Saint Thomas Aquinas

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Saint Demetrius: Forgotten Saint of October 26th

One of my favorite Saints of the Church is Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki. The Church celebrates his feast day on October 26th, but in the West he has been largely forgotten. The "Myrrh Bearer" as he is often called for the great miracles that have been worked through the veneration of his myrrh bearing relics, is a much loved Saint among the Greeks and Russians. Demetrius, Demetrios, or James in English is a warrior Saint. Often he is depicted with sword in hand or slaying the image of paganism with a spear on a red horse. I have two icons of him in my home one of each depiction.

St Demetrius slaying the pagan emperor.

Saint Demetrius was born in Thessaloniki around the year 260AD. He was from a well to do family and an only child. His family ensured that he received an excellent education, so he rose to the high ranks of the military and became known for his high acts of virtue. Even the ruler of his part of the empire, Maximian recognized his character and put Demetrius in charge of Thessaloniki as commander after his father died who held the position prior. Things did not go well for Demetrius when Maximian, under orders from emperor Diocletian, ordered the military to begin persecution of the Christians. Demetrius was asked to lead soldiers in the active persecution of Christians, to which he would not obey. In fact, when brought before Maximian to give an account of his refusal, he valiantly told him to his face that he too was a Christian and he would have no part in his diabolical plans. Maximian was enraged!

St Demetrius blessing Nestor before battle.


Demetrius was imprisoned and given a death sentence. While waiting to be executed, a good friend of his and fellow soldier, who's feast day is tomorrow October 27th,  Nestor came to see him in his confinement. Nestor, now also a Christian became enraged at Maximian's treatment of the Christians which involved sending many of them to be slain in the arena by a goliath sized vandal warrior named Lyaeus. Lyaeus was viewed as an invincible gladiator who often hurled his wounded victims onto a bed of spears to watch them writhe in pain until they expired. Nestor took up the challenge to face Lyaeus to spare other Christians having to face him. Demetrius spending his time in prayer encouraged Nestor in his dual and told Nestor that his faith in Christ would see him victory against the heathen, but that he would also suffer for Christ. Soon Nestor and the goliath entered the arena. Lyaeus mocked the much smaller Nestor and he tried to work up the crowd, but the watchers felt a certain pity for the underdog. Maximian looked on in bloodthirsty anticipation as Lyaeus charged. Nestor holding up sword in hand yelled, "O God of Demetrius help me!" Then with a swift move he used the giant's large size against him and knocked Lyaeus onto the bed of spears. The crowd surprised, started to cheer and many began to praise God. Maximian could not believe his eyes. His championed warrior was slain in an instant and in a rage he sent soldiers to have the imprisoned Demetrius run through with spears. Demetrius waited in prayer as Maximian's henchmen came with spears in hand. Nestor also met his fate when he Maximian ordered that he be decapitated. 

St Demetrius being murdered. 


Soon after Demetrius' execution his body emitted a myrrh-like substance and many miracles were wrought upon the faithful Christians who came to visit his tomb. He has been seen in many battles often protecting Thessaloniki from invaders. He is a much favored Saint still today among the Greeks and Russians, and he is often called upon to work great miracles in times of distress. You can read about him further in the Prologue of Ohrid. Pray for us St. Demetrius as we endure our persecution!

A nice icon of St Demetrius which can be purchased from Legacy icons. 

  

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