimes with tears, and at other times with joy, advising, comforting, thanking, but also drawing one’s attention to the seriousness of what he has written.
Paul’s death and Peter’s are associated with the second persecution of the Christians. The first was at Jerusalem by the Jews. It should be said that as Rome went about conquering nation after nation, the only way to keep control of these lands was to win the cooperation of these people. One way was to grant them religious toleration as long as they also honoured the Roman gods. In 63 B.C. when the Romans conquered Judea, Rome was immediately faced with a problem because the Jews refused to pay homage to the Roman gods. Rome gave in and exempted Jews from this requirement partly because the Jews had helped Julius Caesar win an important battle several years earlier, but also because Judaism was also a well established religion with a very long history. Soon Rome recognized Judaism as a legal religion, allowing Jews to worship freely. Christianity which was considered a new offshoot of the Jewish religion didn’t meet the requirements to be exempt from the Roman law. When Rome first became aware of Christianity around 30AD, it did nothing to stop it, but when the Emperor Tiberius asked the Senate to legalize the Christian faith and declare Christ a Roman god, the Senate refused and instead pronounced Christianity to be an “illegal superstition,” a crime under Roman law. Christianity was now officially illegal, but Tiberius ordered Roman officials not to interfere with the new religion, a policy that lasted about 30 years until the time of Nero.

History paints Nero as an evil madman and is perhaps most famous for the great fire of Rome in 64AD. It started in the Circus Maximus the great arena in Rome for chariot races and games. The fire spread quickly and for several days consumed much of the city, including Emperor Nero's palace. Immediately, the rumor spread that Nero himself had caused the great fire to clear space for a grand new city and palace that he had designed. Nero probably didn’t start the fire himself because he is said to have been in Antium at the time, but whether he gave the order is another matter. Nevertheless, the suffering people of Rome believed he was guilty so Nero desperately needed a scapegoat to blame the fire on and save his own skin from the mob. He quickly pointed the finger at the small religious sect called the Christians. They were unpopular with the common people of Rome who believed various rumours about them. Some thought Christians practiced cannibalism because the sacrament of the Eucharist called for believers to eat the flesh and blood of Christ. Others believed that Christians practiced incest because they preached loving their brothers and sisters. Others believed Christians hated humanity because they kept secrets and withdrew from normal social life. These rumours helped Nero shift public opinion to blaming the Christians rather than himself for the great fire. Since the Christian religion was still illegal, it was easy to order mass arrests, trials, and executions. The second period of persecutions began and a great number of Christian martyrs suffered horrible deaths. Many were killed by wild animals before crowds of spectators in the arena, other were crucified, while others were tied to posts, covered with flammable material, and used as human street lamps for Nero's gardens. Among those arrested were Sts. Peter and Paul. Peter was ordered to be crucified. When he saw the cross before him, he asked the executioner to crucify him upside down, because he felt himself to be unworthy to die in the same way as his Lord. Paul was beheaded.
With thousands of Christians being put to death or arrested and made to work in the mines, the Church to survive had to be secretive in her meetings. Symbols were used to show each other that they were Christians. Such symbols were the monogram of Christ formed by the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, thus placing the Greek X over the Greek P. When this monogram was placed on a tombstone, it meant a Christian was buried there. The fish was another popular symbol. The Greek word for fish is Ιχθύς and an acronym of “Ιησούς Χριστός Θεού Υιός Σωτήρ” = Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour. Other symbols were the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet signifying that Christ is the beginning and the end of all things; The anchor as the symbol of salvation signifying that the soul has peacefully reached the port of eternity; the dove holding an olive branch symbolizes the soul that reached divine peace and the mythical Arabian bird, the phoenix which became a symbol of the resurrection of the bodies, based on the beliefs of the ancient that after a thousand years it rises from its ashes. We find these symbols and others on the walls and tombs found in the Catacombs of Rome and other places. The catacombs are the ancient underground cemeteries, used by the Christian and the Jewish communities. The Christian catacombs, which are the most numerous, began in the second century and the excavating continued until the first half of the fifth. In the beginning they were only burial places, but why did the Christians prefer underground cemeteries to the open cemeteries? First of all, the Christians rejected the pagan custom of cremation; they preferred burial, just as Christ was buried, because they felt they had to respect the bodies that one day would rise from the dead. This belief created a problem of space. The areas owned by the Christians above ground were very limited in extent. Had they used only open-air cemeteries, the space available for burial would have quickly been exhausted, because as a rule they did not reuse the tombs. The catacombs came as the solution of the problem; and it proved to be economical, safe and practical. In fact it was cheaper to dig underground corridors and galleries than to buy large pieces of land in the open. As the early Christians were predominantly poor, this way of burying the dead was decisive. After the first tunnels, they would excavate more tunnels as the need arose.

There were other reasons too for choosing the underground diggings. The Christians felt a lively community sense: they wished to be together even in the "sleep of death". But also, such out-of-the-way areas, especially during the persecutions, were the ideal place for community meetings and for the free displaying of the Christian symbols. Here the Christians gathered to celebrate their funeral rites, the anniversaries of the martyrs and of the dead. For centuries it was believed that they were secret hiding places of the early Christians during the persecutions, but this is probably fictional because the early Christians did not bury their faith nor their lives in the underground. They lived like most common people with their families in society, participating in all activities, jobs and professions. The Christians of the first centuries testified their faith everywhere and bore a wonderful witness to Christ; many of them even by the shedding of their blood, so that martyrdom had become a glorious mark of the Church. They did gather regularly at the underground catacombs, not to hide, but to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. The martyrs’ tombs were used as Holy Altars where the Body and Blood of Christ were consecrated. It was in the catacombs that those heroic Christians found the strength and support to face the trials and persecutions, as they prayed to God through the intercessions of the martyrs. The practices of the Early Christians have come down to our modern day practices in Church. When a new Holy Altar is consecrated by the Bishop, he places in the centre of the Altar a small silver container with small pieces from the relics of martyrs. Another custom we have from the days of the catacombs are the candles and vigil lights. Originally they were used in the catacombs to give light in those dark underground tunnels. Today with electricity, we don’t need the candles for practical use and instead we use them in prayer giving them symbolic meanings for various uses.
The history of the Church and the catacombs began with the second century and ended with the fourth. But how did the Church survive the persecutions from Nero to the end of the persecutions in 313AD? With the death of Nero in 68AD the Church lived relatively in peace but always with the uncertainty that another persecution could erupt at any time. Roman Emperors lived short lives. In the year that followed Nero’s death there were four different Emperors, one committed suicide like Nero, two others were murdered while the last, Vespasian, ruled for ten years. The next Emperor to persecute Christians was Domitian. He ruled from 81-96 AD. We saw in our last talk that St. John the Evangelist suffered under Domitian. He was given strong poison to drink and put into boiling oil, surviving both and the Emperor thinking that he was immortal, sent him into exile on the island of Patmos. After Domitian there was again a brief spell of peace until Trajan who ruled from 98-117AD. In 110, Trajan attempted to reach a compromise between the growing Christian minority and the Roman pagans who demanded that the illegal religious sect be destroyed. Although Trajan authorized arresting Christians, he prohibited general searches to seek them out and ordered Roman officials not to actively interfere with Christian gatherings. If any were brought before him then they were asked to denounce Christ and pay homage to the Roman gods. If they refused they were punished with imprisonment or death. St. Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch suffered in this persecution.

Other Emperors that persecuted the Church were Marcus Aurelius 161-180AD. Under his persecution suffered the Hieromartyr Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, and the Christian martyrs of Lyons and Vienne, two cities in France. Septimius Severus 193-211 AD. This persecution extended to northern Africa, which was a Roman province. Maximinus, Gaius Julius Verus 235-238 AD). Decius 249-251 AD. In this persecution Fabian was martyred; Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, was forced into exile; and Origen imprisoned and tortured. Valerian 253-260 AD). Aurelian 270-275 AD).
The last and most severe persecutor was Diocletian who reigned from 285-305AD. Diocletian began his furious persecution against the Christians in about 300AD. He demanded that all Christian soldiers resign from the Roman army. He forbade gatherings for Christian worship and ordered the destruction of churches and sacred writings. Christian members of the government were tortured and executed. In 303 the emperor ordered the doors of the New Christian church at Nicomedia, the capital, to be barred, and then burnt the Church with 600 Christians within. Many edicts were issued by him against Christians. Churches were demolished, Christian books were seized and burnt, Christians were persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and killed. The persecution brought a considerable number of martyrs, Bishops and priests were arrested, tortured, and martyred. In 304, Rome decreed that all Christians sacrifice to the pagan gods or face death. Following Diocletian's retirement in 305, a civil war broke out to determine his successor. It raged on for almost a decade. Even so, the persecution of Christians continued. Galerius, Diocletian's handpicked successor, hated Christians and organized a war of extermination against them in the eastern empire. Christians were mutilated, burned alive, and crucified. Hundreds of Christian men, women, and children were forced to labor in government mines. Crowds in Roman arenas shouted, "Let there be no Christians!" Galerius grew disheartened when he saw that his efforts had failed to stamp out the Christian religion. Dying of cancer that was literally rotting his body, Galerius suspended the persecution in 311. He then pleaded for Christians to pray for his health. But he died, and the oppression resumed.
A little should be said about the Roman system for Emperors. From the first century the Empire had become so great that it proved a difficult task for one emperor to govern on his own so the empire was divided into east and west with two emperors. The main emperor was called Augustus while the second who was junior to him was called a Caesar. Diocletian introduced the system called the Tetrachy. He ruled in the East and Maximian ruled in the west both as Augustus’s and each having a Caesar under him, in other words a junior emperor making a total of four Emperors. Thus, on March 1, 293, Constantius, St. Constantine’s father was promoted to the office of Caesar, making Constantine, now a Caesar's son, a potential candidate for future appointment as emperor. Young Constantine moved to Diocletian’s court and had been a witness to the Great persecution of the Christians, which he asserted later when he was emperor, that he had criticized the policy when it was first introduced. After the death of his father, Constantine was acclaimed by the army at York as emperor of Gaul and Britain. The first act of the new emperor was to grant the freedom to practice Christianity in the lands subject to him. In 312 as he was on his way to attack Maxentius, he had a vision which was to become the victory standard of Christian armies from henceforth. He prayed to God to give him a sign which would inspire his army to fight valiantly, and the Lord showed him a radiant Sign of the Cross in the heavens with the inscription “In this Sign, conquer.” He had the sign of the Cross painted on all the shields and truly his army was victorious even though they were greatly outnumbered.

After Constantine became the sole ruler of the Western Roman Empire, he met with Licinius the Eastern Emperor in Milan. During this meeting, the emperors agreed on the so-called Edict of Milan which officially granted full tolerance to all religions in the Empire. The document had special benefits for Christians, legalizing their religion and granting them restoration for all Church property seized during Diocletian's persecution. Licinius in the east didn’t grant full tolerance and towards the end of his rule again began to persecute the Christians. When Constantine became the sole ruler of the entire Roman Empire in 323, he extended the provisions of the Edict of Milan to the Eastern half of the Empire. After three hundred years of persecution, Christians could finally practice their faith without fear. Thus began a new era for Christians. The Emperor himself renounced paganism and favoured Christianity even though he was not as yet baptized. His next move as supreme ruler of the Roman Empire was to transfer the capital of the empire from Rome to the east. Rome was the former centre of the pagan realm and was unsuitable for the Christian capital he visualized. He rebuilt the ancient city of Byzantium and called it the New Rome which after his death was renamed Constantinople the New Rome, and laid down that no pagan rite should ever be performed there. He continued his support for the Church in every way recalling Christian confessors from banishment, by building churches including the Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople and the Church of the Resurrection at Jerusalem, and by showing concern for the clergy. In time, he gave rights to the Bishops and Priests, and the right for the Church to inherit property. He was responsible for the Church, becoming, from the Church of the Catacombs to the Church of the Empire.

The age of persecution was over and the Church was free to now concentrate her efforts on matters concerning the true faith. Under persecution the Church couldn’t defend the faith from the many heresies that had sprung up. Now with the freedom of religion, these heresies were becoming widely known throughout the Empire. The main heresy at the time came from an Alexandrian priest called Arius. He taught that the Son was inferior to the Father denying him the Divine Nature of God, and taught that Jesus Christ was a mere creature. Constantine’s vision of New Rome as the capital of a Christian Empire firmly based upon the one Orthodox faith had to be defended against the new heresies. He summoned and presided at the First Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church at Nicaea in 325. The main work of the Council was to prove that Christ was equal and consubstantial to the Father, that he was truly God and not a creation. Arius’ teaching was officially condemned by the Church as heresy. The Council summing up the Christian faith gave us the Nicene Creed, the statement of faith which was then completed by the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381AD. The Creed has remained unchanged from then until the present day.
Constantine was baptized late in life, according to some, on his deathbed by Eusebius, but according to the Church, after suffering from leprosy by Sylvester. He was canonized by the Church along with his mother Helen who were both given the epithet ‘Equal to the Apostles’. The west has never recognized Constantine as a saint because history paints him as a brutal emperor involved in battles and treachery. The Church on the other hand disregards all his past evil deeds because they were washed away with the Sacrament of Baptism. What remained were only his good actions which were many. The three events: The edict of Milan, The Christian Capital of Constantinople and the First Ecumenical Council, mark the Church’s coming of age. They allowed the True Christian faith to spread and be preached throughout the Empire. Fifty years after his death, Theodosius carried Constantine’s policies to their conclusion by making Christianity the only recognized religion of the Empire. The Church was now established. The Roman authorities once said to the Christians “You are not allowed to exist” Constantine was responsible for the continual existence of the Church. Indirectly, through his actions, thousands were saved from martyrdom, Christians had the freedom to worship God openly, but more importantly, he paved the way so that millions of people were able to hear of Christ and be converted to the true faith. Truly, he deserves his title as St. Constantine, “Equal to the Apostles”. St Constantine died on the day of Pentecost in the year 337 and was buried in the church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople -The Church and city that he built.
Before we finish for today, and since we mentioned the First Ecumenical Council and the heretic Arius, I would like to relate to you two events that took place during the council. The first involves St. Nicholas of Myra. Having heard Arius and his blasphemy, Nicholas being fired up with zeal for the Lord, attacked Arius verbally but then also struck him in the face. For this act, he was removed from the council and from his Episcopal duties until some of the chief hierarchs had a vision of the Lord and the Mother of God returning to him the Gospel and omophorion. The Fathers of the Council agreed that the audacity of the saint was pleasing to God, and restored the saint to the office of bishop.
The other event involves our very own St. Spyridon, Bishop of Trimithonta of Cyprus. To prove that God was one God in three Persons, he took a brick in his hand and squeezed it. At that very moment fire shot up from it, water dripped on the ground, and only dust remained in the hands of the wonderworker. St Spyridon said, “There was only one brick, but it was composed of three elements. In the Holy Trinity there are three Persons, but only one God.”